Monday, 29 July 2013


2013 FILM CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION HELD AT THE KICC
The Kenya Film Commission finally held the animation expo on the 21st and the 22nd of June 2013 at the KICC.

The event had been scheduled to take place earlier but it was not so due to some hiccups.
I was unable to attend on the first day,being a work day hence I had other commitments. However on the 22nd at around 11pm I was there.I was in the company of my uncle who was quite interested in finding out more about what this 'animation thing' is all about

First of all,KICC is a large conference complex and being a weekend another event The 11th Exhibition by Kenyan Universities organized by the Commission for University education was taking place in the Courtyard.I believe it would have been better if the KFC had chosen to stage the event outdoors I.e KICC's Comesa grounds or even the courtyard as this would have also captured the large crowd that attended the CUE event.

Having attended the last two animation festivals at Sarit Centre and Prestige Plaza,I found the venue-Tsavo hall which is in the basement a bit 'depressing' to speak.Visitors were encouraged to register before proceeding to the conference and we did so.Some of the companies that showed up for the conference include Rift 3D,FatBoy Animations,Airpress Communications,Tsunami Studios,Anto Dezigns,NewBreed Academy of Digital Arts,Nairobi Institute of Technology,Multimedia University among others.


Newbreed Academy which was started by Andrew Kaggia was busy marketing their courses which are competitively priced compared to other colleges.

Fatboy Animations(the team behind the Faiba animation)and who have been making news of late with their popular Safaricom adverts were also present.Working with Safaricom has been keeping them busy of late.



The Tsunami stand was one of the most active stands at the Conference.Tsunami studio is a 'new' company made up of 3 different studios-Shout Huge,Andromeda Music and Kenyan Noir.The Tsunami crew were very lively and having their booth near the entrance did not hurt.A member of the Tsunami crew Ben Gicheru informed us that they were in the process of making a bi-weekly comic Kevo,which they would be turning into an animated motion comic too.


Elite digital solutions were also present.The company is one of the main sources of original Apple products and they had several on display.In addition they are authorized adobe resellers and the team at the conference was busy trying to convince me and other conference attendees to move with the times and adopt Adobe's cloud solution 'Adobe Creative Cloud for teams'.Now I'm yet to test it out but considering the erratic,expensive and slow Internet speeds that we have,i believe it will be quite a while before any local company adopts a full cloud based solution.

Rift 3D were seeking exposure of their upcoming project,a short scifi animation.Check out the trailer.


Local institutions offering animation courses were also present-NIT and Multimedia University.Isaac Wasilwa a student from Multimedia University(and part of the team that animated the Njoroge music video) was the one who gave us insight into how the courses at Multimedia University are.
Airpress communications representative Martin 'Marto' gave us brief glimpse of what they do best.The company has done several TV idents for local stations and are preparing one for a local TV station seeking to rebrand.
These are the highlights of  the 2013 National Film Conference and Exhibition 2013 'Animation expo 2013'.As for now,polish those poses,animate those faces and see you in the next conference.




THE AITEC BROADCAST FILM AND MUSIC EVENT HELD AT THE KICC ON THE 26th-27th of JUNE 2013


It seems animation practitioners are getting more and more recognition these days with two events being held in the last few weeks each having sections for the animation industry with the Aitcec broadcast and film event being the most recent.KICC was the place to be
Various animation studios were present to showcase their animation work on the floor
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Tsunami studios
Anto dezigns-Have finished their first 3D animated short titled Makmende 2 begins.

The film is available from at Ksh 150 which is fair considering the effort it took to produce.

Aitec organised a 'roundtable discussion' too as part of the 'AITEC broadcast and film event' conference.The round-table was moderated by Ms Mundu Mwara,a regular face in the local animation industry.The panelists were
Gatumia Gatumia-Recon Digital
Andrew Kaggia-Digitall Definitions
Harto Macharia-Tsunami studios
Ngendo Mukii-(Go team ladies!!)

The round-table conference was not really well attended though with around 70 people in total showing up for the talk that lasted for one and a half hours.
The talk kicked of on a high note with attendees being treated to a visual feast of the panelists show-reels.
Ngendo Mukii whose recent short animation Yellow Fever is doing well was quite clear on why she had made the animation.

Ng'endo Mukii's Yellow Fever animation trailer
 According to Ngendo she was wondering 'Why do we as African Women do so many things to ourselves to look European e.g no female TV presenter has natural hair.This sends a message to the viewers on standards of beauty which are judged according to non African standards'

The quest for socially conscious animation was exemplified by Andrew Kaggias animation 'Wageuzi' which has featured in Kalasha,ZIFF and even on CNN giving Andrew great exposure. Andrew says that after releasing the animation and it went 'viral' three Kenyan politicians approached him at different times seeking to persuade him to create a similar animation although in this case each of them emerging as the 'winner'.
In addition there was concern expressed that the quality of animation graduates being created by our colleges are not really employable as they have sub-standard skills.This is one of the reasons that Recon Digital chose to train its own apprentices before employing them.

One of the participants encouraged people who would like to be animators/are pursuing animation to get their stuff out there e.g through Vimeo,Youtube and even Behance.The aim of this is to get the exposure and criticism that is necessary to help an animator/CG artist to take their art to the next level.

Gatumia who is the founder of Recon Digital also encouraged those seeking to start animation studios to get legal and professional in their operations as soon as possible e.g pay your taxes,get the necessary licenses e.t.c to prevent future hurdles that may return to haunt you.Gatumia was also categorical that the Association of Animation Artistes Kenya still has a long way to go before it becomes the force it should be.There is need for more people to take up animation-and not just as a hobby but as an income generating profession.Once the numbers are there,the association will be better placed economic wise to help develop the industry to global standards.All in all it was a great event and lets hope the best is yet to come.








Monday, 22 April 2013

VIDEO GAMES IN KENYA

Video games have evolved from the days of the Atari to today’s sleek Xboxes,Wii’s and quad core smart phones which spot more processing power than the original ‘mainframes/supercomputers’. The evolution has not only been technology wise…financially video games have also become some of the most profitable entertainment products with games such as call of duty and grand theft auto estimated to have grossed more than 1 billion dollars each(imagine being given 80 billion Kenya shillings!!Compare that with Safaricom's investments/profitability and you’ll see that video games are just the ish!!).It was therefore to be expected that Kenya would soon join this industry hoping to get a piece of the pie that everyone seems to be digging into. Being the ICT powerhouse (arguably) in the region has its benefits such as the availability of skilled labour, availability of fast Internet e.t.c enabling online collaborations and research and more importantly giving exposure to the IT savvy generation,  growing rapidly in Kenya are some of the pillars that are shaping this industry.

One of the first if not the first video games that came out of Kenya is Adventures of Nyangi created around 2006-2007,by Wesley Kiriiny who at that time owned a company by the name Griwamgrafix.It is a  3D action-adventure video game where the main character, Nyangi, has to find some rare African artifacts.The game may lack the high end looks that commercial games like GTA have,considering it was a one man show hence sacrifices had to be made in some areas. The fact that makes the game stand out is that Kiiriny, created the game engine that powered Adventures of Nyangi.Today Wesley and a Ghananian partner,Eyram Tawia currently run Leti Games located at East legon in Accra, the capital of Ghana.What we admire about  Leti games is that it is a global team.The two main partners are from different countries(Kenya and Ghana) and they came together to try and develop something from Africa and are succeeding.The two recently presented a talk on "The Emerging Landscape of African Game Development" at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Wesley led the way and today a few other game companies have started in Kenya.One of the teams that is exploring this ‘new frontier’ for Kenyans is University of Games who just released Election Thief an Android based video game a few weeks ago-March 2nd just before the General elections held on March 4 at the PAWA 254 Hub,Nairobi.
Election thief game poster

The University of Games comprises of brothers Brian (Lead Programmer) and Blaise Kinyua (Marketing), Joseph Kariuki (Project Manager) and Herbert Kimacia (Artist).Brian Kinyua was able to secure funding/seed money from the Kenya ICT Board 'Tandaa' round 2 grant.Using these funds Brian brought together the rest of the team and formed University of Games.
As the name suggests Election Thief's plot was inspired by the 2007 disputed elections that resulted in post election violence.The game,which is free, challenges users to track down and chase a bad guy who has stolen some votes during the presidential elections by playing the character Omu in the game.UoG also has web based games on their website that anyone can play so do check it out.

Ma3racer video game poster

Another force in the local games development industry is Planet Rackus made up of Joe Murithi Njeru - Business Development,Roger Tenenmberger - 3D/ Motion Designer,Fred Kioko - Producer and Jimmy Gitonga - Content Developer.The Nairobi-based mobile game development company launched its racing game Ma3Racer,and last year won the entertainment category plus overall in PivotEast(mobile startups pitching competition) 2012. The free game is currently available at Nokia’s Ovistore and an Android version is currently in the works.


Pamoja mtaani video game

HomeBoyz animation were also involved in a video game project with WarnerBros/Virtual Heroes Inc back in 2008-2009.The project's deliverable was the video game called Pamoja Mtaani.I'm not sure if the game really did reach and have an effect on the intended target but it was a good start.The game even won Warner Bros an award in the core competence category in June 24, 2009, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC) presented their 2009 Business Excellence Awards to eight standard-setting companies, including Warner Bros., for their innovative programs working to combat global disease.


However the rate at which the industry is developing is quite slow which may be attributed to several factors beyond the scope of this article.Some of the things which may need to be addressed to accelerate the industry include setting up of specific courses and even colleges that will be focusing on training Multimedia artists,CG artists and Game programmers among other related professionals. In addition professionals and scholars who have done mathematics/electronics/engineering/physics e.t.c will also be required if we are to create high quality stuff for the market. Their knowledge will be invaluable in creating new tools/adopting new tools and techniques as necessary and leading in Research and Development. Not only that, our Government will also need to give incentives to local developers/game creation companies to stimulate growth and attract talent from other countries which will enable knowledge sharing, technology transfer among other benefits. Matters such as piracy and copyright protection will also need to be looked into to ensure that they are not a bottleneck to local content developers seeking to bring their games into the market. The Kenyan citizens will also need to play their role by buying the products and contributing to the success of such ventures in any way they can.Maybe the Jubilee coalition should start by having the computers that will be distributed to primary school students preinstalled with the open source Blender 3D for a start. Basically it is a whole new eco-system that will need to exist for the industry to have an impact and contribute to economic and social development as it should and companies such as University of Games,Planet Rackus and Homeboyz have taken the lead in that direction.

The next big, chart topping, block buster, fanatic attracting and purely awesome video game may just come out from Kenya so for readers outside our physical borders watch this space!!As for our brothers and sisters in Kenya keep up the spirit and always remember…You are the industry!


Onto other news:
This years animation festival is set to take place in 9.30am - 4.30pm, Friday 10th May -Saturday 11thMay 2013.However unlike previous years the lead/main organisers Kenya Film Commission will be hosting it together with a one-day National Film Conference,we'll know what it's all about exactly on that day.So get your stuff ready,prepare your Sunday best clothes(yes toa ile jeans ya black ulipewa Christmas) and make sure on that day ume Toklezea.
2013 film and animation expo Nairobi,Kenya

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

3D PRINTING-A LOOK AT KENYA

2012 was an interesting year. It’s the year that saw the Daily Beast(Newsweek) put their last print edition and embrace digital issues fully, the Higgs Boson/field ‘discovered’, London hosted the Olympics again and TIME magazine listed 3D printing(Makerbots Replicator) among the best inventions of 2012.

3D printing is becoming a consumer product and is widely being embraced. Among those leading Kenya in adopting this ‘new’ technology are some enterprising Kenyans(offices located in Westlands, at the junction of Mpaka road and Parklands road. Opposite Fedha plaza inside the Mayfair apartments suit 4) who have seen the trend and have already brought 3D printers to Kenyan shores. The team deals with 3D printers called UP, from a company Delta Micro Factory Corporation , a Chinese firm that is establishing a name for itself in the 3D printing world. The same UP printers which are sold under the brand name of AFINIA in the USA ,won awards in Best overall experience, easiest setup and ease of use categories in a ‘competition’ pitting 15, 3D printers from different manufactures carried out by MAKE.The company sells the products at a fair cost (120,000Ksh-190,000Ksh) considering the logistics of bringing them to Kenya and support they offer to buyers.

 Now that they are here and more will be coming from other suppliers as  interest in the technology increases, the next logical question would be what can they do for a consumer/client/customer? To answer this question we will look at some of the uses 3D printing technology is being used for in other parts of the world. A company by the name Organovo is utilising 3D printers to print human tissue (bioprinting), a development that may see us printing human organs in the near future. That Autodesk (a leading supplier of CAD/3D software products who have also partnered with Makerbot among many other firms) entered a partnership with them to create software that will design and print living tissue just goes to show how this technology will be revolutionary.

Just recently a UK based firm that makes dolls created an app available in the appstore that enables users to create customized dolls and have them printed and delivered to where they wish.3D printing is also being used to create custom jewellery, guns (this will need controlling), prototyping (e.g. at Reebok), 3D replica creation in Museums as Dr. Louise Leakey is doing through through the site AfricanFossils.org , and ideas are being floated on how to use/integrate this technology in classrooms to enhance the learning experience-check out Nairobi University's Fablab.(Fablab also offers 3D printing services to the public-billed per hour at sh 2000 according to Mr Abwao)

Local 3D Artists/CG artists have an opportunity to make money in this new development. They can offer their skills to potential customers e.g. to create a model for a customer who lacks the knowhow, edit CAD files for clients and prepare them for 3D printing, Make cool stuff and print them for retail in the local gift shops/supermarkets e.g. KICC souvenirs/memorabilia for tourists, Museum artifacts models e.t.c.The soft copy 3D models may also be sold online. In addition the CG artists will also be crucial in offering training.

3D printer render by Kennedy
3D printer render
The applications of 3D printing are too many to tackle in this article but what is clear is that Kenya needs to step up and join the world in putting 3D printing to use. Maybe we can start by integrating open source 3D software into the solar powered laptops that will be distributed to every school age child in Kenya. Secondary schools may also be encouraged to start 3D clubs whereby students will get to know the basics of 3D early hence be able to integrate it into their field of specialization when they go to university. So mboss anza kazi…..You are the industry!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Animation-The January Outlook


The year 2013 has kicked of on a very high note for the Kenyan animation industry.Recon digital released a series of short animations that were done by their team of apprentice animators and from what we can see,we should expect nothing but the best from them in 2013...probably even a TV animated series(domestic disturbance).You can read about their story from Techmoran    


 
In addition...we've been following up on international news and it seems that part of the visual effects company, Digital Domain  has been sold off to the Chinese..... "The latest deal Zhong completed was a joint venture between the US division of the company and Reliance Media Works Ltd of India for the special effects unit and various other businesses and assets of the US visual effects and animation company Digital Domain. Galloping Horse owns 70 percent of the new venture"

The good news for most of us is that we will actually get to see the Legend of Tembo produced and released ‘on schedule’-which is probably in 2014.There is very scarce information regarding the above animation but from the name,I believe it will have a lot of references to Africa or even more specifically,Kenya.We’ll just have to wait and see.
Check out these links for the additional information:
http://www.chinesefilms.cn/141/2013/01/22/122s13453.htm
http://www.chinesefilms.cn/141/2012/11/30/122s13064.htm
http://www.tcpalm.com/photos/galleries/2011/aug/12/legend-tembo-exclusive-first-look/74552/#section_header

Another development that will excite any CG Artist in Kenya, is the prospect of having a 'render farm' with quite a lot of rendering power (not everyone can get a G5 Mac/Mac Pro you know..) right here in Nairobi.This may soon be possible if the project being undertaken at the iHub-Ngong Road, in Nairobi,Kenya achieves it's goal.The iHub-through some of it's members and other partners, is creating/hosting a cluster based computing system that will be equipped with enough power to render most of the processor intensive simulations and photorealistic3D images any CG artist in Kenya aims to create.The iHub Cluster project-conceptualized by a Kenyan ICT guru..Idd Saalim seeks to bring 'supercomputing' to Kenyans and will be used to teach/test parallel programming software developed in Kenya among many other things...e.g 3D rendering so be sure to check their page on the iHub website for any updates.






Thursday, 17 January 2013

Animators-A Kenyan Inception



There have been various developments in Kenya recently, some of the major ones being in the ICT industry. For starters it is now quite easy for the average Kenyan to get decent internet speeds on their phones and most importantly on their computers. We’ve all heard the hullabaloo that the internet is THE opportunity place to be and I’m here to show you that indeed it may be. There is a tendency in the country, I presume it’s due to ‘demand’ from the respective market that most of the best work to be done in IT is only in the programming field. The reasoning is IT=programming=money.I would however like to tell you that there is another field that though still underdeveloped, has the capacity to take this country to ‘the next level’ if I may refer to it as such.3D ANIMATION……….Yes…yes… it can be ones job too and believe it or not there’s more to animation than just ‘cartoons’ like Madagascar, Toy Story and of course Finding Nemo (I just had to fix it in here….big fan!)’........3D Animation is a very broad field but basically it refers to the process of giving the illusion of movement to drawings, models of something e.g. cars and objects.This site hopes to bring together the practitioners of the art of animation in Kenya to be able to come together and share ideas and their creativity for the good of this still young industry in Kenya. As part of this below is a list of some of the people and businesses already set up in Kenya doing 3d animation. I will also include  several places offering 3d animation courses in Kenya.The list is in no way comprehensive and any business in Kenya in the above field should feel free to contact us so that we can include them too.Do also leave your comments on any new developments in the field or experience with 3d animators or colleges

A chat with FatBoy Animations


If you happen to search for Kenyan Animations on the internet-there’s a high probability that you will come across a funny guy dancing to the song Huratete by Jimmy gait. The animation with almost 60,000 hits on YouTube (a hit by local standards) was made by none other than Michael Muthiga, a man whom if you don’t know is the owner of Fatboy Animations.Last week on the Wednesday 9th January, 2013,i had the great opportunity of meeting the crew at FatBoy animations, a company which,as some of you already know, is behind the series of creative adverts  aimed at promoting Jamii Telkom's 'Faiba' product.The company's located in a serene environment near Jamhuri ground,lots of trees,cool wind and you actually see horses outside the main compound....The interview was quite revealing so read on......

1. What is your background as Fat Boy Animations, and why the name FatBoy?
FatBoy Animations is made of two CG artists Michael Muthiga and Sendeu Kanyare.The two are responsible for the creative Jamii Telkom adverts currently being aired on local TV stations in Kenya.
Michael Muthiga states that he was a lead animator at the Tinga Tinga tales project by Tiger aspects.He started FatBoy Animations  after the contract ended (around 2009).Muthiga says he was trained by Joe an Australian animator  in the Tinga Tinga tales, who also mentored him. Claudia Lloyd-the show’s Producer was also instrumental in shaping him up to become the man he is, as she provided him with the opportunity.

Sendeu Kanyare is the other half of FatBoy Animations and acts as the Director at FatBoy Animations. Sendeu was also part of the team that worked on Tinga Tinga tales where he gained valuable experience.
The two have a combined experience of more than 11 years in animation.
Interestingly,FatBoy Animations company name is actually a tongue in cheek name Muthiga chose since as at that time, he was...well fat…..

2. What are some of the (major) stints/shows/productions you have been involved in? (A brief on the FAIBA project…conception e.t.c)
As stated earlier the duo,Muthiga and Sendeu were part of the team that created Tinga Tinga series,earlier on before FatBoy Animations came to be.In addition,as FatBoy Animations the two have been able to execute some great projects such as The Barclays commercial of a dancing robot and lately the Faiba adverts for Jamii Telkom among many others.
Faiba advert is undoubtedly one of the best animated adverts locally.Muthiga says the idea had been ‘simmering in his brain’ for awhile and luckily he was able to pitch the idea successfully to the Jamii Telkom Limited chairman who approved it. The first advert was well received and Fatboy animations was able to convince the Chairman to turn it into a series of 5 different adverts.Muthiga says he also prays a lot,for ideas and is sometimes surprised after seeing the final product he comes up with.
 
3. What are your preferred tools of trade?
As seen through their work,FatBoy animations is excellent in character animation and the company has settled on Maya-an industry standard for character animation; the experience the two had, using  Maya earlier in Tinga Tinga tales also helped them reach the decision on what tool to use.

4. Some of the major challenges you face in the industry and possible solutions
Modern day life is very dependent on electricity and for FatBoy animations, the dependency on  KPLC Power is one of the main hurdles that keeps getting in their way-the power is erratic and issues such as transformers malfunctioning usually mean lost productivity, interference with renderings e.t.c
In addition meeting deadlines for the various projects they are involved in is not easy and the rate the company has been expanding its hardware is indirectly/inversely proportional to the rate jobs are coming in.

5. Current projects we should know about/be expecting?
Stay tuned…….TOP SECRET

6. What are your sources of inspiration and motivation (what keeps you going)?
Muthiga finds his inspiration from various sources such as gospel music, animation movies and walking around animation schools locally too.

7. Word of advice to local budding animators and interested parties ?
FatBoy staff state that local animators need to understand that making good animation takes time, commitment and sacrifice. Studies are also crucial for one to excel in animation e.g. through hands on training. Lastly as a way of giving back to the society, FatBoy Animations is in the process of setting up an online animation training school for local animators. This is a great step especially for would be animators who are based outside Nairobi since most animators are based in the capital city. The online school should be up and running by the third quarter of this year. In addition,Muthiga states that excellent students will get a once in a lifetime chance to join the team at FatBoy Animations.

8. What are some of the services that one can expect from your company?
FatBoy specializes in animated commercials,graphics design,story-boarding,sound production,script production-and animation training soon,through their online school.

9. What are some of your interests apart from animation?
Michael Muthiga has other interests too such as travelling, checking out cars,movies,music,going out with friends, the good old PlayStation video game and going to church.

10. Any other information….
FatBoy Animations is very grateful to all the fans who made the Faiba advert a success and thanks all the fans out there e.g The Faiba fan pages on Facebook.As for the question of whether the advert may just morph into a full brown TV series, we’ll just have to wait and see. Lastly stay on the lookout for the animation school that will be up soon……

Monday, 26 November 2012

Animation Resources


In Kenya one of the things which are rapidly changing in tandem with the global pace has got to be technology.Among the key factors that are contributing to this is the internet. Unlike some years before,the country has been working hard to increase connectivity(reach and speeds) and the fibre optic cables have been a key driving force.
For an animator based in Nairobi,not much has changed.However one of the major benefits any animator in Kenya should/will receive has got to be an easier access to relevant content online and especially videos(tutorials mostly).Sites such as YouTube have great resources for any budding animator.In 2006,downloading such ‘bandwidth consuming’ content was difficult to some but impossible for most.GPRS and EDGE were the ‘top dogs’ unlike todays 3G and fibre optic networks and very soon 4G networks with highspeed broadband capabilities.
If you happen to be in Nairobi CBD,there’s a cyber cafĂ© on the seventh floor of Norwich union house(Next to the Hilton Hotel)which has very fast internet,adequate for video downloads..Alternatively you can top up your modem(recommended) for a day and download e.g using Airtel's unlimited offer of 200ksh per day or even using Safaricom’s browse with 2ksh per minute(their unlimited offers usually have a fair usage policy)
Apart from YouTube other sites on the internet that will help any potential animator/CG artsist to better their skills,get news on the CG industry and network with other animators include.....

There are also specific sites which usually cater to a given software such as blendernation.com for users of Blender 3D so look for them and use them to improve your knowledge on the software you use.If you have any other site you feel should have been listed above please share with us on the comments section.We would like to hear from you.

and as always, remember….You are the industry.