OWUOR: Why animation matters

Mr Bernard Owuor is a lecturer of Film Production and Directing in the Department of Cinematic Arts, School of Communication, Cinematic and Creative Arts at USIU-Africa, Nairobi. He spoke to Afcacia:

1. Why do you think animation matters?

It is easily used for disseminating, controversial and sensitive information such as gender based violence, corruption etc. It is easy to raise awareness of issues in society using animation as opposed to using other forms such as acting. It’s used as a vehicle for conserving and preserving untold African stories which makes it easy to tell the African narrative to other cultures. It is also used in education and teaching especially for children and young adults.

2. How much does to cost to train students in Animation?

Ksh. 166,800 per semester. This cost goes towards equipping our labs with the latest equipment and software and are accessible to all animation students. Furthermore, this is a degree program that is accredited here in Kenya by the Commission for University Education (CUE) and the United States of America (USA) by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

3. What facilities are needed for such a course and does USIU-Africa have them?

We have all facilities needed for such a program; drawing easels (live drawing), drawing tablets (Digital Illustration), as well as the software needed – For 3D Animation (3D Max, 3D Maya, Blender), for 2D Animation (ToonBoom, CC Animate, Illustrator). Gaming machines are available for animation, lighting and rendering. There are plans in place to have a render farm to enable offline rendering of work done.

4. What level of qualifications does one need to teach animation and does the university have the staff trained?

Faculty at USIU-Africa hold Post Graduate degrees in Animation. They are also respected practitioners in 2D, 3D and related disciplines.

5. What’s new and innovative about the course? What problems is it solving?

Animation has always been an untapped game-changer. It is an avenue for self-employment as well as an ideal means of advertising, gaming and training.

6. Is it a marketable course? Are there job opportunities that lie with animation studies?

Animation artists are needed to create animation for movies, TV, gaming, mobile application, music videos, commercials, training manuals, corporate films, simulations and content for social networks.

7. What does it entail to carry out such a course?

First of all patience and passion. The course is work intensive and requires utmost passion and patience since it takes long and strenuous hours to bring anything into fruition. After that box is checked, what is needed is practice. Anyone can learn to be an animator. Everyday practice separates the good from the very best.

8. How many students are pursuing the course?

42 Students

9. Why Africa is lagging behind on the animation front?

A number of factors; Expensive or lack of formal training and mentorship of young Africans. Equipment, and obtaining formal training is a capital intensive undertaking. Mentorship is lacking at the lower primary school level and there is no incentive and extra-curricular activities that introduce students to an aspect of animation in lower primary or secondary school. This gap needs to be address at a policy level. Most students unfortunately start interacting with animation program in university. Lack of African Animation platforms such as Disney – Lack of investors to fund and promote African animation stories. Lack of a common African support – Foreign-developed animations are readily available and cheap and we promote and like than promote our locally produced animations.

10. What’s the industry’s potential in gig economy?

Globally demand for animated films is growing (Streaming platforms, advertising and training) especially during COVID-19 and this is likely to stay remain that way for a number of reasons. It has not only created live situations but provided more animated options. Content creation in platforms like YouTube which has also grown during the pandemic. Satisfies entertainment interest for all age groups especially because content is available for all age groups.

11. What challenges are in the industry?

Few or non-local screens for African content – every African county trying to create demand and supply for its own content which is proving to be a challenge. Competition from cheaper imports from abroad that are more affordable. Lack of funding for local and original productions – Setting up and running local studios. It is very expensive undertaking. With the government directive to have more local productions, we should be seeing more local content on out local screens.

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