CIOs should play a mind over matter role

by Sohini Bagchi    Sep 03, 2012

Biren Ghose technicolorAnimation films in global networks such as Kung Fu Panda, Penguins of Madagascar and Back to the Barnyard have remained landmarks in terms of their magnificent imagery, visual effects and action. Not many however know that these characters were brought to life at the state-of-the-art Technicolor studio. In an exclusive interaction with Sohini Bagchi of CXOtoday, Biren Ghose, Country Head (India), Technicolor shares how the industry is evolving in India and the important role technology plays in the animation industry.

What are the recent technological developments taking place in the Indian animation industry?

Today the animation industry has come a long way from the traditional 2D images , thanks to the advent of computer graphics and the 3D paradigm . It is not just restricted to fully animated movies and cartoons, but visual effects in live action movies is a vast and growing phenomenon due to the advent of 3D. In fact, movie making in 3D software is one of the most advanced technology trends in the animation industry now. The other area in animation that is witnessing a phenomenal growth is computer and other platforms for gaming that uses 3D and other forms of graphics technologies. Technology in this sector is growing not only in terms of ability but also in terms of the complexity involved in using these skillfully. New versions of technology are being released every year. Every aspect of animation from modeling, texturing, rigging, lighting, editing, rendering, composition, creating tools for special applications and effects and skill sets are seeing a major evolution and the industry in India is expected to perform on par with the global standards. In order to deliver high end technical expertise, and get an increasing share of work locally we need to improve all these skill sets but there is a lot that needs to be done it is obvious that these backend technologies such as storage, security, data warehousing, communication and networking devices and the entire enterprise architecture has to be very specific to handle the complex needs of the audio visual spectrum.

What is the role of IT in Technicolor?

We are already making considerable progress in developing talent in our studio to handle the challenges in areas such as animation and gaming and film visual effects and these technologies have a rapid pace of adoption – both in the movie making process both in the creation and the post production of all types of content. . We have a powerful IT infrastructure to create digital production and our constantly excited about the next wave of in innovation in this business . Our Company has a global have a licensing team and a strong R&D team [we have and over 42000 patents]. The teams in India when it comes to our IT work closely with the Company’s global teams for managing and maintaining the vast array of systems and technologies - networking; security; etc. . In our animation and digital production business, we have a strong homegrown “asset management system” that helps us save significant time and money by streamlining our multi-disciplinary production processes. We also deliver a high speed file transfer and have a “pipe” of 800 Mb to across Bangalore’s different businesses that ensures rigorous connectivity. In the business of creating and delivering high end IP, it is almost ‘routine’ to have best-in-class data and network security solutions. We have five data centers for handling large data sets and managing back-office integration, e-mail, accounting and other core business activities.

What kind of IT challenges do animation companies in India face today?

There are a number of challenges in the animation space when it comes to IT. First of all, there are not enough experienced specialists who are equipped to work in an advanced audio visual studio. The network or the storage needs of an animation studio is very different when compared to other applications e.g. a telecom firm. We struggle to find domain specialists that understand the needs of our complex technical pipelines. The high cost of setting up animation studios and particularly the heavy needs of image rendering to a high performance specification is a technical and commercial challenge. This requires intricate capital expenditure and making the right “strategic” choices. Any startup company seeking a foothold, should not aim to set up an animation studio as an experiment and hope to evolve the infrastructure or pipeline as it grows! The absence of regulatory support and tax incentives are also some of the other problems facing animation companies in the country as there are no subsidies or tax breaks as yet. . There are huge tremendous growth opportunities as we have a very low market share of global business ex-India. Hence, once the fundamental and structural problems are solved – the industry will grow at an even more rapid pace.

What skill sets do you look for in a CIO or an IT manager in your organisation?

We always welcome a proactive CIO as he has a critical role to play in this industry and of course at Technicolor. The CIO role is exciting as it is not only an all-technology role. We believe those who cannot speak the language of the business cannot become a fully ’rounded’ leader as a CIO. We expect a CIO in this industry to be a “partner” in the digital production management team. He should be updated not only about the latest technologies in the animation industry, but should take a view and be a futurist. He should apply new solutions and technologies that bring value to the business. Costs are a ‘killer’ in graphic intensive media production and he should use tools to make things faster, better and more efficient. In a post recession world a CIO has to be techno-commercial! Patience and diligence are the two key traits we look for in a CIO as one is expected to solve a number of issues in making the next generation of audio visual content. . The CIO should play a “mind over matter” role and keep the ball rolling as “the show must go on”!