Update : Double Negative Sg just laid off 80 people. Insight of the closure, I have realised that this article written 5 years ago.. is even more relevant today. And it is still a downward spiral.
recently in the Straits times, there were articles about the closure of a few "big" animation companies in Singapore. Big being relatively in size compared to the rest of the cg/media/animation company in Singapore.
One part of the article "Egg Story closes down" stood out for me. Which is that "while Egg Story Creative Production closed down, Egg Story Digital Art School is not affected by the closure."
The fact that the education industry for animation is actually doing relatively well while the actual animation industry in Singapore isn't, for me is a very worrying sign.
I think that the reality of the situation here is actually pretty dire. The market is getting crowded with a lot of graduates jostling for a shrinking pie.
The major polytechnics NYP, SP, NP, TP, NTU are offering diploma courses. NTU, LaSalle and I think Digipen offering degrees. Tisch I think is offering a Masters. As well as those on WDA courses from 3D sense, Egg Story and CG protage. Not to exclude those that came back from overseas for studies and in some of smaller private schools.
A lot of graduates are finding full time employment hard to come by. Besides the big company like Lucasfilm,
For local students this is still sustainable but for foreign students on govt grants bonded to work in Singapore, this put them at the mercy of companies that may exploit their predicament. There is little or no CPF contribution from these companies as well.
These graduates quickly discover that the pay does not really matter on the qualifications you have but the level of skills they possess.
Unfortunately even then, there is a dwindling number of companies that they can apply to.
The REALITY of the industry here is that turnaround for profitability for animated TV shows and movies is still slow and companies need a huge cash flow to survive the gamble that their shows can sell. Often companies cannot manage to survive the gamble even with generous subsidies from the govt.
If you count the number of companies that have opened and closed shop over the last 10 years, the statistics make for grim reading.
On top of this, despite the cost of software and hardware going downwards, salaries remain the biggest expenditure for companies here. And yet on average local animation graduates are among the lowest paid compared to the rest. Obviously the inherent artistic ability that an individual have and the quality of education they received plays a huge part in their salary and potential career path.
Unfortunately the animation industry locally really still functions as a service provider. No different from manufacturing or fabrication. Animators and the like functions more as craftsman and artistes that is dependent on the appeal that the shows they are working can sustain. And companies will always source for the best available quality at the most efficient cost.
Singapore animation companies cannot compete on a global stage staying a service provider long term. Against China and India where there are academies with thousands of hungry and talented trainees run be state funded companies, these are overwhelming odds to overcome for costs and efficiency. Previously we could claim that our exposure to the east and west cultures could have placed us at an advantage. But not so anymore. Have a read here.
Understandably in China, they are caught in a price war.
Even if we are to create independent IPs or co-production, we are still gambling on a rapidly moving and expending chessboard with many companies overseas creating their own IPs and actually owning the distribution companies.
I believe that for Singapore to survive in this industry is to improve the odds. And to do this is with the quality of your skills and education.
When I mean skills, I do not mean how well you can model a car. But the nuts and bolts of how 3D works mathematically. How a vertex is translated over space. What a sprite is and how is it displayed. The not so sexy but very very crucial stuff. This is what will keep you employed and a step ahead of the competition. PERL, and scripting. The more skillsets that you have that others don't, will make you more employable and get you more pay. Again, supply and demand, If you can something that others can't, you will be in demand. So why are these not taught in schools? :)
The most critical flaw with the current model of having specialised courses just so that the students can get into Lucasfilm, D Neg is heavily flawed. Because all you are churning out students who are one trick pony following tutorials and step by step in doing a prescribed way of working. They are severely limited by the skillsets that they have. And once you are in the industry, it is very hard to have time to improve them. And not to mention when they are in production, the lack of understanding in other areas affects their ability to trouble shoot and problem solve.
I will probably get a lot of stick for this but I feel that the level of education in the polytechnics
and private institution severely still lacking. From personal experience and observation, a lot of the people in animation education field are in it precisely because either they cannot find a good enough job as a professional or is worn out by the animation industry and wants a slower pace of life. And the good, genuinely sincere lecturers last a few years before get worn and beaten down by the bureaucratic political hoops they have to jump through. As well as the top down mentality so prevalent in our culture and society. (More in a later post).
For a student, it is important to find out who the people they will be learning from are and the quality of edcuation that they can acquire. I will touch on this later on a later post.
A accreditation of a school by an independent recognised body is the bare minimum and crucial for the students to have the assurance that the school they are attending meet the guidelines and determine the standards that they must meet.
Often I have to work with fresh graduates for the various schools on projects and the skill set levels differ by a fair distance from those that only stick to the books and those that seek out knowledge by themselves. This is a unrelenting and everchanging industry. If you are to survive and thrive as an artiste, besides being artistically inclined, the skillsets that you have possess must constantly be upgraded.
Animation is still a technically laborious career and. And to acquire these skill set requires years of practice and training for even the artistically inclined. But this is the reality of the situation here. And I feel this is what will eliminate those really interested in this field compared to those that feel it is just something cool to tell their friends.
If you are working the 50-70 hours a week being perpetually behind a deadline , it is very hard to have the energy and more importantly the drive to pick up new techniques and maintaining an interest in it.
I hope that students thinking about stepping into this line and career understand what they are getting themselves into before getting drawn into the "cool" aspect of the industry.
Its still the choice of the person making the decision. All we can do is to give as much information for them to make an informed choice.