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Monday, June 3, 2002

Creativity in mind & computer on hand
Sumesh Raizada

WHILE moving around in a marketplace or sitting at home in front of television, one usually comes across attractive large hoardings, illuminated signboards or colourful advertisements. In recent times, noticeable technological improvement in the field of advertising, movie making, print as well as electronic media has taken place, which can mainly be attributed to rapid advancement in the field of visual communication. With the applications of computers and other IT tools, the art of visual communication has further made tremendous improvements and have brought India at par with almost any other advanced nation in this field. Whether, digital animation, photography, multimedia or Web designing, the professionals are in huge demand in advertising agencies, Web or multimedia designing firms and television channels.

With India opening up its economy, several multinational firms have also entered the competitive market in various consumer and service industries. As a result, numerous advertising and publicity campaigns are launched almost everyday to attract the potential customers. Further due to success of cartoon serials and their dubbed versions in India, established companies like cartoon network or Disney are finding huge market potential in the country. The availability of economical, trained and qualified manpower has now made India a source of animated software development for these channels.


All these have further increased the demand for the professionals involved in creation of these visuals.

The visual communication thus encompasses wide range of applications and huge potential in various industries throughout the world. The professionals trained and qualified in this field have opportunities for extremely successful and satisfying career both in terms of remuneration and growth. Though qualification required might differ according to the industry and application of job, an innovative and creative person is desired in almost every area of visual communication. Sizeable employment prospects are available for photographers, software designers, engineers and artists. These persons may be employed as an Art Director in an advertising agency for creating advertisement campaigns for products or services. They might also work as designers for CD covers for the music industry or for a magazine cover in print media.

Those individuals having creative bend of mind and interest in computers can become a Website designer for designing innovative Websites utilising sound, graphics, and video. Large companies, education and health organisations, government departments, book and magazine publishers, newspapers and television companies, all require visual communicators to enhance their business, marketing, and informational messages. Producers of music video and publishers of multimedia and game CDs also employ professionals for animation or designing of their product. Visual communication and design professionals, thus plays an important role towards the success and profitability of the business world.

The job of visual communication is not only making or designing attractive pictures but also involves process, planning and delivering information both analytically and creatively. In today's job market visual communicators apart from being proficient in computers, must also have strong business skills and need to have an understanding of the importance that visual design plays in business. The art of visual communication and image representation is a multidisciplinary area and has included several new techniques and technologies in recent years. The most prominent among them is the application of computer-aided designing and research. The visual communication covers both digital and analog aspects as well as processing and communication in biological visual systems. It involves various aspects of image scanning, sampling, and installation, image representation by partial information, local and global schemes of image representation, information aspects of image recovery, analog and digital image processing, image understanding and scene analysis, visual data reduction and compression, image coding and video communication, biological and medical imaging, etc.

The visual communicators are required to convey messages and communicate within the designated codes and structures. An understanding of the values and culture of a particular region or the customers is therefore extremely important for these professionals. The visual communication environment may be categorised into three related domains. A professional usually works within either of these environments. First is the entertainment or popular culture like mass media and communication that includes movies, television, advertising, photography, television commercials, comic books, video movies, etc. The second domain consists of art and culture, which include paintings, sculpture and graphics. The third domain of visual environment takes in our personal visual forms such as fashion designing, house furnishings, etc.

The professionals might work in different capacities in an organisation handling varying responsibilities and duties. A project manager's primary job is to ensure that communication products are developed according to plan, within stipulated time and cost schedule and at an acceptable level of quality. They set schedules and budgets, manage and guide members of project teams and enforce product plans and quality as per requirement. The Information designer on the other hand acts as an architect of a project. He solves complex communication problems raised by the client and also develops the solution that is acceptable to all concerned. Skilled information developers develop information products for a variety of media and specialize in computer software or telecommunications. These professionals should possess basic communication competencies of editing and visual communication. Besides, they must be proficient in analysis, design, evaluation, and production skills, choosing media, selecting types of communication products, preparing camera-ready copy, producing video, preparing code, and properly using copyrighted material.

In video or audio industry, career opportunities exist for cinematographers, photographers, set designers and costume designers, animators, video recorders, etc. With a lot of private channels available now, scope and demand for these professionals are unlimited. They are also involved in design, manufacture and sales of hardware as well as software for products like video games, compact discs etc.

Professional qualification is a prerequisite for technical jobs. However for jobs in the production side no such qualification is essential as skills in production jobs are generally gained through hands on experience. There are also institutes offering courses in Mass Communication and in various other aspects of television technology and production. Eligibility for admission into these institutes varies. In general, however, undergraduate courses are open for those who have cleared 10+2 examination. For postgraduate courses, a bachelor's degree in appropriate discipline is necessary for admission. Period of study would depend upon the course and the institute and would range between one to four years. Some of the areas of specialisation include subjects like broadcasting journalism, camera, sound recording, editing, direction, design, visual communication, graphics and animation

Toonz Animation India (TAI) in Thiruvananthapuram offers 1 and 2-year diploma course, while Xavier's Institute of Communications offers a 9-month diploma for animation. Some of the other institutions that offer courses on animation or visual communication are National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, ZICA Studios, Mumbai, Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, Arena Animation Academy, Pentamedia Graphics Limited, Chennai, C-DAC's National Multimedia Resource Centre, Pune.

Once a person is trained, career options are open at post-production and production studios. One could begin as a trainee at a salary of around Rs.1.2 lakh per annum and with a few years of experience this figure could go up to over Rs. 2.5 lakh. The professionals also work as freelancers working for different TV channels or by creating corporate logos, special effects for TV serials and commercials.

Some of the leading animation design studios where the professionals are employed in India are Pentamedia Graphics, Crest Communications, Unilazer, Toonz Animation India Ltd., Magic Shop, Universal Studios, UTV Toons, Western Outdoor, Digital Canvas, ZICA and Shri Adhikari Brothers. Apart from creative and artistic abilities, a degree or diploma in Fine Arts, Visual Art, Commercial Art, Graphic Design, Animation Design or Visual Communication Design is must. The professionals must also possess sufficient experience to handle animation and multimedia software like Maya, 3D Studio Max and Tictactoon, Flash, Giff Animator, Adobe After Effects, etc.

Since the job is mostly project oriented, the professionals involved in animation or other mode of visual communication have to adept themselves in completing the project within a specific time schedules, even though it might stretch continuously for days or even weeks.

The field of visual communication is growing at an astronomical pace and with new technologies being introduced almost everyday it offers a highly challenging as well as rewarding career for the professionals.