Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm a senior production manager at Next Media Animation, where we're known internationally for our satirical viral videos for YouTube and hard news animations in partnership with Reuters. Within Asia, we also produce content for our sister newspapers, magazines, TV and mobile companies in Taiwan and Hong Kong. You might have also seen our work on The Daily Show.
What hardware do you use?
NMA produces 28 minutes of news animations a day. This means we need a massive rendering farm equipped to handle this high volume of output at a lightning speed to keep us within the news cycle. The brains that drive the rendering farms, however, are our 500 in-house animators. They are writers, storyboard artists, modelers, motion capture actors, animators, special effects artists, video editors and sound engineers. To the most of us, the "computers" are our best friends. For our motion capture actors, however, the funky blue suits they wear are their daily essentials as they act out the news in our motion capture studios - the largest in Asia.
Our modelers also get to work with Light Stage, a giant space-ship looking machine that's one of the best facial scanning systems available in the industry. Highly realistic models of celebrities can be created using this technology.
Here are some animated stills showcasing our facilities.
And what software?
We use a mixture of industry-standard software as well as propriety software. First, scripts are written using shared documents on Google Drive, so all writers, producers and editors can chip in ideas in real time. Storyboards are then created using Photoshop. They are presented to the animators using an in-house content management system.
And of course, there are a lot of propriety software we use during all stages that we call... "NMA Tools".
What would be your dream setup?
We are working on a non-linear pipeline that will allow more collaboration and cut down rendering time drastically. At the moment, every 30 seconds of animation takes just 1.5 hours to produce. We need this to be even faster. The dream setup is one which we are working with ultra lightning-fast production and rendering capabilities so we can churn out 30 seconds in just 30 minutes. This means we can be animating and reconstructing the news as the events develop.
Our founder Jimmy Lai believes that animation is the future of news. To keep up with each breaking news of the day, we need as much hardware, software, creativity and expertise as we can to make this possible. We have come a long way since NMA first began operation in 2009, as we are now seeing more television broadcasters utilizing this medium to explain news as part of their evening broadcast.