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

July 21, 2016

How the US animation studios/facilities

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!"

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.

March 23, 2016

Layoffs and the zero sum game we play.

UPDATE : 23/03/2016 - Double Negative Singapore to officially close. All crew will be let go over the next 1-2 months.

So.. after 7 months since the last lay off... D Neg Sg is no more... no roto, no match move, no stereo conversion.

NOTE : Update with info from VFXSoldier and InsideVFX.

Last week, it was announced that Double Negative Singapore  are laying off people. Not just a few, but a few dozen up to 80. And then Double Negative in the UK is laying off 40-50. Amongst them are friends and ex-colleagues. The senior and experienced ones are offered to other branches in the other side of the world. But the rest if they are lucky move back to doing grunt work or just leave.

Nothing is official or verifiable yet.  But you can read a pretty good reasoning and analyse. But still it is still hearsay and rumors.

I have been trying to stay positive and see a silver lining but the outlook is pretty bleak. 

You work hard on shots that go through many iterations depending in the decisiveness of the supe/producer/director just so that it will look invisible and seamlessly on screen. And your company is opening branches in cheaper climate training your replacements.

That day have finally come.

September 22, 2015

Why CG Sucks (Except It Doesn't)

I wrote a looong article about this except Freddie Wong made a video.. that was much much better.

damn...So the next time someone whing about CG, show them this.

List of Storytelling, Animation, Technical and Creative Posts.

Storytelling, Animation and Creative Posts. 
Animation Notes From Richard Williams and Ollie Johnston.
Fuck Yeah.
Irvin Kershner Star Wars Empire Strikes Back DVD audio commentary.
Intellectual Curiosity
Creative Currency. 
"When the external validation of success replaces our spiritual sense of purpose, things get messy."
Clues to a Great Story - Andrew Stanton.
Thoughts and experiences on making a movie.
22 Pixar rules of story telling by Emma Coates. 
Interviews with Toy Story 3 Directors
What is at stake is nothing less then Life and Death.
Del Toro's words to live by. 
Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules + bonus.
The Action Movie Fairy Tale. 
Shatner Kirk vs Pine Kirk
Hayao Miyazaki's Starting Point. 
Carlos Beana notes.  
Why the hero journey's suck. 
Anatomy of Determination. 
Why and how we need better villains.
Cinematography Notes.  
Story Development in Animated Features

Visual discipline and training the critical eye. AKA I hate drawing! Why do I need to do it if I am doing 3D?
(part 1)
(part 2)

Texture Painting Notes. 
(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)

Do you really want to step into the animation industry? Part 3.

Continuing from my previous post....

Update : Double Negative Sg just laid off 80 people. Insight of the closure, I have realised that this article written 5 years ago.. is even more relevant today. And it is still a downward spiral.

recently in the Straits times, there were articles about the closure of a few "big" animation companies in Singapore. Big being relatively in size compared to the rest of the cg/media/animation company in Singapore.

One part of the article "Egg Story closes down" stood out for me. Which is that "while Egg Story Creative Production closed down, Egg Story Digital Art School is not affected by the closure."

The fact that the education industry for animation is actually doing relatively well while the actual animation industry in Singapore isn't, for me is a very worrying sign.

I think that the reality of the situation here is actually pretty dire. The market is getting crowded with a lot of graduates jostling for a shrinking pie.

September 18, 2015

the struggle to management your own expectation. aka how not to get pissed off at work.

I often am caught in a dilemma of deciding when is enough and when should I put all my best.

I suppose after years in the industry dealing with situations where people cannot make up their mind and stuff, it becomes hard to give my best to everything. That does not shoddy work. It just means work to the letter.

It seems when it comes to doing my own work, that seems to happen. Part of me just want to go.. "whatever"... but the other part refuses to just give in. It seems to enjoy pain.

But you do it because you are paid to. You are pissed off because your sense of self worth lies in your ability deliver it effectively. But the goal posts keep moving hence frustrations mount.

That is natural.

What I am saying is recognise the reasoning behind it
And do not take it personally
You are helping them realise a vision, and its part of the job description.
If they cannot make up their mind, they cannot make up their mind...

 It is also understanding that end result isn't just the goal. You are working with a group of people. And everyone are trying to do their jobs.

Adjust your mindset that allows you to take that role so that they trust you to do the job. The real prize is that you build a reputation of a dependable and pleasant person to work with.
Its an opportunity to build your reputation and reputation goes a long way in any industry.

Maybe its a different perspective, but in 2 years, you will look back at this and laugh at the stupidity.

Try to do the job with a perspective that you are helping someone make their jobs easier and helping them make a decision.

When u help someone, you feel good as well, whether they are aware of it or not. ask yourself how can u help make their decisons easier.

More importantly, do it for your mental well being. you do not want to go home kicking the cat..
And honestly, most of the time,
after all options are explored, its not only how good you can draw or paint.. but just to
assure that you are helping them make a decision. That you are on their side. It triggers a postive response from them. rather then a defensive one.

Once you understand this concept, it is easier not to be pissed off.

September 17, 2015

Animation and computer graphics for online media. Aka monetize your content.

With so many schools out there churning out students in software knowledge, animation principles, Teaching maya or animation skillsets have become just the bare necessity for students to be proficient. But then, the next step would be think of themselves as them as creators and even entrepreneurs.

I would even say its a need..

I used to think there is a certain bravado in being able to raise above the competition to secure a job in a decent studio. But obviously that cannot be the end game. Especially when the irony is that online digital content is fighting for an audience's time and eyeballs.

Training students to be animators and artists so that they can be good enough to be hired to work long hours in animation and vfx studios in a ever increasing market place can be rather..... sobering. IF you view it in that context.

“You will always have disgruntled people who feel they have to work long hours, but quite honestly, they should get out of it. We don’t make up the schedules and the budgets for the projects. We live within a commercial environment.”

I agree.. and while other people will advocate unionising or protest.. that is not the purpose of this post.

You need to draw eyeballs to you as an individual or your product/creation.


July 22, 2015

Animation Notes From Disney Animators Richard Williams and Ollie Johnston.

After animating the open few shots for my short, I realised to my despair but relief that my animation skills while passable, are not as good as I think they are. I will need to improve my animation techniques before I continue.
Below are some of the notes I gathered, while researching online. I will have to put these into practise on a few test scenes. It will take some time but hopefully the quality of the animation will improve.
http://www.3dark.com/archives/animation/richard_williams_notes.html (From a Richard Williams MasterClass by Dave Bailey. )
What is animation?
- Change is the basis of all animation
- There are two types of animation Morphing and the type that gives the illusion of life.
- Animation is all in the timing and spacing
-You must show where the weight is, where it is coming from and where the weight is going to.
KEY FRAMES - are the story telling frames (The story board drawings)Frames where the character makes contact (heel strike pose, touching an object, etc.)
EXTREMES - are the where there is a change of direction. They are NOT Key Frames.
BREAKDOWNS are the middle or passing position.On breakdowns always add an extra bit of movement -- almost anything will work.Don't go from A to B. Go from A to Z to B
Methods of Working:
1) Straight-Ahead - Just start and see what happens. (Creative but lacks control)
2) Pose to Pose - (Lots of control but restricts creativity)
3) The "Best" Method - A combination of "Pose to Pose" and "Straight Ahead".

Steps to take before animating:
1) Before working turn off all other stimulus --"UNPLUG"
2) Write down what you want to do
3) Act it out
4) Work out the timing
5) Then animate

(Animation Notes from Ollie Johnston - from Course 1 at SIGGRAPH 94, "Animation Tricks".)

1. Don’t illustrate words or mechanical movements. Illustrate ideas or thoughts, with the attitudes and actions.
2. Squash and stretch entire body for attitudes.
3. If possible, make definite changes from one attitude to another in timing and expression.
4. What is the character thinking?
5. It is the thought and circumstances behind the action that will make the action interesting.
Example: A man walks up to a mailbox, drops in his letter and walks away.
A man desperately in love with a girl far away carefully mails a letter in which he has poured his heart out.
6. When drawing dialogue, go for phrasing. (Simplify the dialogue into pictures of the dominating vowel and consonant sounds, especially in fast dialogue.
7. Lift the body attitude 4 frames before dialogue modulation (but use identical timing on mouth as on X sheet).
8. Change of expression and major dialogue sounds are a point of interest. Do them, if at all possible, within a pose. If the head moves too much you won’t see the changes.
9. Don’t move anything unless it’s for a purpose.

10. Concentrate on drawing clear, not clean.
11. Don’t be careless.
12. Everything has a function. Don’t draw without knowing why.
13. Let the body attitude echo the facial.

14. Get the best picture in your drawing by thumbnails and exploring all avenues.
15. Analyze a character in a specific pose for the best areas to show stretch and squash. Keep these areas simple.
16. Picture in your head what it is you’re drawing.
17. Think in terms of drawing the whole character, not just the head or eyes, etc. Keep a balanced relation of one part of the drawing to the other.
18. Stage for most effective drawing.
19. Draw a profile of the drawing you’re working on every once in a while. A profile is easier on which to show the proper proportions of the face.
20. Usually the break in the eyebrow relates to the highpoint of the eye.
21. The eye is pulled by the eyebrow muscles.
22. Keep skull size constant but get a plastic quality in face — cheeks, mouth and eyes.
23. Attain a flow thru the body rhythm in your drawing.
24. Simple animated shapes.
25. The audience has a difficult time reading the first 6-8 frames in a scene.
26. Does the added action in a scene contribute to the main idea in that scene? Will it help sell it or confuse it?
27. Don’t animate for the sake of animation but think what the character is thinking and what the scene needs to fit into the sequence.
28. Actions can be eliminated and staging "cheated" if it simplifies the picture you are trying to show and is not disturbing to the audience.

**29. Spend half your time planning your scene and the other half animating.
30. How to animate a scene of a four-legged character acting and walking: Work out the acting patterns first with the stretch and squash in the body, neck and head; then go back in and animate the legs. Finally, adjust the up and down motion on the body according to the legs.

more notes at


The last are a few of John Lasseter's old Siggraph notes.