Ongoing Demand for Freelance CG Artist
It’s been well over a century since the advent of animation and it continues to outshine the entertainment industry, transporting truckloads of audiences into fantasy worlds bustling with astonishing characters and bursting with a level of cinematic energy all its own.
From just 2 animation feature films released in the year 1940 to about 50 films in 1980 and 89 in the year 2019, the global animation sector has bloated to Jurassic proportions with a market valued at USD 259 billion in 2018 and projected (pre-COVID-19) to reach US$ 270 billion by 2020.
The Indian Animation market is in an equally good, relative space with a market value of USD 18.8 billion in 2018 and USD 22.3 billion in 2019 according to the Media & Entertainment Report 2019 titled Era of Consumer Art by FICCI-EY (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry – Ernst and Young).
Several factors have contributed to the growth of the Animation industry over the years: the progressive technological advancements from traditional hand-drawn animation to 3D CGI (Computer Generated Imagery); introduction and proliferation of new internet-enabled devices in the last two decades; and more recently, the advent of new media such as OTT (Over-The-Top).
As the traditional form of content viewership – TV, STB (Set-Top-Box), and Theatre, is making way for streaming content consumption, this has become a major growth area. The size of the global streaming market for animation content was roughly USD 3 billion in 2018 and is growing at a rate of 8% per year.
Importantly, animation as a commercial discipline was hitherto confined to the media and entertainment industry; film and television were the main areas of application in this field. Times have changed; animation is now being widely used in other non-entertainment areas such as healthcare, engineering, manufacturing, and education, propelling the market forward as it spreads its footprint and grows bigger each day.
And the big boost has been from the COVID-19 pandemic. Media consumption has skyrocketed due to the lockdowns enforced in many countries around the world to combat the raging virus. With people holed up in their homes, they are consuming more content on TV and through streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Hotstar, and Zee5.
With specific reference to the growth of animation in India, a section of the FICCI-EY M&E 2019 report titled “Bollywood’s love affair with Indian animated content gained momentum” states that Bollywood-inspired animated content increased significantly in 2019 giving rise to more Bollywood-inspired animated IPs, while a few popular celebrities including cricketers also got animated.
The report also states that the kids’ OTT genre is leading to higher investments in animated content. OTT platforms such as “YouTube Kids” have helped increase the popularity of animated TV characters. Viacom18 launched its first subscription app for children targeting children in the age group of 2 – 8 years with an archive of over 15,000 episodes of animated series.
According to the report, Netflix is investing heavily in localized animated content and has renewed the third season of ‘Mighty Little Bheem’, its first original Indian kids’ series. Discovery launched Discovery Kids in regional languages including Malayalam and Kannada making it available in six languages in total.
With so much happening, the animation industry is padding up for more spectacular innings. The growing hunger for animated content is triggering demand for talented freelance CG artists. Animation studios across the world hire freshly-minted artists from top arts colleges each year to augment their talent train. Studios also cherry-pick experienced freelance CG artists from the job market to fortify their teams when new projects roll in and when they are in expansion mode, trying to stretch their footprint to new markets.
Advantages of Freelance CG Artist
In addition to these two conventional approaches, more and more studios are embracing freelance talent due to multiple advantages: freelancers allow studios to rapidly scale-up and scale-down teams to meet evolving project demands; they lend balance to the studios’ capabilities; they are more flexible, accommodative and responsive in terms of work; and they come with broader expertise as they work on a variety of projects for multiple clients across industries and verticals.
Recent trends show that more and more people are going freelance as they junk their regular jobs. Today, the market is witnessing more freelance animation jobs in India than before. In fact, the broader gig economy, (not just animation but also comprising gaming and VFX, IT/ITeS and networking, web and mobile, creative and design, marketing and consulting, writing and translation, accounting and legal, data science and analytics, and more) has been growing rapidly and transforming the workscape.
Growth of Employment in Freelance CG Animation
The trend is particularly pronounced in the animation sector in India which is home to over 300 animation studios located mostly in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi. As per a report by Statista, the number of employees in the animation industry across India grew from 22,100 in the year 2013 to 32,000 in 2017 and is projected to reach 50,830 in 2022. While there are no available statistics on the strength of the freelance animators in India, studios/producers have been reporting a consistent and marked increase in the number of freelancers hired over the past few years. What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped advance the trend further.
Earlier, animation freelancers along with their counterparts on the payrolls of studios would work mostly on feature films, television series (cartoons), television commercials, and comics. Today, animation freelancers are getting to work on a range of non-entertainment projects in sunrise sectors. One of the most in-demand artists is the freelance animation video maker whose skills are required for virtually every business focusing on promotions in the broadcast/online media. A host of other animation specialists are finding jobs in hitherto untapped sectors.
As cited earlier, animation is no more restricted to media and entertainment. It is now finding applications in virtually every industry. This adds greater potential to its growth and progress as the opportunities are immense: manufacturing companies are using animation to create dynamic visual representations of the assembly and working of components of plants and heavy machinery; innovative advancements in 3D animation technology are carving new avenues for business growth; more and more mobile apps are featuring 3D technology even as the mobile market continues its explosive growth run, and; one of the most promising growth drivers is the healthcare industry.
3D animation is being used extensively in organizations across healthcare sectors including hospitals, medical colleges, research facilities, drug development companies, and medical laboratories. They are employing 3D animation technology for a variety of purposes. Medical colleges are using 3D animation to screen 3D videos that allow students to have a near-realistic, virtual tour of the human body to understand its complex anatomy better.
Footage of coronary angioplasty procedure; balloon with stent opening-lumen-artery
Never has 3D animation been used more widely in the healthcare and life sciences industries than now. Hospitals, laboratories, and research facilities worldwide are using three-dimensional animation as part of the process to develop treatments and medicines, as well as to aid in surgical procedures. Medical schools are using 3D animated videos to impart in-depth training. The engineering, geology, infrastructure and construction industries are increasingly using 3D mapping technology for GPS and navigation purposes. All these new growth avenues are collectively helping propel the growth of the animation across markets.
Cost-Cutting Benefits to Producers
The world is witnessing more and more of animation production happening in a globally distributed manner. The same is the case with the entire media and entertainment industry including VFX and Gaming production too. Many animation studios are setting up facilities in regions where operational costs including manpower costs are much lower, where government incentives are more attractive, and where the tax environment is less prohibitive and more advantageous. This favourable model is increasingly being leveraged by cost-conscious content producers. Tightening costs further, the production teams at studios are now more skewed towards freelancers as the freelance animation rates are significantly lower compared to the costs associated with a full-time hire which includes a fixed salary and other expensive perquisites and allowances.
While trends continue to evolve and fuel the growth of the animation industry, costs and other factors are influencing studios to balance their in-house teams with more freelance talent.And with a greater amount of work being outsourced by studios, freelance CG artist jobs are growing as freelancers reap the benefits. While it’s always a great time to be in the sunshine animation industry, never has it been a better time to step in as a freelancer and bask in the glow of success.