What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

September 22, 2020

List of Content.

The blog is getting old and is a bit disorganised and I have not really updated it much the last few years since pretty much things that need to be said, have been said. But unfortunately the content written 5-8 years ago is still very relevant. (nothing really have changed) So I have list the important contents here so that it is easily accessible. Share to your friends or anyone that needs to know more before doing animation. I will update the posts and list when I have new stuff.

Do you really want to step into the animation industry?
(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)
Planning for a a career in animation. 

Choosing a local animation school and the problems. 
(part 1)
(part 2)
Conflict of interest for animation studios to run govt certified courses.
The greed and dangers of private animation schools and how it is affecting the industry. 
Dangers of animation short courses. 

Economics of Animation 
(part 1)
(part 2)

Cost of living and salary in animation in Singapore  (pay have not changed at all the last 5 years)

The animation student. 
Teaching Animation.
"Passion" and commitment. 
The mentality of the local student.
Thoughts on the local animation industry in Singapore - For the Students
Thank you for the shitty students. 
Art Advice from Joe Mad
Dealing with Failure.

State of Industry.
D Neg layoff.
Vfx Craziness.

Expectation of in a working overseas facilities.
How not to get pissed off at work.
Fixing it in post. 
Japanese Cg industry. 
Our "Dying" animation industry. 

List of animation and storytelling posts here

December 13, 2018

Preparing for animation school.

Preparing for animation school.

There seems to be a misconception that you go into animation school to learn to draw. That is not true. You go into animation school to learn to animate. Anyone else telling you otherwise is trying to make money from you without actually telling you the truth.

That means you need to have sufficient ability to draw competently in order to animate. This includes anatomy, perspective, shape and form.

A lot of aspiring animation students are unclear about what that means. So here is a breakdown of the skill sets that you should know before coming on to the course.

- Draw from observation. Aka live drawing/sketching. Drawing what is in front of you. Draw your table, your room, the people on streets. Observe the space and measurement between objects and shapes. And put it to paper. Not Ipad. Paper. This will train your proportions and perspective. And builds confidence.

- Try drawing with a PEN only. Try to do some of these sketches/drawings with only a PEN. Not pencil. This is to prevent you from erasing and drawing over. It will also force you to make decisions about what to commit down on paper. You are learning to decide what line is important enough to put down on paper. And gives you confidence later down the road. Besides its gratifying seeing your drawings in ink.

- Draw quickly. Animation isn't a fine arts course. We don't spend 10 hours or 10 days over ONE drawing/painting.We draw hundreds of drawings over the same period of time. That is why we courage you to spend 5-10 minutes on each sketch. No more.

- Draw prolifically. In animation school, you will be drawing 8-10 hours a day. So you will need to get used to that. If not you will not last very long. Keep a sketchbook and draw in it. Draw everything.

- Learn to do perspective drawing. Google "perspective drawing". make it 2nd nature.

- Learn to draw gesture drawings and human anatomy. You are creating movement with drawings. And most of these drawings are characters and their poses to tell their mood and . So learn to draw gestures and human anatomy. Just follow these for a start.

How I Draw Anatomy Playlist.

- History of Art. It can be dry. But its very useful to learn about the history of arts. Of its evolution from medieval to modern times. And you will expand your visual library. I always find it interesting that before the 13th century, the concept of perspective was not even present in paintings. That is why all those paintings of the time looks flat. Food for thought.

- Take photographs. Not selfies. But photos of your environment and of people. It helps with composition and framing.

- Research. Your are doing animation. Devour all you can about the art form and the business of the industry. Be aware of what you are getting yourself into as a career and see if you really want to get into it. 

- Keep a sketchbook. Duh.

- Watch TV and movies. Keep your pop culture currency relevant.

 Used THIS as a bible.


November 7, 2018

Issues I had with The Last Jedi.

Was going to write a long detailed post of the LAst Jedi. BUt FUCK it. Fuck it up its ass. not worth the time and effort.
That said...My major saw point below.

Opinions are just that. Opinions. Balance with wish fulfillment and creating new stories with new characters. you don't say fuck you to the fans that grew up with these characters.
Luke should die. But how he went is not consistent with the powers of the Jedi. By having Luke go out the way he did, you are denying the 3 decades worth of fan hopes and theories. There is nothing portraying Luke as the disillusioned old samurai. In fact it is appropriate with what he has gone through. He is ashamed of almost killing his friend and sister's son. And never even had the courage to say he is sorry. And he needs to find the courage to do that and right this wrong.

Poe was a miscalculation. How can such a hot head be a admiral? He saw his teammates die and he is fine with that. Even if he "learnt" that lesson, the fact that he had no qualms of sacrificing his team is questionable of his character which does not gell with the Poe who cares so much for bb8. Shallow. This is so different from the Poe in TFA

Ackbar should be the one who did the suicide mission. Not someone who was introduced in this movie. Ackbar should not just die such a death.

P.S - NO going to spend another dime on star wars. NOt the movies and not the shitty toys they have coming out.

December 28, 2016

Big Problems and Small Issues I had with Star Wars Rogue One. Spoilers.

I wanted to like Rogue One. I really did. And I try to go in without reading spoilers or gossips and only watched the trailers released..

 But I left the cinema feeling hollow and unfulfilled. Twice. 

Was it a bad movie ala Transformers or Jurassic World? Hell No! Was it a decent movie worth spending to watch it twice? Yes. The 2nd time to actually get over the jarring CGness and to try and absorb the story. So.. was it great? No. 
It is a mediocre story covered with amazing sets and visual effects well executed . That is the problem.
Or as Nerdwriter1 puts it...

Its an amusement park ride. Not a movie.

That was what I felt like when watching Rogue one. A very well-executed amusement park ride. 

October 8, 2016

Reminder to self.

An interesting talk with a ex student today introduced a different perspective and an insight to the current frustration I am facing. Actually for the lasst few years.

I should not force people to do what they do not want. No matter how much I felt it is the case. I can voice my opinion and that is it. 

I should not feel responsible or frustrated for the inability for the students to not get job. They had a choice to come learn animation. Neither should I should not crush their dreams.If they want to do it, they will. If you invest or measure your success to the accomplishment of your students and they do not succeed, that becomes a burden on yourself and them..On yourself mentally and it takes its toil physically on you. . Besides that is just having low inferior complexity combined with a Messiah complex.  That is actually a very self-centre and selfish way of thinking. Scary shit. Everyone has to be responsible for what they going to do with their life and they should know best

Let Go. Teach the best that you can to the students.  Treat them with enthusiasm and positivity be happy for what you have. Anger and frustrations get you nowhere except more frustration. ENjoy the process. Look on the bright side. 

Really just be glad for what you have and not let worry dictate what you  do. INstead aim for what you want to do and focus on it. Take little chunks and trus the process.. 

August 23, 2016

On creating your own IP (intellectual property) locally.

Everywhere there are artists and animators and writers all dreaming to create the next big thing. The next big tv show or movie or animation etc... The motivations varies for individuals but financial and creative freedom often ranks high up on anyone's list.

Unforuntately creating your own IP is labour intensive, time consuming and costs money. Not only that, but you are making gamble that what you are doing is going to be acceptable.

That is why the common consensus is find companies or people who have the money to invest in your idea.

FACT : TV/cable companies/studios have content to fill and they need to choose what they believe can generate the better returns. And they are the ones putting up the money, they feel should own the rights to it. (Note: I am not demonising the networks or companies. They are running a business and they are doing makes sound business sense.)

There are a lot people in the industry that keep preaching that in order for the local industry to survive, we got to create our own IPs and monetize it. Because then, you are in charge of the cash flow rather then at the mercy of the studio. This I believe what is universally considered to be the path throughout the world. Disney and Lucasfilm is of course the prime example.

Problem of course... is as far as I know, no one has a definite formula on how to successfully create an IP every time. Just like there is no surefire way to invest in shares and stocks.

If they do, they will be using it themselves all the time. Those that are successful don't have a guarantee that the next one will be.

That is why I laugh when I see people trying to teach you how to create IP and how to sell them to TV stations or companies. It reminds of those money making seminar where the speaker is making money from the audience who paid for the course or selling the course. Just less successfully.

But at this stage, even before you worry about how to pitch and sell your own IP , the real question you need to honestly ask is "Can you tell a story or have characters that the audience will want to see?" Often people who can't answer such a seemingly simple question starts thinking about making toys of their characters.

Right now in Singapore there are some challenges facing us and maybe ideas for some potential solutions.

1.) The eco system and maturity level locally makes it very challenging (but not impossible) to create an IP. People complain about the lack of freedom of speech or the censorship control of the media. The consequences over the last few decades is that I feel some of us lack the desire for critical thinking and questioning. Its not an excuse to say that there isn't anything interesting happening. It just means we don't see beyond the surface. The generation of ideas and stories are basically coping what has come before with nothing new to offer in perspective or context. That comes with experience and most of us are more interested in the visual than the story..

2.) Lack of story telling methodology and skillsets in schools..This is a very real problem. Literature and storytelling aren't the "valued" skillsets in schools. Its all about the hardskills. And the irony is

"Artists love looking at art.  It's a hard truth, but audiences don't care about art or animation.  They want characters that entertain them..... audiences are not interested in a high level of craft unless it is accompanied by something that entertains them.  Given a choice between art and entertainment, entertainment wins."

So what to do?  Here are some books that I found to be really really useful in the subject matter.

Invisible Ink.

Prepare to Board

Bascially it boils down to only 2 things from the audience standpoint. Who are the characters and why should I care. And/or what is story about and why should I care.

I am sure there are other challenges and I will amend this post from your comments or when I think of more.

So what solutions is there?

- Understand that it is impossible to cater to all tastes and preferences. The good news is you don't have to. Find your niche and target audience. Youtube does the rest. Build a audience gradually. Post your work on youtube and share it to people. Filter the feedback and improve on it.

- Keep your day job. duh..

- Make sure you have a good idea. What is a good idea? One that you are emotionally interested in.

- Make it easy and fast. And get people to look at it.

- Get friends or people together to work on an idea. Find someone that you can work with.

- Sell your 1st pitch. Gain credibility. Some may disagree and say to keep the IP yourself. Which I fully recommend. Idealistically that would be great. But you got to pay the bills and selling your pitch gives you credibility and pay some bills..

I will add more when I think of it.. 

Mark Mayerson's "Don't Pitch to Buyers, Pitch to the Audience"

I came across Mark Mayerson's blog posts about creating IP and the negatives of pitching your ideas to others a few years ago. And it resonated greatly  with me. The links are below and I heavily recommend those interested to have a read and see if you agree with them.

There is also a video that I linked to below via his blog post.

But below are what I think are the important issues that he highlighted in his blog posts. Again, please read them in their context. I do this for my own references.

Part 1

- The ability to pitch is a wholly separate skill from the creation of ideas
- Too much depends on the budget, the schedule, the crew, input from investors and chance.  
- Without people willing to pitch for free, the listener has no job.  
- If the people taking pitches were genuinely creative, they would be creating their own projects for the company and would not have to listen to ideas from anyone else. 
While a creator sees a work as polished and developed, the buyers see it as raw material to be shaped to their own needs. 
If the owners decide to revive a project in the future, they're under no obligation to get the creator involved.  
Pitching does have an upside. It gives you the opportunity to meet people in positions of authority.  Enlarging your network is always a positive thing.  Pitching may lead to job opportunities if the people you are pitching to are impressed by you, even if they don't like your idea.

From the comments section.
"Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dreams?"  (to pay the fucking bills. Pay the bills then live your dreams.)

- "I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders much earlier in my career and told me to start pitching by building relationships with other producers, content-creators, distributors, financiers, broadcasters, investors, and so on. Having a good idea is great, being able to animate it into a pitch is great, but developing it into a pitchable product that fits into the market is both costly and time-consuming-- and the cost is often your own time and money."
What people don't often realize is that content producers are generally the lowest income lot of the bunch.. . we sell developed ideas which includes work by a writer, a producer, and artist(s)... and usually we foot the bill ourselves. Anyone interest in joining this club, need only have a never-ending desire to do whatever it takes to get their ideas off the ground while earning next to nothing for doing this. But it sure is fun! And yeah, its kinda rewarding when it actually works.

The success or failure of an idea rests with the audience and until its judgement is known, the outcome is just speculation.
- Creators should  focus on pleasing audiences rather than focus on pleasing buyers.  
- What engages the audience and what do they remember?  Characters.  "We start with strong characters and build the movie from there." 
Characters are more memorable than stories.  
Artists love looking at art.  It's a hard truth, but audiences don't care about art or animation.  They want characters that entertain them..... audiences are not interested in a high level of craft unless it is accompanied by something that entertains them.  Given a choice between art and entertainment, entertainment wins. 

 Q "But what if I fail?" A "You will. "  
- "Your first try will be wrong.  Budget and design for it." 
- The faster and cheaper you can get your idea in front of an audience, the more likely you are to survive the failure and come back with something better. It may be a revision of your original idea or it may be something wholly new, but it will be closer to what the audience wants.
The fact is that creating something that an audience likes is hard.  Sustaining it while you grow a business around it is at least as hard and is going to take time.

Marketing and monetizing your work are the great challenges, but the distribution challenge no longer exists.  Computers and software have also greatly reduced production costs.
It takes time to build an audience, but everyone with internet access has a network of friends, no matter how small, and that's a starting point.  
The difference between a hobby and a business is income.  
Maybe you'll charge for your work.  Maybe you'll finance by selling advertising.  Maybe you'll give the work away and sell merchandise based on the work.  Maybe you'll charge for special access to you or to your work in progress.  There are multiple potential revenue streams.
Building and monetizing an audience are not simple things and they have no instant solutions.

- First, there is advertising.  YouTube is owned by Google and Google places ads and splits the revenue with Tofield.
Then there is merchandise. There are mobile games available and there's user generated content helping to keep the site fresh.
Simon Tofield is doing many of the things mentioned in these articles.  He's built the films around a continuing character.  The shorts are comparatively fast and cheap to produce. There is no dialogue, so the films can be understood internationally without subtitles or dubbing. The films are short, usually less than three minutes and sometimes less than two.
He uses Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest to stay connected to his audience and let them know when something new is available. 
Tofield has taken advantage of another thing: an existing community.  Millions of people have cats as pets.  They are a ready-made audience for these cartoons.  (Find something that people can relate to.) 

When it comes to producing something fast and cheap, animation isn't high on the list.  It takes time, and in the current media environment, the audience wants a steady stream of new material or it will lose interest and move on. (Create a series of short animation rather then one every few months)
The skills used to make animated films -- the ability to write, design, draw and stage situations -- can be applied to other things.
Should an idea prove successful, it can always be done as animation at a later date.  
There are more opportunities available now to reach an audience and generate income than have ever existed.  That's not to say it is easy.  Creating work that is popular is hard.  Most creations simply don't generate much interest.
Keep ownership of your work.  Nobody will care about it as much as you, so you're the only one who can protect the heart and soul of your idea.  Get it to an audience as quickly and cheaply as possible and take audience feedback seriously, even if the feedback is negative or indifferent.  Like it or not, success depends on the audience.
If you can satisfy an audience, monetize it.  Even if you can't earn enough to live on, it's a nice supplement to your day job and will prevent your income from ever dropping to zero if you are unemployed.
Until an audience has passed judgment on your work, the value of your idea is unknown.  If you choose to do business with a larger company without proof of value, that puts you at a great disadvantage.  You never want to be negotiating from a position of weakness.  (That is why you want to make sure you have a content that have some leverage. Either through a fan base or value add, like minimising production costs by doing it yourself. Even co-producing if you actually run a studio)
 If you are a creator, educate yourself.  If you're going to pitch to companies, get yourself a good entertainment lawyer and don't let your desire for a sale blind you to what's in your long-term interest.
- Companies don't create hits, people do.  Don't ever forget that, even if many companies have.

I really liked this comment from a commentator in the comments section. 

"I think animators should be more like musicians. Musicians form bands, they get together and jam and create albums together and tour. People with the same tastes and skill levels team up, form a little family and make their dreams happen under one name. It's a team, it's a chapter of your life." 

I mean animating does not cost money. Coming up with ideas does not cost money. Find mates who have common interest or people who you can work with and just do it.  

August 22, 2016

Surviving our singapore animation industry.

This is a subject matter that bugged me for the last few weeks and I think its best I brain dump it while rendering. Whether you agree or disagree, these are just my thoughts and opinions for what its worth.

The current state of the Singapore animation industry obviously isn't the greatest. Even after the introduction of Lucasfilm and D Neg, things have not improved. Of course with the withdrawal of Double Negative, it has gotten worse.There are many causes and effects. But it boils down to a few things consistent with other skilled labor-intensive industries all over the world..

1.) The cost of running the animation business here against the global market.

Cost of running a animation company in Singapore is very high compared to countries regionally or in Asia. The only countries we are comparatively affordable to are Japan and Korea. Both which have better quality of work then what our local companies are capable of at the same price.

Thailand and Vietnam have studios that are similar in quality but much cheaper then us as service provider.

2.) The lack of high level of artistic craftsmanship necessary to entice higher value companies to Singapore.

For most of the aspiring local cg artists, the best career that a local animator or cg artist aims for is to work at ILM Singapore (after the closure of double negative) and if possible move overseas to expand if they can. (more pay, more opportunities). Others choose to stay for family or kids. We do have very talented local artists inside there. But there is a limit to the head count that they can hire while ironically severely lacking of skilled and experienced artists in other areas.

There are of course some local artists working overseas. But even if they want to come back, the salary package here cannot compete against what the bigger studios overseas offer as well as the lack of options besides ILM.

That leaves with a chasm of skill transference from the experienced artists to locals. Because I believe that a majority of the locals here will try go overseas for better prospects and experiences.

3.) Reluctance of local companies to take in fresh graduates.  Local companies in my opinion find it challenging to take the time and train fresh graduates because of the cost overhead. Unless they are really talented. A company runs a biz. It needs to make money. Time taken to teach a fresh grad can be used to do a shot. Also the level of quality that the polys as well as degree level and private schools are producing are not at a level that the companies can use. Also the smaller companies know they are just stepping stones for artists hoping to jump to ILM or overseas. So they will not spend more time to train the fresh graduates unless they are really really good. This of course causes a cycle of them not able to get in more work so that they can expend and improve the quality and biz. Which means they cannot spend the money to train artists.

SO what can we  do to survive?

- Learn a skillset that is not common. Look.. you want to be an animator or a modeller or a concept zbrush blah blah designer. I get it. Its cool. But there are lots people out there already. And there are other jobs out there that companies need and are actually willing to train you for and pay you for it. Coding, Texturing, particles, pipeline. Jobs that are not on Zbrush central or art station but actually pays you so that you can still be in the industry and keep practising what you strive to be.

- Use your skills learnt in animation to start something else. I do not mean just the technical skills. But designing, storytelling and visualizing. As well as what applications can be created with or for these purposes.

- Learn to invest. Honest truth. Something that is painful and slow and what I regret not having done earlier. I  do not mean speculating. But stable low gain shares.

- Rob a bank with a piece of paper. Nicely storyboarded of course.

- Create your own company to undercut the companies that inexperienced fresh grads open up to undercut the established players because the clients care more about the cost more then quality.

- Set up a company AND a school to try and make money off the govt and gullible students while trying to sell part-time courses.

- Get out of Singapore while/if you can. This is not a anti-PAP rant. I do mean it.

Keep working on your reel and polishing your skillset and go out. See the world and gain valuable work experience.(Best advice I ever got from my lecturer). Useful to make connections with new colleagues who might have lobangs in future. Plan your holiday back here to conicide with the durian season.

- If you inherently have some level of talent, and is driven enough (I fucking hate the word "passion"), you can make a living do animation or computer graphics as a career in Singapore. Companies will always want to hire good talent. But honestly that is the hardest thing and yet the simplest thing to do. The same reason dieting almost never work. The short and long term pain cannot justify long term gain.

- Create your own IP. hahahaha... better luck trying to get Gold at the Olympics.

- Network and don't be a dick. I don't mean put on a fake smile and kiss ass. But be curious and ask questions. Dont be a dick at school and treat your colleagues and supervisors with respect. Build trust with them so that if they leave they might recommend you to their new job.

Unfortunately there isn't much chances to network locally. That is why make full use of it.

But that is what I think we got to do. Constantly keep improving and learning new stuff. Stay curious and hungry and be unrelenting in your pursue for creating good work.

Worst case scenerio, you can still create art even if you quit the industry. Isn't that why you got into the industry in the 1st place?

July 21, 2016

How the US animation studios/facilities view Asian animation Studios.

I came across this comment from a few years back by an anonymous blogger on my post about stepping into the industry. And it just resonated with me so much especially now that I just have to share it here.
"Here's how the US animation studios/facilities view you, the overseas worker:

1. They LOVE you. They love the fact that you work hard like us, but are cheap.
2. They love the fact your government doesn't have labor laws forcing your facilities to pay you overtime and sick pay and benefits. You save them a lot of money.
3. The studios love the fact your government takes money out of your paycheck in the form of tax subsidies and gives it back to them. On top of your low salary and no overtime pay, this is a great deal for them.
4. US VFX facilities are banking on you never wanting to go anywhere else. They want you to stay in Singapore and keep working for cheap. They don't want you to get better or get more experience because then you may start asking for a living wage or open up your own shop and compete with them.
5. The Hollywood studios are more than happy for you to open up your own shop because you'll underbid the US facilities and they'll get more work for cheap.
6. The studios never ever want you to make your own IP because they want to own all the IP out there. The IP is what makes them tons of money--Iron Man, Transformers, Harry Potter, etc. They want you to be a worker ant, not a creative individual.
7. US workers are international folks who like working with people from abroad. Innovation is fostered that way. I know you want to get your break with the "big boys", so you can build your reputation and get better opportunities. Unfortunately, US facilities are making this impossible. You can't come here because there are no jobs to be had. They're already being outsourced to you.
8. Facilities use the above scenario to keep US animators scared so they don't ask for a fair wage. "You're lucky you have a job at all." is a common attitude. If this is the way they want us to view ourselves, how do you think they want you to view yourself?
9. Lucasfilm and Pixar just got caught by the US Department of Justice for illegally price-fixing animator salaries. If you think this doesn't affect you, think again. We're all in this together.

Once I knew I was having a kid, I realized one day he may tell me he wants to be an animator. If there is even an industry in the US by then, I owe it to him to not let him do that. Furthermore (and I know you may not print this) but I will never let my child pay money for an education in animation or CG. For the same reasons you pointed out--the industry is being destroyed by greed but the education side of it is thriving. That's because they're making money off students. The pay you are going to get out of school is not worth going into debt to get the education. That holds true for the multitude of online schools as well.

My advice to aspiring VFX artists/animators is to pursue it as a hobby. Read all the online materials available and post your work on youtube and on forums to get feedback. Do it for fun and because you love it, but don't expect to make a living at it. Unfortunately Hollywood studios and the VFX facilities are working to make sure it's so.

Pursue another career that gives a better hard-work-to-reward ratio than animation. I myself am looking for a way out because I want to have more than one child and I want to be able to send them to college. I would feel guilty if I didn't share this advice because I feel like I owe it to the young students out there. I wish them luck!"
I agree with most of his points. Except for a few.

1.) From an educator and also from having been a student before. I know whatever I say will not deter someone if they really want to do it. This is something that I constantly grapple with and had long discussions before with me boss.

To put it simply, I do not have a right to tell people not to chase their dreams. No matter how far out it may be. (believe me... I tried. many times.)

Who am I to tell someone they cannot make it as a animator or a modeller. To crush a dream even before they tried?

I have walked that path before. And I remembered how hard it was to walk it alone. And how much having a good teacher and classmates helped me on that path.

All I can do is to advise them on the obstacles in their paths as well as how hard that path will be. And push them to be the best they can be. But if they have tried their best and still cannot succeed. They have gave it their best shot and realised its not for them.

2.) Studios want to make money. Duh... and they need good content to do that. So don't be a worker ant. Be the story teller. Animation is a tool. So is your brain. use to tell a story that the studios want to buy it.

March 24, 2016

D Neg Sg fallout. Next step forward then 3 steps back.

With the Double Negative closure announcement yesterday, a curtain comes down on a integral part of the local vfx/animation industry.

“In closing the facility, our first priority is our staff. We will be working closely with the relevant agencies in the Singapore government to ensure that all support is given to our staff in finding them ongoing roles at one of Double Negative’s other facilities or potential training and placement in other firms in Singapore.”

The writing have been on the wall for the last 6 months ever since they laid off over 80 artists in Sept. 

There are a lot of question floating around like why did they move out of sg, why didn't MDA or EDB keep them here. But reasons have not been forth coming. 

 And more importantly... what will happen to the artists and the industry in general.

Here are my theories as well as industrial hearsay.

1. Why did they close the sg branch?

a. The simple reason is that Singapore is just too expansive to do business here for low cost visual effects. Locally most of the work is matchmoving and rotoscoping ever since they opened shop here.
With the acquisition of D Neg by Indian company Prime Focus, they have been effectively been in direct competition with India for work. And the cost of visual effects here just cannot compete with those in India. I mean a Indian artist get paid about SGD300-$500 dollars a month with them working on three 8 hour shifts in the hundreds.. How do u compete with that?

b. With the subsidies in Canada and London ramping up, Singapore just cannot compete with the tax subsidies that they offer for the higher end VFX jobs since D Neg already have branches there. It really does not make much sense to keep 3 studios running with Singapore having a higher cost of living then Mumbai which is in a similar time zone.

c. This is purely my theory and guess but I think that EDB or the govt played a game of brinkmanship and lost. All companies when they come to Singapore have certain financial incentives to set up shop here that are up for review every few years. And D Neg's incentives are up for review and the govt is unwilling to extend the benefits and played hard ball. And they lost. Which brings me to the objective and goals of EDB/MDA over the last decade. I believe that they do not have a dedicated department for visual effects and animation but rather that portfolio is handed around a revolving door of individuals or groups. People who do not have industrial experience or knowledge to understand the situation locally or globally. Nor really the interest or fervor to pursue it. It is just a box that needed to be ticked. Reports to be filed. Another ladder to climb. Either that or EDB's priority and interest for VFX and animation have waned in the last decade or they feel that it is a sector not worth pursing. Which I cannot blame them when you see VFX/animation against other sectors in terms of growth and profit margin. Which is a worrying sign for the rest of us.

d. This is a factor that I have discussed before time and again . The students that are coming out of the private schools and polys are poorly trained and ill equipped for working in the industry. And are painted with unrealistic expectations of what the industry is like.  Now we are seeing the consequences. To take on the higher level of Visual effects, there needs to be a certain level of artistic and technical competency to even began an apprenticeship in a studio and when oversea studios want to come to Singapore, they see the level of the artistic talent against the cost of hiring them. And compared against Vietnam, Malaysia and surrounding countries that have lower cost of operation, we are on par if not slightly less "artistic". Thanks to the economic policies for the last few decades that results in people favoring more financial motivations then artistic growth.

e. This is actually relevant to the point above. Even at full operations, there are a significant amount of foreigners working here in Singapore with skill transference to the local talent. But with the curbing of employment passes in the last few years, it has become harder to hire artists globally to work here. Partially because the level of experience that the locals have are not sufficient which was compounded by the reluctance of the company to bring in higher level of shots to work on. A vicious circle.

2. How will the loss of a big VFX company affect the local industry here ?

With D Neg gone, ILM sg is the only big VFX/ animation studio here and there is still Ubisoft which does AAA games. But you can understand the nervousness the artists inside will feel about this.

There are still animation studios doing overseas TV shows and post houses. But most survive on low pay and long hours to compete. For a lot of the artists that was let go by D Neg in Sept, most of them are working overseas. For the older workers who have families here, it basically means a change in career or take a pay cut.
ANd on the hindsight, that actually might be a good thing.