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Ram Mohan: Interview

Series on design masters in India:

“We have not done
anything major in the way 3D animation is used abroad”

Question: What do you think where do the two i.e. CGI and Classical Animation merge? If they merge where are the conflicts?

Answer: They are merging quite a bit. Because if you see the new films that have been done both for Disney and Dream works. Disney's 'Treasure' Planet you can see that Environments are created in 3D, characters are animated in 2D or you can animate a 3D character to look it like 2D and blend it with painted background. So there are now sort of a two things coming together in many ways i.e. 2D and 3D. For example hand drawn and hand painted images are blended with computer generated imagery rendered to look similar and so on. Therefore I think a stage will come in future when it will be difficult to differentiate between CGI i.e. Computer Generated Imagery and Classical hand-drawn animation. Just as today so much of 3D is blended into live action in such a way that you cant make out which is live and which 3D as in the film 'Lord of the Rings'. So all of them are coming together in a composite way.

“I have had an access to the best
of equipments
for Cell Animation”

Question: Apart from Classical work, what are the Experimental works that you have done?

Answer: Experimental work has been done more in the sense of Design than testing. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing but I always have had an access to the best of equipments for cell animation. When I was in Films Division they had an Axme camera then there was Oxberry. Then when I went to Prasad productions, Oxberry was right there for me to use. So I never had to think about the innovation of some other technique to develop. Usually these are done when you have a challenge. Like you have to make films with rigged up cameras, then you have to start working with materials. But we never had that problem so we stuck to classical animation using cells and paints. And we had no problem getting imported materials like good cells and colours and so on. So in that respect I think off course all the cells itself are kind of Textures one can get, that we have tried. Like for example in ‘You Said It’ what we did was we took the drawings and paint them on the cells and we just painted them with white on one side so it was just that white area and then on the top we used inks of different colours to give washes. So it had that different look. So we have done these kinds of things to get different textures and effects

Question: How do you define Classical Animation and Experimental Animation? What is the realtion between the two?

Answer: Classical animation is something which has evolved over several decades and the process has been sort of standardized. In fact classical animation particularly when it is done on a large scale is done almost in an assembly line in a factory mold where each one doing his own little part of the production. And then moving on to the next and the next and the next which is done by number of people and their style of drawing their skills are so molded that you can’t see the difference between the drawing made by one person and that made by another person. They have to be standardized. That is why they are given model chart and everybody practices to draw exactly similarly. It is a group effort where one’s particular individual drawing doesn’t stand out. It is the product of the studio. Off course the director has the control over the overall thing and the original designer has a lot to contribute. But overall the final product becomes the product of the studio and becomes standardized.

But in experimental film it is usually the work of one individual and he brings his own personal stands, his own sensibilities to the film. And it is very distinguished that you can make out that it is made by this particular director or artist. The tap of his personality which is reflected in his film. Now that kind thing of doesn’t happen on a very large scale. Usually done as experimental and therefore probably get shown in festivals and screening. There is an exploration of both concepts and design as well as techniques. You can innovate new techniques like using oil paint on glass, or you can use sand or some new material that can be manipulated frame by frame. So that is experimental Animation. Some of it may finally end up in commercial use. Particularly in CG for example most of these small films are initially made as experimental film for example “Jerry’s Game” (an old man playing chess with himself) that was made by Pixar. It was made essentially as an experiment, it was a part of their research. Finding new ways of modeling characters, particularly characters having wrinkles and they had clothes which had holes on them and how they could be animated. So the whole purpose of the film was more to handle the workout of the sub-divisions and how they could be manipulated. But they put into a story, so finally the story itself turned out so good that it won the Oscar.

Question: Does it mean that Classical Animation kills individual creative talent?

Answer: What happens is it there are two aspects to that kind of animation. There is a purely creative aspect which is the first part of the production process. Some of it is concept, developing the story, screenplay and designing the storyboard, designing the characters and doing inspirational drawings like the kind of layouts and setting the style. All this is very creative and every individual who works in that set-up has a lot to contribute. But when it comes to the animation process there it becomes more mechanical. In the sense you are required to do certain things which are asked of you. This is how the character should look and you can't even deviate by even one hair or one eye lash where everything is given to you. There it becomes more a discipline. Creative talent is there to the extend of animation in terms of performance but that too is usually dictated by the director. And it becomes more like an interpretation of what the director has asked you to do. But more than anything else it becomes a craft, becomes a discipline. And I am not saying that it is anything less than any creative effort. It is equally important to have that otherwise you wont have a film. If everyone just did the creative part then there would be no film.


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