Students who are currently enrolled into an animation programme, be it NTU’s ADM, Digipen’s animation or NYP’s DMD animation or a similar programme, must have a clear picture on where they are heading with their career and what lies ahead of them. Be responsible; be aware of industry expectations. I have been through a fair bit of schooling in this field and I have heard countless hearsay horror stories, unfounded speculations, assumptions, and mentalities that can cripple the industry like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s inconsequential to be complaining about difficult times or spreading the negativity; instead, let’s take action!
I understand and acknowledge that there are many common problems artists/animators face around the world, but I’ll like to emphasise that these observations and advice are in reference to the animation industry in Singapore, and dedicated to the Singaporean animation students. Enough disclaimers, here are a few pointers to get you started with understanding the Singapore Animation Industry.
1. Animation industry serves two distinct industries!
Being able to provide animation services allow you to dwelve into two similar-on-the-surface but very separate industries, the Entertainment industry and the Advertising industry. Examples of animation work in the Entertainment industry are the likes of Pixar animated features films, Hollywood VFX-heavy blockbuster films, children’s animated television series, and broadcast media falls loosely into this category etc. Examples of animation work in the Advertising industry are the likes of 3D product renders for laptop or headphone commercials, 3D product end shots for television commercials, and 3D animated demos of internal workings of medication, milk formulas… you get the idea. Both these industries require the very same skill sets to create attractive and nice-looking moving visuals. The market and job market for these two industries are also distinctly different. Students need to be aware of, and understand the differences in order to know how to train and position themselves.
2. Point 1 directly influences how you prepare yourself
Animation is a mega-godzilla-large discipline that involves storytelling, acting, design etc. and to the other end of the spectrum where you’re tweaking light samples to optimise your 3D renders. It’s extremely difficult to be an expert at everything, but you definitely can be an expert at a few of the sub-disciplines, especially closely-related skills.
As of the time of writing, there’s a huge demand for 3D generalists for the Advertising scene because products and their features need to look great in order to sell them. So that’s great news for animators going into the realm of 3D production work. In the realm of the entertainment scene, there needs to be strong push in IP creation and hence very strong pre-production skills like concept design and storyboard is in demand. That said, there are significantly less job openings on the pre-production side simply because it takes more people to work in production. Also note that some studios understandably outsource the production work to be cost-effective, and there also studios who strive to keep production in-house.
Of course, this is severely over-simplifying the economics of the business, but the point is to encourage students to get used to reaching out to the people who currently work in the relevant industry to find out if the industry’s demand aligns with what their interests. On this note, don’t just speak to one person (also don’t just believe everything I say here), speak to as many as you can, from as many different companies as you can to avoid overly-biased perspectives and misjudgements.
This is not exactly a third point but a summary. I think the awareness of the industry a student wishes to get in to is very crucial for student animators. I’ve observed many pitfalls. For instance, I’ve seen many students who wish to work as a 2D hand-drawn animator in Singapore but the truth is that the job openings for 2D animation production in Singapore is close to non-existent. However, it’s not impossible to work as a 2D hand-drawn animator, we just have to be aware that 2D hand-drawn production has more presence in some places in Europe, and of course Japan. Students just need to be aware whether their interests aligns to the market’s demands to properly plan their education.
Hope this was helpful for some students. Of course, please share this information with your peers, stay motivated as a community, become professional and confident at your craft. Until then, keep animating, keep dreaming! Again, this is a post is based on my personal observation and experience in this industry. So, there may be things that you may not agree with based on your experience and I will love to learn from your experiences too. Feel free to drop me a message!