Boom in animation, virtual production seen in PH amid pandemic

Creative industry leaders in the Philippines are suggesting the use of technology in animation and virtual production as a means of shooting movies and producing content in the “new normal”.

Motion capture technology used to film the Hulk in the “Marvel” movies. Image Credit: 2019 Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd.

Virtual production is the technology used in Hollywood movies like “The Lion King”, “Avatar”, and the “Marvel” movies, as well as in local production via green screens.

Creative industry experts gathered last July 8 in a webinar on “Technology and Content Production Under the New Normal” co-organized by the DTI Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).

“Solid government support is clearly defined in the 10-point agenda of the administration and all the complementing bills that are underway to assuage the current needs of the industry,” said DTI undersecretary for trade promotions Abdulgani M. Macatoman.

The creative services and intellectual property assets are priority segments of the creative industry that are being promoted globally by the Export Marketing Bureau in cooperation with the intellectual Property Office (IPOPHIL). These are sectors of the Philippine economy where the country has a competitive and comparative advantage.

Creative services that involve original content such as animation, software development, and game development are also included in the Investment Priorities Plan of the Board of Investments, which entitles investors to incentives if they locate in the Philippines.

DTI undersecretary for competitiveness and innovation Rafaelita M. Aldaba said that demand for creative content increased because of Covid-19 and the resulting quarantines. In the Philippines, Google searches for movies, Netflix, anime, and Korean telenovelas spiked in March.

Moreover, FDCP chair Liza Diño-Seguerra sees the increasing demand as both a challenge and an opportunity. “Despite the increase in demand, the audiovisual industry is facing two direct side-effects: on the one hand, a shutdown in production all over the world, our country included, in terms of limitations and restrictions. And on the other, the temporary closure of cinemas, the usual window for new releases and our local films as well.”

“With Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Apple, Disney, and multiple other streaming services, there is an opportunity for the country to start creating content for these platforms. While we are continuing to connect with big streamers to pitch audiovisual content that we already have, we must also find ways to still produce during the Covid-19 pandemic that we are living in,” she continued.

Animation Council of the Philippines president Miguel del Rosario said that the animation industry has experienced a similar boom: “Animations have become one of the hottest trends in content marketing. Because of this, the animation industry has relatively few layoffs and surging demand for new content,”

Del Rosario is also the CEO of Toon City, a local animation company that has done work for Rick and Mortyand Big Hero 6, among others.

Meanwhile, Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) president Alvin Juban shared that they are launching a Computer Graphics Arts Industry Certification Program in cooperation with the CG Arts Society of Japan this year. In a sample video, he demonstrated how green screens and CG Art can be used in shooting movies or TV series.

Marla Rausch, CEO of Animation Vertigo, said Filipinos are already capable of animation and virtual production since local companies offer these services to foreign clients. For this to translate to local content, she emphasized that animators should be compensated properly for their work.

“What I’ve learned in the entertainment industry in the Philippines is we’re so stuck in the fact that we have a budget and budget for VFX, animation, is smaller than I’ve ever heard of. And the quality that comes out reflects that. So, it doesn’t portray that Filipinos are good at these types of technologies, which we really are,” said Rausch.

“We have to invest in technology. We need to have a strong infrastructure to run our videos without buffer, as well as to have access to hardware and software. These things are what we need to become a part of what is already blossoming in the world,” she continued.

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