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Creativity —
is not a sudden flash of inspiration that comes to some ideal mind and ideal hands but results from purposeful person's painstaking work.
 

We are a team of creative and enthusiastic people. We know a lot about computer graphics, keep up with events, and distribute the very latest information. Computer graphics artist, modeller, visualiser - these are professions of the future. We look to the future with optimism and hope that by sharing information we can attract new people and new fans to a field like computer graphics.
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05.07.2006
Toys with a value of 10 billion dollars
     

"Nevskoye Vremya" Anton Zailinger, President of The ALS Group International Holding
 
Russia can get so much out of the new branch without having invested a rouble in it

Modern cinema, animated cartoons, computer games, architecture and design – what do they have in common? It’s possible to write a list of what they have in common, but I would like to pick out the most important of them – the integral part played by three-dimensional computer graphics and the wide application of this technology.

In the modern cinema it is practically all the special effects. Worldwide animated cartoons have almost all de facto gone over to 3D. “Shrek”, “Finding Nemo”, “Monsters Corporation”, “Ice Age”, “Forest Brothers”, “Tachki” and others. The ancestors of these technologies were computer games, but today they are no longer games but one of the fastest growing businesses in the world. In point of fact 3D technology is beginning to split away into an independent industry. This tendency is noticeable throughout the world. Russia is not excluded in this. The recent sensational hits of the Russian cinema “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” are clear confirmation of that. The special effects for these films were not created directly by “TABBAK” and “BAZELEVS” (the producers of the films) but by independent studios specialising in 3D graphics.

There’s money but no specialists

As these examples show, Russian 3D professionals are totally competitive and can undertake projects on the highest worldwide level. This is also confirmed by the western companies that more and more frequently give orders for 3D graphics to Russian studios. However, these studios have come across a serious problem. It turns out that they are simply not in a position to process the number of orders that have descended on them in recent times. The fault lies with the catastrophic and chronic shortage of qualified people.

It is difficult to estimate even approximately how much profit Russia is losing because of this; it’s only possible to guess based on some available statistics. So, for instance foreign experts estimate the annual turnover in the worldwide market of computer graphics and 3D animation as 250 billion US dollars! India alone earns around 9 billion dollars from it! It’s a huge amount of money – money which could be earned by our country. To better understand the scale we are talking about we can look at the following example: Walt Disney Studios bought the PIXAR studios (creators of the animated films “Monster Corporation” and “Finding Nemo”) for 7.5 billion US dollars! 750 people work in the PIXAR studio.

Another statistic. The largest research corporation IDC reports that since 1995, in the 28 countries and regions covered by its research, more than 20 thousand companies working in the field of 3D have been created.

In a word, 3D is a valuable, significant part of the economies of many developed and even developing (India, China) countries of the world.

No one has even tried to estimate the Russian market, but it is clear that the shortage of qualified people and absence of training in professions to do with computer graphics and 3D do not allow the Russian 3D graphics market to develop and are depriving the country of significant profits. Many studios have, unfortunately, to turn down clients’ proposals because, stupidly, we don’t have enough 3D specialists to undertake the projects.

I would like to get into 3D – let someone train me

And besides that, 3D represents not only a huge amount of money in taxes from the companies’ turnover that our country is very obviously losing, but also highly paid jobs. What does it mean to have several thousand jobs offering an income of 45,000 roubles? Of course it’s potential development for the region, increase in consumer demand, improvement in the demographic situation. Indeed, people with such high incomes soon want to have families – and not just one child.

So why isn’t anyone interested in this question? Why is it that all attempts to get through to those who shout from high about the need to develop high technology branches come up against a deaf, impenetrable wall?

In the autumn of 2005 the editors of the internet magazine Render.ru published an open letter to the President of the Russian Federation in which the publication’s journalists raised the question of the shortage of professionals in 3D. No reply has been received. Meanwhile the problem takes on a global character, but in Russia there is simply nowhere to get these specialists from. There isn’t a single educational establishment, not a single university which prepares professionals for in the required specialisations. Moreover it became clear that Russian labour legislation does not envisage the relevant professions – modeller, tester, visualiser, composer, animator. In order to follow the letter of the law, the studios had to revert to terminology from the stone age of the Soviet Union when concepts such as 3D graphics hadn’t entered people’s minds. So a modeller becomes “artist-constructor”, visualiser becomes “artist-stage manager”, and animators become “artist-animators” An 3D has as much in common with classical animation as a ballet slipper has with a flight into outer space!

If you can’t do it yourself, then teach others

Today 3D specialists and owners of animation studios are convinced that the problem can only be solved by the creation and development of a fully-fledged system of training 3D professions. But to solve this problem, it’s not money that’s needed but the co-ordinated efforts of businesses, specialist practitioners, educational systems and the mass media. It’s not even strange that one of the reasons for the shortage of staff is the poor level of information (or complete absence of it) amongst potential workers in this sphere – young people finishing universities and colleges, or about to go to study, looking for something to attach their life ambitions to. It turns out that young people are simply not aware that there such a branch exists and that it’s possible to get interesting, well-paid work with a bright future.

In the spring of 2006 we held a number of presentations in the universities and colleges of St Petersburg and were surprised that practically all the young people, in spite of the fact that they almost all play computer games, go to the cinema without even suspecting anything about the whole sphere of skill and knowledge used in the production of the films mentioned previously. As soon as they found out about it, the majority expressed a wish to be trained in the relevant professions. However, we had to reply to all their questions about where to study that today there’s hardly anywhere.

Even if today the government suddenly had second thoughts about what is “high technology”, and plenty of money streamed in, and they started to do something, there is still one serious obstacle. It’s the conservative Russian educational system, which isn’t able to react to even slowly changing needs from the traditional fields, like civil engineering, shipbuilding, engineering etc. So what can be said about the reaction of a crusty old education system to such a dynamically developing field like computer graphics?

And in fact decisions are required at lightning speed. Judge for yourself: just in the last 5 years the level of possibilities in this sphere has increased by several times. Each year new versions of programs used in 3D are developed and released. Already known technologies are improved, like “motion capture” (animation parameters are captured by transducers and transferred from a real to a computer object). New technologies are invading, like 3D scanners, face-robots and so on. All this is developing at a crazy pace. And specialists wishing to work in this field naturally have to be able to use the very latest instruments. And for this the educational establishments have not only to follow carefully, study and be fully in the picture as to what is happening in the field, but also be able to react quickly to these changes. And in the first place we are talking about the adaptability of the educational programme. Otherwise we give a person knowledge which, at the end of his period of study, will be so out of date as to be useless.

And how does the Russian education system work? Let’s try and work it out. In order to develop and consolidate a programme of learning a new specialisation, not less than a year is lost. And that is in the most favourable circumstances. And if it’s in a university, the programme will contain a lot that is useful and necessary for the general development of a person, but be absolutely useless for working in the specialisation. And the student will spend 4 years of study on this. After that he goes into the industry and de facto he has to learn from new how to work, because they give a great deal of theoretical knowledge in the universities but they don’t teach how to apply it in practice.

In summary: we have spent a year (in the best case) in working out and agreeing a programme of teaching. We have opened faculties in one or two universities and brought there 10-20 people wanting to go on the course (because of lack of information), spent 4 years on teaching them, after which a studio can take these people really just as pupils. Again it will have to spend money on them and teach them how to work in practice.

I will try to paint a picture of how the situation will look if the problem is not universally solved in the next 2-3years. Western investors are now making for the Russian 3D branch. The investors are counting on getting from Russian studios a production capacity which answers their needs and on the one hand benefits from the powerful Russian creative potential (Russia is famous for its talents), and on the other hand produces the required product quickly, efficiently, in the quantity needed and to the required quality.

And if previously everything is in order with the first, in other words we have enough talent and our ideas are distinguished by their originality, then with the second, the shortage of people, it is simply a catastrophe. And if this gap isn’t filled, it will mean only one thing. Russian studios will not be able to ensure the volume of production required by investors. Consequently the investment will not be justified and the investor will leave the Russian market. He will go to India and China. And we will, as before, shout from our high podium about the development of innovative technologies and about our alleged competitiveness.

It seems to me the time has come for people responsible for the development of Russia to think about whether Russia needs the 3D billions, or we are ready to gift them to our competitors and rely exclusively on oil dollars, as previously.
 
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