Raising the Next Generation of 3D Artists in India

This article is part of a series focusing on the 3D industry in India. Read more here.

“I love 3D because it’s like making my dreams real.” Akshay is a student at the ICAT Design and Media college, an animation school in Chennai, whose alumni boast participation in numerous Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters. 

Bangalore City skyline, India

But Akshay is not at ICAT to learn animation. He prefers the gaming world, because, he says, “a good story-mode game can make you sit and play for 36 hours, which is 4 times longer than the time spent watching a movie.” And if finding internships, and later jobs, can be a little harrowing, Akshay has serious ambition. Besides, he believes anything is possible for the talented and confident. 

At a time when the 3D market is exploding, the demand for local excellence, qualified artistry and technical expertise is also exploding in India. The Annapurna college of film and media aims to bring students to the expected level the market requires. But their eyes are set away from the world of gaming. After seven years, the college recently opened a course specializing in Film and VFX. 

Sasi Bhushan, Associate Professor at the Annapurna College of Film and Media, specializes in character rigging and VFX. “The film and animation industry grows every year in India. More filmmakers know how to leverage VFX in their movies, and quality has improved tremendously.” 

Bollywood, Mumbai, India

The school focuses more on general artistry than technical expertise: “Our curriculum is distinguished by our innovative approach to technology. Though there may be ever more powerful software available to visual effects artists, our emphasis remains on the creative process. Our classrooms have been designed to cultivate creativity and learning by mimicking the environments of real production studios.“ 

Beyond the skills of Indian artists, there’s been a lot of support from foreign companies coming to India, Sasi notes, especially from Hollywood. These companies hire local artists and help the general skill level grow.  

P Jayakumar, CEO of Toonz media group, concurs. “The animation training scenario in India has been using a combination of traditional 2D and 3D techniques within their curriculum. Predominantly, the 3D work revolved around Autodesk Maya. But during the last few years more quality movies like The Jungle Book, Black Panther, or The Lion King started coming to India for the CGI and VFX-related work. The demand for specialized software for modeling, texturing, techanim & crowd simulation has increased.” 

Read more about the film industry in India, with an in-depth interview with P Jayakumar here.

And that has proven to create a gap, between curriculums and market demand, as Annapurna College’s Sasi notes: “The projects coming to India are very demanding in skills but the courses are not able to deliver what production houses need. So the production houses have to train the new aspirants.” 

One of the core issues could be how young the industry really is, according to Amaresh Beuria, co-founder of Lifelike Studios. The education system is so focused on bridging the knowledge gap, that “the exposure to new tools and technology available is close to none.” So, in order to get exposure to industry veterans, and access to generations of accumulated knowledge, an aspiring artist must “spend a fortune and go to foreign countries”.  This also leaves space for foreign schools, like Rubika, to come and install an antenna in India. Their solid reputation can be a solid middle ground between a local curriculum considered weaker than prestigious foreign education.

Bhanu Prakash, Department Director Technicolor Gaming India, would like to see local colleges provide higher education. He says, “I still see some of the institutes have not upgraded their curriculum according to the market requirements, which leads the students to struggle when they attend the interviews and they are not sure how to formulate an eye-catching demo reel.” 

Read more about gaming in India here.

The quality of training has real-life implications, raising difficulties both for the students to find work, and the companies to hire the best applicants. In order to solve this problem, companies have had to pave the way for long term solutions, such as “art training in-house to bridge potential gaps in students’ education.” 

That’s exactly the path Toonz Animation has chosen. P. Jayakumar, its CEO, launched Toonz Academy, the company’s training division, “dedicated at honing the skills of students with a passion for animation.” Among the software taught is “ZBrush, Mari, Substance Painter, Miarmy, Golaem: the combination of these software tools is also highly in demand in the gaming industry.” 

Hypernova Interactive’s Art Lead, Bisjaweet Barman, finds that companies will help artists grow, in any case: “There’s a culture of seniors mentoring juniors in workplaces. The education doesn’t stop once someone is out of school, but continues throughout their time in a studio.” A symbiotic relationship that, for Hypernova Interactive’s creative director, Huzaifa Arab, has value. In his experience, talent can come from unexpected places. “We value work over pedigree. Talent can be discovered through unorthodox channels such as an Instagram page.” But, to be fair, classical networks are still very efficient when it comes to finding jobs: “The most reliable of our hiring, however, happens through our immediate network. For everything else – there is LinkedIn.” 

For Akshay, our first year 3D modeling student at ICAT, the answer to his big dreams of emotional and thrilling games will be abroad. Even though, he’s sure of it, there are “millions of stars; every star is unique, but every star glows.” 

Read more about 3D in India here.