Thinking Out of the Box

Baros

Speaking at the Baros Animation Festival 2015. Cimahi, West Java, Indonesia.

Whenever I mention about IP Creations, some people thought that I am suggesting to produce an Animated Series. The market has been changing and moving very fast. Given the current new resources and opportunities, if I were to re-execute my plans for Dream Defenders again. I will do it differently.

Last year, I was honoured to be invited to the Baros International Animation Festival 2015 (Cimahi, West Java, Indonesia) as a speaker to share my experience in IP Creations. The government, organizer and audience treated us really well. I am looking forward to work with their government and organizer to run a workshop this September to share more with the companies. At the event, I met an interesting Indonesian company that uses augmented reality to teach kids alphabet and animals. I am really impressed with their idea. When the tablet or smart phone was placed over the alphabet cards, you will see animals & food popping up. Example: When you scan a card with letter M with a tablet/ smart phone, you will see an animated Monkey popping out. When you scan the card with a Letter B, a bunch of Bananas will pop up. When you put the card M next to card B. The Monkey will eat the Bananas. From here, the company can sell a series of Cards to the Kids market to educate them about Alphabet and Animals. I thought that the idea was amazing. This to me is the beginning of the journey of IP Creation.

The next thing the company could possibly do is to work with children’s book company. Creating animation that is activated by augmented reality. Example: When you scan the book with the tablet or smart phone, you can see the animated video running. (This could just help to revive the publishing sector as well.)

This is an example to demonstrate the idea.

Or create a AR Colouring book like this. Allowing its character to come to life after the kids finish colouring it.

Now with Virtual Reality, even more can be done. From here, more fans will be created to support the brand. The brand can then spring off to other platforms. Games, Animated Series, Books, Comics, Toys, Merchandise etc. And the IP could be monetized in a variety of new platform.

When I was first developing a master plan to promote Dream Defenders, the first step was to identify growing trends in technology.  Next is to apply our creativity to integrate/utilise these new technologies to produce a new product to engage the audience of this new generation. From here, we add value to the IP and expose them to a larger market. That is why we move from Stereoscopic 3d to AutoStereoscopic 3d to Augmented Reality to Virtual Reality. In today’s market of rapid change, you no longer can just build an animated TV series and call it a day.

Moving forward, if Singapore want to move our industry to the next chapter, we should start thinking of how to build leadership in this field. Looking at ways to prepare our University Graduates for these new changes. (Using the above Alphabet / Animal Cards as an analogy) Instead of just focusing on attracting MNC here and then mass produce a bunch of graduates creating animated monkeys and bananas. The next phase is to groom graduates to come up with new ideas like the above. Hopefully encouraging them to setup their own companies. This is the SkillsFuture we need to build a new economy with higher value jobs.

It seems that Singapore next 10 years’ strategy focus more towards Technology. I am not saying Technology is not important. Technology without creative application will make the technology become useless. We should start building a whole new leadership with new creative ideas to make use of growing technology to create new engaging product to meet the business goal. (Integration of Art, Technology and Business)

There is nothing wrong with prioritizing on technology. I just hope that we do not neglect our education in creativity and sliding from Technology to Manufacturing where Singapore seems to slowly lose our competitive advantage.

An example to illustrate what I mean. In the US, some companies are spending a lot of money on R&D and creating the VR headset that cost between USD$600 to $800. In China, they follow the technology and manage to create a better VR headset that cost USD$30 to 65. The expensive batch of headsets manufactured in the US company will then get stuck.

Another example to illustrate what I mean by not just focusing on technology alone and not neglecting creativity. A startup seeks for my advise recently. He wants to create a plugin for VR production. Each plugin cost $300. He plans to sell 500 of these plugins in 2 years.  So he made $150k in 2 years. If someone else were to copy the plugins and come up something better. His sales might get stuck. Instead, maybe he can try to use the plugin to create content for the US market. In 4 months, he can charge up to USD$150k a single customized content.

Last but not least. We should no longer separate our strategy into games sector, publishing sector, film sector etc etc. Its all about creating an IP. With this, it springs off to different platforms or sectors. Hence creating multiple revenue streams and opportunities.

Valuable Entrepreneur’s Tips from Jack Ma (Part 1)

Jack Ma’s talk at the General Association of ZheJiang Entrepreneurs. (Sorry. Only in Chinese)

I have selected some valuable points to be taken away.
1) When the News report that a bad year is coming up due to the bad economy. Don’t panic when you hear the bad news. This is because the Good News is everyone is affected. Not just you. ha ha.

2) If you want to be an entrepreneur, venture into something you have passion. It’s like your life. You are willing to sacrifice and fight for it. Don’t venture into something that others said it will make money. It will not last long. You need to believe in what you are doing. And assemble the people who believe in this dream. Only then the company will have opportunity to succeed.

3) Ability to see the problems that will kill your company is important. (Not ability to see ways to succeed) Prepare your company for crisis. Only those who are unable to see potential problem will survive. When you see a crisis, ability to remain calm, analyse and react to it accordingly is your key to survival.

4) Always try to work within constraints. Don’t increase your man power anyhow. Only when you have constraints, then you are forced to come up with good & innovative solutions to face any problems. Else people will always take the easy way out. But not necessary solve the problem.

Being Innovative is the Only Way to Survive

VR

During my recent trip to US, I have met with an executive producer of a major studio. He is an old friend whom I have worked with in the past. We were sharing with each other how we have been doing.

At the meeting, he told me that currently in the US, more and more TV shows are produced in 2D. He suggested that I should change my business model since I am running a 3D animation studio.  I can become a middleman / broker and take the 2D animation work from US. Then re outsource it to the 3rd world country. (Its  more challenging for us to produce animated series in 2D due to cost effectiveness and also we have limited 2D Animation talents available here in Singapore.)

If I were to turn our studio to become a 2D animation studio now, my entire 3D crew will lose their job. I am very close to our crew. They are like my family. The priority is my crew. But at the same time, I was lost and stuck thinking what should I do next.  In addition, if we start re-outsourcing the 2D Animation work to 3rd world country. What is stopping the client in future to go straight to the studios in the 3rd world country. We will probably ended up competing on lower price in order to stay alive.

Later in that week, I have scheduled to meet some major studios in Santa Monica. I was there to present our studio’s new initiative in using VR to tell story. We have been doing some internal development in interactive VR for the last few months. At the meeting, we presented this new initiative to the studio executives. When the studio’s executives saw it, they were surprised and impressed how fast we have moved ahead in this area. They said to us “This is the future. I am impressed with your new ideas and strategies for the proposal.” I am glad that we have stood by our principles. This initiative has now open a whole new opportunity for us. Nowadays, toys and computer games companies are investing in series. They seems to have more money these days than broadcasters. I will probably be going back to LA to discuss this further.  After these few meetings, I felt more encouraged and hopeful again when I saw their reaction.

A valuable lesson I have learnt here. If we want to compete globally, being innovative is the only way to survive. We must always find that new business model to stay competitive. Making ourselves cheaper and going backwards is not a long-term solution. It might even kill us eventually. If we can only do what others have already done before, then why should others pay us a premium or give us work. Over the years we have always strive to stay ahead of others by exploring new grounds. (From Stereoscopic 3d to auto stereoscopic 3d to augmented reality to virtual reality) I am glad that we are on the right path.

Changing Trends

(View Master from Past to Present – Changing the way we see the world in 3d. With the latest introduction of AR and VR technology. View Master is not going to be the same.)

1) NEW WAYS TO ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE AND NEW MONETIZATION MODEL
There was a time when Saturday morning show was really popular among the kids. When the 24 hrs kids cable channel came along, this new business model totally kills the Saturday morning show. The 24/7 kids cable channel promotes its series by airing it all day.  And eventually making money from selling its merchandise.

With the introduction of OTT (Over The Top – like Netflix and Hulu), it seems that the industry is going through another round of change (Just like the time when Cables kill Saturday Morning Show). Cables and IPTV that are unable to transmit their content to the mobile devices like tablets and smart phone are facing real challenges ahead.

As the mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) are getting more and more sophisticated, the audience is now slowly moving away from traditional TV. This affects both the advertising dollar as well as the TV licensing fee.

OTT seems to catch some of these Cable Channel Companies by surprise. It must be a difficult decision for these Cable Channel Companies to decide whether they should set up their own OTT facilities. If they do, it will kill their Cable Channel. If they don’t, they will lose out to their competitors. So many ended up temporary parking their content on others OTT platform like Hulu and observe how market changes.

OTT seems to be just the beginning for this change. The next trend I am seeing is the integration of film, TV with Games. A full interactive experience. The audience in the future is not going to be satisfied with just being a couch potato. Imagine that you can interact within a scene and be part of the story. This is going to be the future.

Our Prime Minister Lee was trying out the Oculus Toybox Demo in the US.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee was trying out the Oculus Toybox Demo in the US.

Signs of Growth:

Goldman Sachs: VR and AR “Will Be the Next Generation Computing Platform”Prestigious investment bank predicts an $80 billion market by 2025
(Click link to read article)

China Alibaba has invested $793.5M into Magic Leap. (Click link to read article)

Microsoft Hololens:

Mix Reality Gaming with Hololens : Game Code name Project X Ray

Hololens Holoportation: Virtual 3D Teleportation in Real-time

With all these growth, this is going to change the way audience consume content and also our business and monetizing model. Instead of money coming from the broadcasters, we will probably see more investment coming from Toy Companies, Computer Games Companies and Online Streaming Portal.

Moving forward if we want to excel and survive as an independent producer, we need to rethink of our strategy.  It’s not just about technology. But an integration of Arts and Technology (Could be 3d Stereoscopic/ Auto-stereoscopic + Augmented Reality + Virtual Reality etc) to meet our business goal.

2) COUNTRIES THAT STILL PROVIDES FINANCES TO SUPPORT CONTENT CREATION
As an independent producer, it is important to know where you can find the right partner who has their government or its broadcaster’s support to help finance the animated series production.

In the past, most producers go to the West. With the arising economical problem in the west, finding the financial support is no longer that easy.

Currently in the West, there are still financial support coming from Canada and some support from UK and Ireland. In Europe, it is mainly from France. As for the rest of the European countries, it is not going to be easy given the drop in Euros as well as the arising problems in their economy.

As for the East, Korea, Malaysia and China are the key countries with strong financial support. Korea support comes mainly from private investors, broadcasters as well as strategic investors like CJ E&M (CJ Entertainment and Media) and SK Broadband. What I have gathered so far is the money raised in Korea normally covers 50% of the production cost. Hence many Korean companies are still seeking co financing in China and Malaysia.

Besides money from the government and broadcasters,  there seems to be more investment interest coming from Computer Games and Toys manufacturing companies in both the East and the West.

3) 2D or 3D (CGI) dominates the animated TV series market?
In North America, it seems that most of the animated TV series are in the 2d format. For 3d (CGI) format, it is mainly the preschool series, direct to DVD or TV special (Telefeature). The Toys Companies and Computer Games Companies are the ones who has the budget to produce higher quality 3d (CGI) shows.

In Asia, countries like Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, Korea, Thailand produces many animated series in 3d (CGI). Korea produces the most 3d (CGI) preschool series.