Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Animation Industry in China

Well, here's my forever long update after many months.

I've finally moved to Shenzhen, China. It's a pretty small but very very modern city, and Hong Kong is the 1 next stop at the end of tube line. Shenzhen has a subtropical climate, with temperature at 30 degrees celsius still in November (recently it has dropped down to 20 degrees celsius as Winter is approaching). At least this is a bonus compared to London.

The animation industry in China is pretty interesting. With cheap labour and a huge workforce, they don't actually see animators as 'artists'. Instead, they see them as factory workers, or computer operator at the best. This means that the pay for this particular role is low, somewhere around 2000-3000rmb a month (it's around £190-250 roughly a month). To compare such salary level to those in the UK, it feels like earning £800-£900 a month at the best, and you still have to pay taxes.

Though I cannot blame the Chinese company for such pay, as many of those 'computer operators' are just not good at all. I've learned that many of those animators would under going a short training course in animation, mostly just using Maya or 3DSM rather than animation principles or acting for about 3 months, then the better ones in the class would get recruited in companies doing outsourcing work. The only reason for majority that would attend such course is because they are not good at anything else and cannot get into proper University to have better education. The working hours in those companies are horrific, where by default you are expected to work overtime, and it's not just 1 or 2 hours overtime after the work. On average they'd have to do 2 all-nighters a month and the average working hour is from 8:30am in the morning till 12:00am. For all that hardwork, one animator would only get that pay I've mentioned above.

There are three types of animation companies in China.
The company that only does outsourcing projects.
They would get their job from mostly USA and Europe. They'd get the script, storyboard and every other resources they need from the client, this also include video references. The company's job is to build models according to character sheet, rig them and animate them. With the acting video references already provided, the animators will just need to animate base on the video references they get. They are not allowed to do creative work themselves and must strictly follow the defined animation style set by the project.

The company that does 2D animation for tv stations.
For the Chinese, animation is still just something for the children to watch, with almost no exceptions, the children's cartoons are really just made for the children. This means poor story, poor acting and of course, poor animation. Companies or studio under this category are very hard to survive, as usually studios are setup by few animators. Although they can produce their own stuff, the budget is low. Since the salary is generally low, animators are hard to stay in 1 company for long. According to a report from 2005, the cost to produce 1 minute of 2D hand drawn children's cartoon is 10,000rmb (about a grand) with everything taken into account, that is salary paid to animators, equipment, rent of the studio etc. With the average length for an episode of 22 minutes, the net cost would be 220,000rmb (£19,000). However, TV stations in China are only willing to pay a few thousands rmb, per episode. It's a really tough world out there so many 2D studios have no choice but also to take up on outsourcing jobs.

The game companies.
I'm not so sure on how the game companies operate in China yet, and this includes home companies and international companies like EA, Ubisoft and many more. Will post more when I find out.

Luckily my request to join 1 of those outsourcing companies was rejected, because they didn't have any project going. Otherwise I'd be working my ass off till 12am everyday. That particular company fired off hundreds of animators in 1 day just because they want to keep the cost low.
(To be continued...)

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