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Digital animation and 3D drive industry growth

May 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

THE WORLD’S appetite for digital animation and 3D is driving New Zealand’s screen industry growth, and the biggest impact is being felt in Wellington.

GraphThe industry grew by $600 million on the back of James Cameron’s 3D film Avatar between 2008 and 2009 and there’s more to come from the company responsible, Weta Digital.

Wayne Stables, Weta Digital’s VFX supervisor,  says  digital animation will continue to grow and develop in years to come.

“In every film we take the lessons that we learned from the past one and try to improve what we do,” Mr Stables says.

His comments are underlined by the developments in 3D technology, with Samsung recently releasing the first 3D television, and rumours that The Hobbit being filmed in New Zealand will be in 3D.

This is on top of the recent boom of 3D movies in 2010, including Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3.

According to Statistics New Zealand’s annual screen industry survey, digital animation, animation and effects accounted for 75% of all post production revenue, and is growing fast.

Its resulting revenue in 2009 was 50% higher than that of 2008.

Due to the high demand from Avatar, contracting businesses involved in post production increased by 22% to 759. Of these, 438 were working on digital animation, graphics or effects work, a 34% increase from 288 in 2008.

There was a significant increase in revenue to contractors, who are freelancers, sole traders, individuals or businesses providing services or equipment to another screen production entity.

This jumped by 39% to $229 million and, of that, $166 million, representing 73%, was from digital animation, graphics and effects.

Statistics New Zealand business performance manager Gary Dunnet says animation and 3D are driving the growth.

“Animated movies and 3D have had a huge impact on the whole industry, and boosted the demand for new technology, research, and development,” he says.

Because of this rise in contractors, the total number of businesses in the screen industry also increased 20% to 2673.

Wellington is home to 30% of all screen industry businesses, with a total of 798, an increase of 150 between 2008 and 2009.

In 2007, expenditure by production companies in Wellington was only 19% of total expenditure across the country, but by 2009 this figure had doubled to 38%.

Mr Stables says the computer graphics (CG) in Avatar were a quantum leap in post production, pushing the boundaries with developing actors’ appearance as the Na’vi through motion capture.

“We have had to learn how to take those actors’facial performances and translate them to a CG face that may be proportionally different.

“Jake certainly resembles Sam Worthington… but there are differences due to the fact that the avatar’s face is not the same as Sam’s.”

Not all films will makequite the quantum leap as Avatar, he says. “But they will all build on it in the same way that we still continue to build on the lessons learned in Kong or Lord of the Rings or the work that others did in movies like Jurassic Park all those years ago.”

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