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Serious about cartoons

When it comes to the technology of animated films, TV series and computer games, the Thailand Animation and Multimedia fair is all business

Published on November 16, 2007

Serious about cartoons

Pali from ‘Ramakien Mini Animation’, one of the latest works of the Vithita studio.

Ever since Payut Ngaokrachang almost single-handedly created Thailand's first feature-length animated film in 1979, "The Adventure of Sudsakorn", the Kingdom's animation circle has remained small. But, in the past few years, it has become more visible, as demonstrated by the Thailand Animation and Multimedia (TAM) fair, held since 2004 by the Software Industry Promotion Agency.

Opening today at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, the five-day fair is a platform for young amateurs and professional animators and graphic designers to showcase their latest work.

TAM is the place to be to see the next big thing in Thai animation. In 2005, there was "Pang Pon", the big-head boy, created by the Vithita publishing house. Last year, the remarkable elephant, "Khan Kluay", created by Kompin Kemgumnird of Kantana Animation Company, was unveiled. "Khan Kluay" was the first Thai 3-D animated feature, and has been followed by the computer game, "Khan Kluay the Adventure", as well as a television series.

This year, Vithita returns to the fair with its new series, "Ramakien Mini Animation", which is on Channel 7.

The fair joins with the Ministry for Information and Communication Technology's ICT Expo 2007, under the theme "Global Opportunity for Digital Entertainment".

Experts say Thai animators are skilful, but reaching the international standard takes time, and they need more experience.

So there will be seminars, in which dozens of experts will share their ideas and knowledge in more than 20 sessions, featuring demonstrations by professionals from Japan, the US, South Korea and elsewhere.

Among the stars is Stephen Regelous, pioneering computer graphics software engineer from New Zealand. He is best known as the creator of the "Massive" simulation system that generated the battle scenes for Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings". Opening a Bangkok office two years ago, he's working full-time to market his Massive Software to the film and television industries. Regelous will talk on "Artificial Intelligence Animation Software in Hollywood Movies" today from 3.30pm to 5pm at Jupiter 12 and 13.

"I'll talk about how Massive Software has been used in Hollywood movies from the epic 'Lord of the Rings' to recent films like 'Ratatouille', '300' and 'Die Hard 4'," he says. "I'll also share my experiences from my years in the Hollywood business."

What does Regelous think of Thai animators?

"I'm impressed by the skill and talents of Thai animators," he says. "However, many animation firms here work as individual artists. In working in the bigger business like Hollywood, they need different approaches and connections."

Regelous continues to refine his Academy Award winning Massive Software brain, originally created to control intelligent self-animated crowd characters. Now not only for crowd scenes, it's soon to be used for hero characters. In "The Chronicles of Narnia", artists at Rhythm & Hues were able to use Massive to control second-tier characters standing directly behind live action hero characters. More recently Regelous teamed up with David Hanson of Hanson Robotics in the US, to help create "Zeno" a cartoon-like robot that is real. Zeno's brain is the Massive brain, now being used to control an actual robot instead of a crowd of animated characters. The level of intelligence is impressive. Zeno is fully conversational, can recognise people and respond appropriately.

Regelous is planning to open a school in Thailand early next year.

"As I have been working in the Hollywood movie industry for many years, I'd like to help Thai animators to know how the Hollywood industry works."

If you want to know how Superman returns to big screen again and again, catch "The Making of 'Superman Returns' and the Use of Digital Characters in Cinema" by American producer Chris Lee. He will talk from 10.30am to noon tomorrow in Jupiter 12 and 13.

Where is Thai animation headed? The answer may be in the seminar, "Success Stories of Thai Animators" 3.30pm to 5pm tomorrow in Jupiter 14. Speakers are Kompin of Kantana, Juck Somsaman or better known as "The Monk" and Artaya Boonsoong of Massive Software.

"Aiming to give some tips to young animators, I'll share my experiences both working with Walt Disney and also here," says Kompin, who hints that he is working on "Khan Kluay II".

"This year, we will not launch any new project, as we're working on something big, which will soon be announced," Kompin says.

Kompin says TAM has become an important event for the local industry.

"Not only is it a platform for young animators, the fair creates the foundation for connections between experts from different areas. That will lead to business negotiations as well as development of our knowledge and skills," he says.

The Software Industry Promotion Agency hopes the festival will generate Bt200 million worth of business deals in the coming year.

Other interesting topics include "CG Talk", "From Ground to the Sky: Life Cycle to Making Nintendo DS Games", "Present and Future of the Thai Games Industry", "The State of Online Gaming in Thailand" and "MMOs Architecture and Game Development".

The multimedia fair features five zones:

l Emerging Technology Exposition - Features an art gallery, research, development projects and digital content demonstrations.

l Trade Exhibition - Showcases of latest digital software by members of the Thailand Animation and Computer Game Association. Among them will be Imagine Max, whose latest animated TV series, "The Spooky Friends", is on Channel 9, as well as Vithita and GTA. Animation collectibles, games, characters design and merchandise licensing are also on display and sale.

l Contest and Awards - An exhibition of more than 200 winning animations, computer games and graphic designs by emerging animators and graphic design students. Works will be presented onto 42-inch monitors, computers and on boards.

l Business Partnerships Programme - A place for Thai digital content companies to meet with domestic and international buyers. More than 20 buyers have confirmed they will join the event, including Walt Disney, Atari and Pixtrend from Korea.

l International Pavilion - A cosplay contest hosted by Japan in celebration 120th anniversary of Japanese and Thai diplomatic relations. TV Tokyo and other 30 Japanese animation companies will showcase their latest software, characters and animations.

TAM 2007 opens today at Challenger Hall 1 in Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani. The fair is open from 10am to 8pm daily, trade sector only today and tomorrow and then for public from Sunday to Wednesday. Admission to the seminars is free. For more information, visit www.tam2007.com.

Phatarawadee phataranawik  

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