Animators can create commercials for car models that have not yet been manufactured, get horses to fly, make snow fall in Dubai or make our favourite cartoon characters sing, dance and fight

Mention animation and one immediately thinks of cartoons and films with fantasy creatures and places. But the influence of animators is not restricted to these. Most of the commercials we see on television have some element of animation - the cat playing with a computer monitor, dancing chocolate bars and juice splashing out of a glass and then going back in are all the work of animators.

Another area where the skills of animators is indispensable is in the marketing of real estate. At the moment, The Palm Islands, The World and most of the Dubai Marina exist just in the imagination of architects and interior designers. But thanks to animators we know exactly what the completed developments will look like and many of us have taken virtual tours of specific villas, buildings and apartments.

A few years ago animated commercials were commissioned from abroad, but now there are many production houses in Dubai that have expert animators from all over the world, specialising in various types of animation. And there is now also a company in Dubai that makes cartoon films.

I met several Dubai-based animators and they took me on a fascinating journey into imaginary worlds - and believe me with these people at work you can never trust your eyes. They can create commercials for car models that have not yet been manufactured, they can get horses to fly and they can make snow fall in Dubai.

Here is a glimpse into the world of animation in Dubai:


This production house has made several animated commercials for television. "3-D animation basically involves creating a series of wire frames and then rendering them into a 3-D image," explained Jaques Mulder, senior animator at Filmworks.

The South African, with years of animation experience, patiently showed me how he could create a motorbike from wireframes using a computer program called Maya, mould it and create the right light and shade effects to make it look real.

He then placed a rider on it and had him riding the bike around the streets of Dubai accurately created on his screen. Even more fascinating was a commercial he had done for a 4WD vehicle, which is not yet available in Dubai.

Just from photographs he had created a lifelike image of the car, which was shown driving on to a beach where a beautiful woman comes up to it and touches it.

Jacques explained that he worked with a film crew to shoot the scenes with the model. "We placed mirrors on the beach at specific spots to capture her reflection, which I then placed on my virtual car to simulate what it would look like if she was actually touching the car. I also had to create the car tracks on the sand and the correct light effects on the car to match the light in the film," he elaborated.

Jacques also showed me how he can create effects such as flowers opening and closing, cockroaches emerging from dark corners, a model's skin appearing dry or moisturised and people jumping off the helipad on the Burj Al Arab.

"The combined effort of skilled animators, compositors and the production team are required to make a perfect animated film," he said.

Jacques has done courses in graphic design and fine arts and animation and special effects and has worked in the US, UK and Saudi Arabia.

When he came to Dubai over three years ago, most animation commercials were made abroad. "But now that we have the best international talent and production facilities here, making them here is much cheaper and every customer wants some element of animation in their commercials," he said.

"We are not far behind the rest of the world and the future of this industry in Dubai is bright," he predicted.

Steradian Graphics

This company, which gets its name from the unit of measurement of a sphere, was founded by architects and specialises in architectural animation. With the property boom in Dubai, they are flooded with commissions to create three-dimensional visuals and virtual tours of various properties under development.

"Our architectural background gives us an edge over other animators when it comes to property related animation. We can read technical drawings and recreate in detail what the architects and interior decorators have visualised," said Ashesh Paul, one of the founders of the company.

"The advantage of using computer generated images over hand-drawn perspectives is that these are three dimensional, more true to life and show the customers exactly what they will get. Also, we can show it from various angles, with day and night time lighting effects and we can try different finishes and colours in the interiors," added Ashesh.

Another advantage is that pictures of existing neighbouring buildings, mountains, marinas and other environmental features can be integrated into the virtual creations to give customers an accurate idea of the surroundings. This is particularly useful when marketing properties to customers in other countries.

In most of these videos, animators work along with film crews to integrate scenes shot with live models into the computer generated buildings such that you can see real people walking around the houses, relaxing on armchairs in the patio or swimming in the pool.

"The work is tedious. We need to do 25 frames per second, so each minute of animation involves 1,500 frames; but I find it more satisfying to be a virtual architect than a real one because it offers more scope for creativity," said Ashesh.

Network Productions

Khurram Saadat, 3-D animator and compositor for Network Productions, is also an architect who has chosen to become an animator. Khurram, who is from Pakistan, enjoys creating architectural camera walks based on autocad drawings, floor plans and interior decoration details of buildings.

But he also likes to do creative commercials. He showed me how he animates letters, characters and logos for TV and corporate films or gets smoke to come out of a cold pizza using programmes such as Maya, 3D Studio Max and Lightwave 3-D.

"Everybody loves animation, but customers in Dubai are now animation savvy and it is not easy to impress them. One must constantly upgrade one's skills and come up with creative ideas and be able to work fast to meet deadlines," he said.

Amr Badr, executive producer with Network, has 22 years of experience in film production in Egypt. "A few years ago my production company in Egypt produced many animated commercials for Dubai customers, but now they prefer to get the work done in Dubai," said Amr.

Nirvana Digital Post

This post production company specialises in high-end editing and special effects for films and television.

"We are the first in Dubai to offer clay modelling or claymation. This involves creating puppets, cars and other models from clay and then photographing them in different poses to create the animated effect.

"The concept gained worldwide popularity after the movie Chicken Run, which used this technique. We are trying to popularise it here because it gives a look that is different from computer animation and is also humorous," said Manasvi Gosalia, digital producer for Nirvana.

Sujan Dutta, senior animator at Nirvana enj