“Computer animation is the new rage in fields ranging from advertising to hairstyling”
Switch on your TV set in time for the nine o’clock news. And as aggressive strains of music seep into your offended ears, you will see a globe hurtling through space almost as if it wished to invade your living room. Just when you think that it’s going to knock you out flat, it steadies itself on your television set. And the legend Samachar impresses itself on it. After such dramatics, what follows- the steady drone of one newscaster or another-comes as a bit of an anti-climax.
What you have just watched is yet another manifestation of a technology, which is fast taking over every aspect of Indian life: the use of computer graphics. Today, it is near impossible to get through a single day without being exposed to this newfound art in one way or another. If you’re a student, you may be attending classes where teachers use computer animation techniques to get their point across. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll find plenty of evidence of computer graphics in the film running at the neighborhood theatre. If you want your haircut, you may be asked to choose from various styles displayed-on your computer image. And, these days, even driving schools simulate crisis situations on the computer screen to test the reflexes of their students.
Of couse, the computer graphic industry in India is still in its infant compared to its status abroad. But, we the efforts of such people as advertising whiz kids Shyam Ramanna as Dewang Mehta, and lesser fry like textile designer Vijay Mehta and hairstyle Anuradha Prakash Yusuf, the art of computer animation is being used more and more frequently, and with far great effect.
It was the liberalization policy initiated by the late Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, they helped the computer industry take on. And as the industry gained in strength, the use of computer graphics in different fields increased concomitantly.
Until now, the emphasis has been on the use of computer graphics in the fields of cinema and advertising, as this is where the big money is. For instance in Mr. India, computer graphics were used to great effect to illustrate the story of the Invisible Man. And who can forget Shyam Ramanna’s Kawasaki Bajaj ad, in which computer animation technologies helped turned a cheetah into a bike, and vice versa? But of late, computer graphics have been increasingly and in the medical and educational fields, with great skill and even better results.
India the best-known computer graphics experts are Shyam Ramanna Dewang Mehta, president of NASSCOM(National Association of Software and Services). Both rank, among the best in the world when it comes to making slick ad classy advertisement films using computer graphics and animation techniques.
And it is this skill that has contributed their high profiles. Last December, when Dewang Mehta had dinner with John Major, he was not conducting one his public relations exercises. He was, fact. receiving the coveted Man of the near award instituted by the Computer graphics Society of London.
Dewang Mehta makes advertisement films using computer graphics for Saatchi and Saatchi, the London-based advertising company (which doubled as Mrs. Thatcher’s image-makers), among others. He has just completed a 45-second advertisement for the firm on peanut butter.
Mehta has done extensive research on the use of computer graphics in India and its future scope. Explains Dewang: “The growth in usage of computer graphics has, indeed, been substantial. The money spent on it has increased from a mere Rs 25 lakh in 1985 to Rs1,900 lakh in 1992. Bombay accounts for the major portion of use of computer graphics in the advertisement and film world and the rest are evenly distributed all over India.”
According to Mehta, one of the major uses of computer graphics is in the credits (titling) of different feature films. He estimates that each film spends Rs 25,000 to Rs2,00,000 on the creation of the titles. Some budgets exceed Rs5,00,000. “If we take an advantage spending of Rs 1 lakh per film, the total market for feature films credits can be estimated at Rs1,360 lakhs, “he says. “In addition, the total market size for feature film credits and special effects is estimated at Rs4, 000 lakh. Similarly, there is a great scope for use of computer graphics in cartoon films.”
Today, however, computer graphics are not the exclusive monopoly of filmmakers. The potential of computer graphics is also being tapped in such fields as education, even though its application is still somewhat dismal. But, to be fair, things have improved over the last few years, and various universities in India, as well as educational films made by the University Grants Commission (UGC), have started using computer graphics as a teaching aid. For instance, the motion of planets around the sun, the changing molecular structure in chemical reactions, etc., are portrayed on computer screens for the better comprehension of the students.
Yet another field where the art of computer graphics has made a breakthrough is the computer aided design (CAD) area. Here, computer graphics are being used to create, colour and animate as well as break down design formats, which an architect can design either on paper or directly on a computer screen. In this way, changes can be made easily without the need to start afresh.
Similarly, in the world of textile designing, computer graphics are slowly assuming a more important role. In Delhi, for example, Vijay Mehta of Intershoppe, a leading cotton textile exporters, uses computer graphics for designing patterns. Says Mehta: “In the textile industry, computer graphics are extensively used as a designing tool. We use computer graphics for getting different colour variations. By using computer graphics, changes in color patterns (in case you do not like the earlier pattern), can be made in matter of hours. This saves a lot of time and things are not left to chance.”
This works out as being more cost efficient as well. Explains Mehta: “In textile exports every second counts and computer graphics save us a lot of time as design patterns can be made faster. Thousands of color combinations are possible due to the use of computer graphics. To make designs manually is risky. Not only does it take more time, bur re-patterning is another headache, and is also very costly. I insist on perfection, which only computer graphics can give.”
At Delhi’s Automobile Association of Upper India (AAUI), computer graphics are used to teach motor driving to students, especially the ladies among them. Explains T,K. Malhotra, president of association, “We use computer graphics in programming simulators to teach road driving. These techniques are very similar to those used by Air India and Indian Airlines to tech their pilots.”
The methods employed are simple. The “Electric Automobile Simulation” has a shadow projection system provided in every machine. It provides a panoramic and life-like image of the roads through which the student is supposed to drive. The trainee in the simulator is in the focus of the projection area, i.e.., he is in direct contact with the simulated road situation projected on to the panoramic screen. An ingenious optical and lighting system creates a certain wide-angle image of the landscape.
The system of shadow projection converts the results of the trainee’s actions-processed by the electronic system-into mechanical results. The projection is done by different discs, which have computer graphic images stored in the software. These discs are kept above the head of the student and the projection is then done in front of the student, who is then told where he went wrong, what he should have done.
Says Malhotra: “The use of computer graphics has tremendous potential car-driving schools. So far, our instruction has trained 1,600 students. I am planning to set up more driving schools using computer graphics.”
The medical profession, too, has been en to using computer graphics. Until recently, the scanning of the human body was done in two-dimensional images. But, with computer graphics it become possible to have the dimensional the dimensional models of the affected organs so that a more precise evaluation of the disease and the defect can be made.
For example, Bombay’s Tata Memorial Hospital, India is leading cancer hospital uses computer graphics as a diagnostic technique, while the Radiation Medical Centre of Tata Memorial Hospital uses computer graphics to treatments.
Explains Vasant Malpani of the Radiation Medical Centre: “Our center specifies in computer-based data analysis. Computer Graphics at the Tata Memorial Hospital are mainly used to depict multiple slices of the human body on the screen and for providing three-dimensional images of the organ, which helps data analysis of the concerned scan. Computer graphics are helpful in detecting dynamic information in cine made and helps in rapid imaging of the concerned organ. With the help of computer graphics we have been able to help thousands of patients.”
Among the more frivolous applications of computer graphics is its use in the field of hairstyling. In Bombay, for instance, Anuradha Prakash Yusuf uses these techniques at her saloon, Scissors Over Comb. A portrait of the client is flashed on the computer screen, and different hairstyles are superimposed on the picture. The client then chooses which style suits him/her best, and the haircutters get going.
Scissors over Comb, which was established in 1990, is perhaps the only outfit to provide this service in India, and its popularity appears to be on the increase-though, of course, some dissatisfied clients insists that the haircuts they get often bear little resemblance to the haircuts they are shown.
While hairstyling with the help of computer graphics is still a rarity in India, it is all too common abroad. Says Yusuf: “I wanted to try it in India after picking up the trade tricks when I was in London. But I was very afraid that India being a conservative country, it would not be accepted. But I was proved wrong. Not only was it accepted, but also it fetched good business. People, especially the moneyed, pay Rs300 and select a suitable hairstyle on the video screen. Indeed, the use of computers has added a new dimension to hairstyling.”
To some extent, the use of computer graphics has added a new dimension to architecture as well. Computer Graphics are used, though on a small scale, for creating three-dimensional maps from the existing data. Such techniques also make possible the colorful depiction of various buildings, thus helping people make better choices.
Desktop publishing is one field in which the potential of computer graphics is undeniable. With the help of computer technology it is possible to prepare attractive brochures, cards and posters. The text, graphics and prototypes are mixed and the output is taken on bromide and used directly for offset printing. But, for some reason, the use of such techniques in this sphere has been insignificant.
With time, however, the situation is bound to improve-not just in this field but in all others. And, with luck, the fledgling computer graphics industry of India will soon become big business-and bring in big bucks as well.
Ketan Narottam Tanna/ New Delhi