With stars in their eyes and dreams in their heart, teenagers take over GAFX


The Karnataka government is planning for a big push to the games, animation and special effects industry, and as part of its plans, a digital city is coming up in Bengaluru where large studios are expected to set up shop.

The three-day GAFX 2017, India's largest games, animation and visual FX conference currently under way in Bengaluru since May 12, has proved to be a big draw for teenagers, who have swarmed the venue in thousands.

Teenagers like these are an abiding presence at the GAFX 2017 venue. Photo by Pandu.

Packed to the gills, the event has attracted animation students, gaming enthusiasts and special effects creators from far and near. Representatives from prominent studios have responded to the invite from the Karnataka government to present their views and take stock of an industry where demand for content is only increasing due to broadband penetration and 4G via mobile.

A career in animation

This conference is a stepping stone for aspiring youth to make a career in the animation industry, and also provides learning opportunities for professionals. Top names in the industry such as Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation, Double Negative, The Third Floor, MPC, Ubisoft and many other companies, along with university professors, are taking part in the event to take stock of the talent available.

Animation and visual effects students brimming with creativity swarmed the venue to take part in the event. “We are here to grasp concepts of the future, and to participate in and win competitions,” says Armaan Kumar, a student.

Minaketan Oinam of Manipur, who is studying in the city to become an animator, was full of praise for the event workshops that were conducted by some of the best talent in the industry. He was able to rub shoulders with seasoned professionals from his field of interest.

The 19-year-old from the Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation in Bengaluru has stars in his eyes and dreams in his heart just like thousands of other youngsters from across the country who have pitched tent here to learn from what the conference has to offer.

From virtual reality (VR) stalls at the exhibition centre to a hackathon, from technical sessions on how to create special effects and use lighting to lessons on how to make images come to life as well as gaming, there is something for everybody under one roof, including workshops.

Exposure to life as an animator

Ananthu KK, another student, asked a panellist a question in all curiosity: “How would my life be in a studio environment?” After the session, he said he asked the ‘life’ question because he wanted to know if the job as an animator would be fulfilling.

To rouse the interest of more youth in the GAFX industry, the state government is working to increase employability among animation and gaming graduates.

A student, Juliette Salve, said she found the event to be better than a classroom environment as there was so much to learn from it. Danish Ahmed from Chhattisgarh, who studies in an animation college in the city, said he found the event fascinating as it presented him with an opportunity to measure one's own talent. He wants to pursue a career in the digital field and was impressed with Pixar and Disney professionals participating in the event.

Saying cheese to get a career boost at the GAFX venue. Photo by Pandu.

Most of the youngsters attending the event are pursuing their four-year course in animation and gaming. Jai Shrivastav from Uttar Pradesh, pursuing a course in a Bengaluru institution, said he was grateful to the Karnataka government for organising the GAFX conference. Many students said they hoped that the conference would become an annual edition and large enough to become a talent pool for international studios to recruit.

A blooming industry

That Priyank Kharge, Karnataka's IT minister, was an animator and a visual design student, came as a surprise to many at the conference. Kharge noted that with 18 percent year-on-year growth in animation, and 22 percent growth in online gaming, this sector is expected to generate sales worth $1 billion by 2021. He said,

"To tap this explosive growth, the Karnataka government is establishing a Centre of Excellence for Animation and a digital media city, both of which will come up in the next couple of months in Bengaluru.... Now, with the IT industry issuing pink slips, this sector is expected to generate lots of jobs."

Kharge indicated that some well-known studios were keen to set shop in Bengaluru, while existing ones in other Indian cities were looking to shift to Bengaluru as the government here is keen on setting up a digital city. “We are also looking at developing original IP content and not limited to entertainment only,” he added.

The GAFX conference provides a world view for these students. Photo by Pandu.

Manasa Annadanam and her friends came for GFAX all the way from Hyderabad. “We are getting the industry’s big picture here,” she said. They admitted that they would not have got an opportunity to witness a whole range of learning at one place. “We are learning new techniques in 3D, lighting and interesting stuff to improve our work,” Manasa added.

Jayaniyathi B recalled the technical session by Craig Caldwell from Utah University. They were impressed with his talk titled 'Masterclass in Story'. “Prof Caldwell made it interesting by screening animation shots, a discussion by people behind Toy Story 3 and by pointing out simple but effective technical shots that could make a huge difference on screen."

Many students swore by Sharon Calahan’s technical prowess after she spoke on storytelling by light. She is the director of photography for the movie The Good Dinosaur created by Pixar Animation studios.

Indeed, the sessions by Dreamworks, Pixar, Disney had a huge draw.

This conference was originally being held by the Association of Bengaluru Animation Industry, and has been renamed GAFX after the Karnataka government stepped in this year.

These girls came all the way from Hyderabad to learn and have fun at GAFX. Photo by Pandu.

A session on 'Cinematics VR' by Mathieu Miller of Unity Technologies was a full house, while game developers too had their own following. “The international mix gave the event a fantastic feel,” said Joan Garcia, a freelance animator who was passing through the city and looked into The Lalit where GAFX is being held.

Steve Walker, Art Director, Dhruva Interactive, spoke about high-end character animation for games. “We don’t get to interact with such wizards,” said Sabitha after she attended his session.

Philippe Gluckman, Creative Director, DreamWorks India, has a fan following of his own. Some youngsters were seen taking selfies with him. “I hope to one day work with Dreamworks India,” said an youngster, clearly excited to run into industry pros.