Making animation come alive

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The BIDC,  in collaboration with Canadian animation giant Toon Boom, and the National Council for Science and Technology ( NCST) has just concluded  a 6-week  Animation Workshop  at the Barbados Defence Force Headquarters,  Garrison, St. Michael.

Barbados now has not just an increased number of highly skilled animators, but also a cadre of certified trainers, who can in turn enhance the capabilities of others locally and regionally and lead the production of high quality animation from Barbados.
The BIDC’s hosting of this workshop is really a part of our new sector development thrust aimed at encouraging non-traditional export growth. In line with the goal set out in our Corporate Strategic Plan 2013-2016, the BIDC has been actively working to develop a core of innovative and business savvy entrepreneurs; a more resilient and sustainable export sector; and new opportunities for growth in the knowledge and technology driven sector. For this particular industry segment, we want to position Barbados to develop a strong animation sector with the potential to command a meaningful share of the multi-billion dollar global industry. To quantify the potential for earnings, a .01 percentage share of the animation market, using 2012 figures represents earnings of over $22 million, with a relatively small input of physical infrastructure; but utilizing the intellectual capacity and creativity of our young people.

This suggests that we have to catalyze the growth of the industry where we can effectively compete with our home grown talent. The local animation sector is expanding and there are encouraging signs from existing studios and independent animators who are seeking to formalize the industry. The industry in Barbados comprises companies engaged in the production of a myriad of services including Animation Production, Graphic Design, New Media, Web Animation Production, Multimedia/Interactive Development, Website Development, 3D Computer Animation, Digital/Visual Effects and Flash/Internet Animation.  Outputs of the industry include Animated Characters, Animated Web Graphics, Commercials, Music Videos, Interstitials/Logos/Bumpers, Multimedia/New Media, Title Sequences and Websites.

The two leading animation studios, Caribbean Digital Media Centre (CDMC) and West Toonz International are full service animation companies that serve the Barbados market with a view to providing services to the overseas market. These companies tend to secure talent that has gone through government supported Workshops as well as training in graphic arts at the Barbados Community College (BCC). Unfortunately, the pool of talent is not large enough to facilitate a level of production that will ensure these groups can capture outsourced work. They are limited too to two-dimensional works and cannot offer their services at rates competitive to other leading animators internationally.  
The global animation industry was estimated at a value of US$222.8 billion in 2012. There is a global trend emerging where international studios are moving to outsource a great amount of their jobs and projects to smaller production and post-production studios in other geographical locations. The main reasoning behind this trend is the opportunity to save on costs of production, while still being able to obtain high quality animation production.

Much of the animation outsourcing jobs are going to countries like India, South Korea and the Philippines. But it is projected that as the animation companies in these countries shift from outsourcing to the development and production of their own content, a gap will be created for outsourcing services that countries like Barbados can seek to fill.

Gaining entry into the global outsourcing animation sector will require additional investment in high quality infrastructure and equipment for our studios. It is our belief that once the country is able to demonstrate its potential in this area through the establishment of more professional firms with improved production capacity, we will be able to attract the attention of global players.

The BIDC therefore took the step to purchase the 42 licenses for the software which will be used in these workshops. Investing in this software makes it possible for further training to be conducted by local educational institutions and the animation studios themselves.
A recent international study has pointed to a lack of trained personnel, due to a lack of publicly regulated training programmes, as a huge void in the animation sector, which has in turn created an inability to attract and retain talent. It is the intention of the BIDC to fill that void. It is our further intention to ensure that Barbados is positioned to capitalize on the potential of the international animation industry to create hundreds of jobs for young hopefuls in Barbados in an economy has been under considerable stress with job opportunities becoming more scarce.
We will work with strategic partners to achieve our objectives. The Barbados Community College (BCC), the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity (BIMAP) and the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI) have indicated to the BIDC that they are eager to make animation a crucial part of their curriculum because they recognise its value in job creation and economic development and provides opportunities for their graduates. The production of quality animation clips is used not only in traditional entertainment such as motion picture and animated films, but also within medical and health care campaigns and advertising for TV and Web commercials. Students in mainstream school curricula are even experiencing animation more commonly in subjects such as Math, Science and Geography. Animation can be used to produce simulations for the training of medical students, engineers, pilots and architects to name a few. Thus reducing the time and costs presently associated with such training.

Toon Boom has already been instrumental in improving the capacity of local talented people to produce two dimensional animation. There however, remains the need for training in three dimensional productions. There is much work to be done and we’re only just opening the doorway to possibilities!

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