UK-headquartered award-winning digital entertainment studio Cinesite with 30 years of experience and some amazing works like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever recently partnered with Mumbai-based CGI animation studio Assemblage. Cinesite CEO Antony Hunt who visited Assemblage’s Mumbai office recently exclaimed that this partnership is just the beginning of their plans to expand in the East. The veteran artist who believes in the potential of the Indian counterparts wants to tap into local projects for Cinesite.
“When we met Max (Assemblage Entertainment founder and director AK Madhavan aka Madmax) and Arjun (Assemblage CEO) we realised it is time for us to look East,” Hunt told Animation Xpress during an exclusive interview. It was an easy decision for him to partner with Assemblage and “expand their footprint in Asia.” He felt the chemistry was good and even the cultures were similar.
Cinesite’s plans for India
Hunt pointed out that for them to surge more, they needed partners to scale up and grow into the market of children’s entertainment. With Assemblage, they found the structure in place which also had talent. Animation is a universal language and they want to do more of it for which they need more talent with different experiences.
For Assemblage, as a company emanating from this part of the world, it was a matter of time before they found a robust, credible, and an amazing partner. “When we met Antony, Peter and Duncan, they echoed how we look at things in life, the hustle that we have and the enthusiasm with which we want to grow the caliber of the artists,” Assemblage CEO Arjun Madhavan shared.
Talking about their plans for the VFX wing of Cinesite, Hunt said, “We have as many as 25 different visual effects projects across the group, which are global projects. We definitely need to focus our efforts to do more VFX work here. The way Arjun and team are building a strong animation business, they will also help in the VFX business.”
Tools, technology and creativity
It has been 43 years since Hunt started his career in this industry. In these years he has done every single job including the work of a technician before reaching the top leadership level. He always had the vision to do things differently.
About building Cinesite to one of the world leaders he revealed that he believed in synergies and did not want to do everything on their own. Hence, they built it from strength by strength and have always been focused to get good partners on board.
Visual effects and Feature Animation has been Cinesite’s main focus and gaming is their third leg which is happening through their recent partnership with Squeeze Animation. Hunt aspires to explore the East more deeply now though.
For the master artist who is now at the helm of a global creative group, skill sets reign supreme over any latest technology or tool.
Talking about technology he explains that Unreal, Unity, and others are just tools. Making a film or an episodic is all about ‘the creative process’. These tools make the work quicker but there is no such fixed secret recipe for animation or other films.
Madhavan commented, “As Antony said, I believe technology should be an enabler and not a force fit.” If there is a project which can get the maximum benefits of using the engine, we shall definitely use it. He mentioned that various pockets of their group are exploring Unreal. In fact, they are exploring Unreal in a new film that Cinesite is working on.
Hunt said that they use everything including Maya, Nuke, Houdini, and so on. They are constantly training people in-house. But he repeatedly stressed on ‘good skill of art’ which will help the artist in every aspect.
Asked if disruptive Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take away jobs, Madhavan explained, “Even if we use tools and technology to reduce efforts in some elements of the production workflow, I don’t think we can replace the creative workforce. I think the nature of work artists do will change and evolve. They will spend more time doing things more aesthetically or creatively.”
“Instead of thinking that AI will make the artists redundant and replace them, all must think how it can enhance, augment or empower them.”
Future trends in the animation industry
Asked about the future trends in the animation industry, Hunt said, “I think it would be, how to virtualise assets in the Metaverse, how you create the characters and use it in the Metaverse.”
According to him, there is a transit to oneness in global animation and visual effects. He pointed out how during the pandemic as well people needed entertainment and once everything reopened all were back to the cinema and still consuming content.
He feels that the volume of animation and visual effects work will grow. Also, the gaming and the film industry is gradually coming closer and closer.
“Right now all are seeing more hybrid universes and CG work in live-action and vice-versa. The role that VFX and animation would play in storytelling, will be an added instrument for writers, creators and storytellers when they tell their stories,” Madhavan said.
According to him, one of the main changes in the animation industry is the role it has played in the film entertainment business. It has consistently been one of the highest contributors of profits and economics for all the large studios in the world. Animation as a medium has been a very successful genre.
“We believe both animation and VFX have a deeply rooted base and a certain robustness today. Next five to 10 years look promising for everyone. The non-photoreal (NPR) universe is a huge space, as it could be anything and endless” he said.
Currently, under the VFX umbrella, Cinesite has Image Engine, Trixter and FX3X. L’Atelier Animation, Squeeze Animation Studios, and Assemblage are additions to their animation business. There will be more strategic moves in the future.
Hunt agreed that the need of the hour is to train the artists. “Starting an academy would be included in our strategic plans and internship programs work very well too,” mentioned Hunt.
Their partner FX3X will be starting a training academy to give opportunities to the artists who are young and will skill them.