Sathya Narayanan the Senior Production Coordinator of Amskray Visual Effects Studio, Chennai, India. Dasavathaaram (Tamil) was the first project handled by Amskray, and it began what was to be a stellar reputation for the company. Previously, Mr. Narayanan was affiliated with the Opener School of Arts and Animation in India, Digital Juice Animations, and was Technical Lead and Coordinator for Prasad Video Digital, also in Chennai. He has been involved in animation, special effects, teaching, television, software, movies, and graphics for sporting events. It is our pleasure to find out more about Mr. Narayanan’s career and projects.
CG Today : Mr. Narayanan, in such a competitive business as animation, how do you keep your work inventive and cutting edge?
Sathya : ‘Every day is new’ – seems the mantra. Also, I prefer not to have an agenda for every day, except for important & business related chores. I make myself open for any surprise or alarm during any part of the day. I presume this naturally gives that pep to stay abreast and also kindles the creative person in you.
CG Today : When you have been in the position of managing and coordinating, are you a “hands on” leader or do you discuss and brainstorm ideas and leave the production to your staff?
Sathya : I believe that everyone is creative & innovative when given an opportunity. I prefer to have brainstorming sessions for all the new jobs, but make sure that we come up with some new approach every time. It would be waste of time & talent to discuss about a repeated strategy, instead could put that in action straightaway.
Leaders, to me, are the ones who know a little more & a little earlier than others. With the right attitude & outlook, we could be successfully guiding a team. If you consolidate, record & maintain all of the outcomes of all the brainstorming sessions, personally, and present it back in the right way at the right time which avoids the above said wastes but encourages instinct & intuition, will eventually make your team to rely on you & seek guidance from you.
CG Today : Have you, or do you plan, in the future, to collaborate with production studios in other countries?
Sathya : Of course yes. Collaboration helps you stay ahead, both financially & productively.
CG Today : How and when did the world of animation become your life’s work?
Sathya : 1991 was the year, when I was first introduced to animation by a couple of my friends. One of my friends just bought a computer (486 MHz, 4 MB Ram….) that looked like a Pandora box. Naturally all of my close friends started developing interest towards the visual medium. We started learning all the software that had the tag, ‘design & animation’ in it. In 1995, I had a formal education in Graphics & Animation from an Autodesk authorized training center in Chennai. And later joined there as designer cum Faculty pursuing my desire to learn more. After joining the Prasad’s in 2000, my career took a vibrant & drastic gallop. Then there was no looking back.
CG Today : You won the Vatavaran Award in the animation category in 2005 for the Irony. Could you tell us a bit about directing this film?
Sathya : Irony is about the stark reality of environmental awareness campaigns happening around. Also, it’s about my experience as an organizer with one of the voluntary organizations conducting awareness campaigns on environment.
Between 1995 & 1999, I was an active volunteer in a voluntary organization and was travelling to the nooks & corners of Ramnad district of Tamilnadu. We used to conduct seminars & awareness programs in schools, colleges, Government offices, towns & villages. It happened on one such program in a remote village elementary school. We used to distribute paper handbills that had an oath on conserving our natural resources and then read out / take oath as a group. One particular line goes like… “I will reduce usage, re-use, and re-cycle the paper”. After the oath, a small boy (6 or 7 years old) approached me and asked, “You ask us to reduce usage of paper, but distribute the oath on paper. You could have written this on the black board right behind you and asked us to copy that on our notebooks. Isn’t it?” That was a slap on my face.
This incident was lingering in mind for quite some time. I wanted to vent it out through a medium I am familiar with. Animation helped me. The entire IRONY animation was done by me and for music & sound effects; I was helped by my brother, who is a composer, musician. The IRONY animation was simple, but the concept & message it carried across was the USP for winning the award.
CG Today : You have spent some of your professional life as a teacher. Share with us the rewards and/or difficulties of teaching a subject matter that is both technological and creative.
Sathya : A teacher teaches by profession but learns by experience, every day. I learned a lot of whys, ifs, buts… while being in teaching. It helps to develop ones creative thought process. The first & foremost reward is that you see your students win accolades. Few of my students are now well placed, leaders and are still in touch with me even after 12 – 13 years. It gives immense joy & satisfaction. The difficulty in teaching, I would say, is the rigid course structure & duration. Not everyone has the same learning abilities & speed. But everyone is unique & creative. The institutes could try to develop tailor made courses for aspiring students. But of course, the financials probably would mismatch.
CG Today : We noticed in your bio a reference to Euro Eko Fest. How are you connected to this organization and how have you used your artistic talents to help the world ecologically?
Sathya : Euro Eko Fest is a film festival on ecology. It strives to create a forum for the diverse film makers around the world to showcase their films on environment. It has competitive & non-competitive categories, and held once in a year in Bulgaria.
One of the audiences in Vatavaran was an active member of Euro Eko fest. He asked me to send the IRONY to the fest. My animation was nominated along with 15 more animations out of 110 animated films received from 46 countries. I was sponsored & invited to part take in the fest, but I just couldn’t make it. Except for few networking communications to date, my association with Euro Eko Fest ends there.
‘Helping the world ecologically’, I presume, is a pompous term. Being ecologically aware & expressing concern to conserve environment is everyone’s duty. We don’t have to boast of brushing our teeth & bathing on a daily basis, as that is what is expected out of us in a civilized society. Yes I did a few designs for print & web. Currently I am developing a script for my next animated short, also on environment.
CG Today : The Western world is quite excited about the innovations in film making demonstrated in James Cameron’s recent movie, Avatar. How do you see these techniques changing the way animators approach their work?
Sathya : Fascinating. Recent developments in both software & creative fields and also the available facilities to create a blend between these two have opened up a world of possibilities. Though the animation principles & storytelling techniques have not undergone any major change, the latest technology & techniques to achieve realistic outputs have extremely simplified as well as complicated the animator’s role. It has speeded up the work process beyond cognition but has put pressure on the animator to achieve realistic / ultra realistic animations. This pressure is just a bubble. As new innovations & techniques evolve, it would eventually keep the animator’s spirits high, always.
CG Today : Can you tell us about the most challenging project you have had to date?
Sathya : ‘Future X Cops’ and also ‘Bale Pandiya’ (A Tamil Feature Film) to name a few. Future X Cops (Feature Film) was a Hong Kong production & release. As the story is set in future, the VFX/CGI work involved was there in almost every shot. The VFX supervisors were real professionals and were clear & concise in what they want. The challenge was to meet the expectations in sync with the different time zones.
On the other hand, ‘Bale Pandiya’ is of a different challenge & experience. The main challenge, I would say, is to judge the right spot to take a call on the creative process. This movie had wide/unending creative space. Also as the Director gave us the freedom to explore our own creative flow, it was really a challenge for everyone to stop at the right place.
CG Today : How do you keep abreast of the rapidly changing world of technology, special effects, digital video, and software?
Sathya : Internet…! Though it may sound simple & narrow, but that’s the fact. Every individual is bound to use / explore the internet, if he/she needs to stay updated. These days even networking of friends & professionals begins at internet. But hands on exposure & expertise is also part & parcel of updating oneself. I always jump forward to try my hands on anything new that holds my interest.
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