We at AnimationXpress.com have been regularly publishing overviews, slideshows and session reports on AITF, however AITF being organised by AnimationXpress.com itself, we felt it necessary to present our readers with an objective perspective on the event…..
We approached Jai Natarajan, production consultant at MEL who is a technical as well as production expert and amongst the most respected professionals actively involved in Industry matters… He is pragmatic, insightful and genuinely interested in the cause of Indian animation and its growth…
Presenting a guest comment on AITF, Jai Natarajan’s views… in his own words…
“The AITF’s effort is to create a community of peers who can support each other and improve the common understanding of technology and its use”
The past few years have seen a significant rise in the number of networking and industry events for artists and business heads. These events include FICCI, Nasscom, Anifest, ASIFA etc., all of which point to the growing maturity of the animation industry and provide a support system for professionals.
The AITF, organized by AnimationXpress.com and presented by Intel in Mumbai on 28 September 2007, is a highly welcome addition to the roster because it brings into the fold a previously neglected segment of the industry, namely the technology folks.
Indian animation studios live in a curious state of schizophrenia. Despite largely being small and medium companies with limited resources, they have the data footprint and technology appetite of a giant High Performance Computing facility. They are not just IT enabled companies. Their greatest spender (alongside payroll) is technology. Yet technology heads in the industry remain a stressed out and under-represented bunch, forever under the gun to keep studios running 24×7 whilst making multi-crore purchase decisions and having little or no visibility into top management. Very few studios have an official CTO, for example.
The AITFs effort is to create a community of peers who can support each other and improve the common understanding of technology and its use. Despite a late start, the sessions did not disappoint and have laid groundwork for further and deeper interactions in the future. One hopes it will be the first of many such events, which strike directly at a concentrated gathering of its target audience.
Rajesh Gupta of Intel set the tone with his keynote, which highlighted Intel’s increasing interest in and commitment to the space. Vendors are beginning to realize that animation clients provide “sexy” and appealing case studies in a very aggressive performance environment, to showcase their products. The speech was instructive not just in its usual roadmap of â€?fast faster fastestâ€? multi core processors, but also the homework Intel had done to align the use of these to animation’s specific needs. This was a theme which would return with a vengeance in the panel discussion.
N Madhusudhanan and Munjal Shroff then had a session in which they spoke about the way things have changed and the drivers for the future. Madhusudhanan was focused on VFX, with a high level overview of how pipelines needed to change to accommodate international collaboration. He touched upon stereoscopy, which is an exciting new market that is yet to mature, but which could drive a lot of paint and root work to India if the capabilities are created. Munjal spoke about the challenges of scaling up and about the need for logical technology decision. Both distinguished speakers have successfully used technology for many years, and one would like to see more indepth and specific topics from them in future sessions.
Both in-depth and specific was Rajesh Paiâ€™s presentation of R&Hâ€™s software environment built upon open source. In terms of presenting a philosophy of in-house development and â€?doing more with lessâ€?, Rajesh did a stellar job. Open source is a great leveler and it was clear from the Q&A that the audience really wanted to know more about the potential, though this wasnâ€™t really tied in too well to the theme. As a counterbalance to the usual steroidal technology purchase pep talks, Rajesh did an admirable job of presenting minimalism and rational hardware purchasing. No one can question R&Hâ€™s commitment to sharing knowledge on all forums, with Prashant also gracing the front bench, but I do hope in general that R&H presentations can be a little less overwhelming to the common man and can offer small but feasible ideas to little studios who exist in the Indian environment. This was echoed in the somewhat rambunctious Q&A, which this writer apologizes for provoking. The best lesson from R&H is the existence of Rajesh Pai himself, a technology czar at the senior management level who clearly has a grip on the complex tech setup and can articulate his ideas and priorities with force. Other studios would be well advised to seek such people and empower them.
Gaming is another complex technology idea where â€?off the shelfâ€? cannot work. Ovidui and Kevaad of upcoming studio Trine overcame some load screen hiccups to provide quite a detailed overview into game architecture design. Very rarely do people have a complete picture of the process mapped out for them and attendees lapped up all the details. The game industry depends even more critically on correct technology decisions and Trine’s presentationcame a long way. More please!
Nikhil and Chand of Ettamina presented some provocative thoughts in a whimsical style, about the â€?jugalbandiâ€? of art and technology. The talk was an interesting diversion from the heavy masala of the evening and provided an occasion for everyone to let go of their barriers and laugh with each other.
Providing a foreign focus was Marlon Montgomery who explained the details of pipeline. I’ve attended his talks before with NVidia and he has done some stellar work on long-form pipelines. His expertise would be very valuable in today’s scenario with 75+ animation features announced. His data and cost-saving driven approach to justifying pipeline expenses was most illustrative, as was his discipline of writing down processes, even simple ones. Experience suggests these methods are sorely missing in our studios and people could learn just by watching.
What’s an event without awards? It was time for the industry to recognize its own stalwarts, with KP, Jesh, Rajesh Pai and Kushal Shah walking the ramp somewhat self-consciously to accept kudos. Each of them was gifted with a rock solid wheel of progress trophy with convenient handle, highly useful for beating sense into artists, destroying old hard drives, or propping the machine room open. KP additionally was the envy of everyone when he received a shawl which all techies know is most handy in the freezing server room or while spending your 5th consecutive night on the floor in the studio. AnimationXpress.com has clearly gone the extra mile to understand our pains.
Panelists (left to right): KP, Rajesh Gupta, Jesh Krishna Murthy, Jai Natarajan, Vivek Malhotra and Anand Gurnani
The evening was rounded off with a panel which I enjoyed thoroughly since someone recklessly handed me a mike and a soapbox. A rather eclectic discussion covered everything from core-level virtualization to â€?Why Techies Canâ€™t Get Budget to Buy Shiny New Toysâ€? and â€?I canâ€™t find the byte which I left here two years agoâ€?. Personally, I made an effort to reach out to smaller and beginner studios which are in the critical phase of tech decision making without the necessary team or support system. Our panel probably talked itself onto the supari list of a few vendors too with candid views.
Now that the platform has been created, one hopes that a clear agenda will emerge and a focused audience will be able to follow in-depth and detailed issues, case studies and decision-making aids in future forums, and also can be exposed to a wide range of vendor technologies where everyone can be grilled in public. Yummy!