I introduced Toon Bangla just a few years ago with the intention of outsourcing animation production from American and European studios. During that time, animation production was revolutionized by a new technology.
When I commenced, most of the animations telecasted on TV were hand-drawn 2D animations, old-fashioned and laborious that required expensive software in which the characters were drawn by hand for every frame.
This kind of animation requires a huge investment. The cheapest 2D animation software was Adobe Flash. During that time, Flash was mainly used to make low-quality 2D animations for websites.
Most of those flash animations were “cut-out” animations which were accomplished by moving digital “cut-out” characters, very much like the animations done with moving paper -cut figures on a tabletop. Websites required small animation files which could be downloaded quickly; the quality of the animations was not really important.
At Toon Bangla, we were worried that using Flash would limit us to producing low-quality animations for websites; most Flash cartoons produced at that time did not look as good as hand-drawn animations. Therefore, we purchased a few licenses of the extremely expensive Toon Boom Harmony software ,which cost thousands of dollars per license and several licenses of Toon Boom Studio, a cheaper product which is not as enhanced as Harmony, but still good enough for most animators who draw by hand.
Even after so much preparation, animating was still a very expensive and slow process; characters still had to be hand-drawn for every frame.
In the meantime, foreign studios were developing less labour-intensive processes. The academy award winning Israeli animated film Waltz with Bashir , directed by Ari Folman was released in 2008. Waltz with Bashir was a breakthrough; the animators who worked on the film developed a completely new animation technique which allowed them to make extremely high quality 2D animations using the inexpensive Flash software. The conventional idea was that cheap 2D animation software like Flash was only suitable for low-quality web animations but Waltz with Bashir proved it wrong.
Most American and European animation studios went even further and invested in the production of 3D animations using Maya or 3ds Max. Maya and 3ds Max are very expensive software costing thousands of dollars per license which increase the efficiency of animations.
A 3D character model is like a digital puppet; once it has been designed, the character can easily be animated without having to re-draw it for every frame. Even though the 3D animation software was expensive, it proved to be of greater use because it was less labour intensive.
In 2010 the short film Sintel was released by the Blender Institute using the free (open source) Blender 3D animation software. Sintel proved that it is possible to make beautiful 3D animations using software which is actually free.
Any artist with a computer can become an animator only if they are dedicated and invest their time to learn free software like Blender or relatively cheap software like Flash.
Less labour-intensive software like Flash and 3D will drastically reduce the production cost by each minute of an animated programme.
Just a few years ago, animations were only produced for the American, European and Japanese markets as it was too expensive for markets like Bangladesh and India. Today the situation is changing; it will soon be possible for Bangladeshi animation studios to produce animations at an affordable price.
Producing animations for the Bangladeshi market introduces a new challenge, script writing and character designing. When an animation studio outsources animations from abroad, the overseas client provides the script and character designs. When an animation studio produces for TV channels in Bangladesh, it must write its own scripts and design original characters. This means that each animation studio needs to employ a team of writers to invent characters. This is a positive direction; one popular cartoon character like Samurai Jack is a potential intellectual property worth millions of dollars.
The story was first published in INTELLECT Issue no.1, dated April 2012