Reading the short introduction at Sutta Central: To let the Buddha speak for himself, my mind couldn’t help but think of ways how this could be done/improved. Recently, I happened to watch an animation tutorial.
I was amazed by the level of detail and realistic effects that could be achieved now. Then I thought, why not create an animation of the sutta discourse by the Buddha. Words directly from the sutta spoken by the Buddha can be quoted word for word and combined with CGI characters and environment of ancient India in a virtual world.
This is a huge undertaking I realize but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Animation currently is realistic, cutting edge and is no longer a media solely for children anymore, with more adults watching it than ever. More movies (including virtual reality ones) will be created with CGI characters in the coming future. Currently, a few very low quality cartoons regarding Buddhism garner 500k to 1+ million views on youtube. This alone easily outstrips the normal views garnered by an average dhamma talk. With high quality animation and Dhamma teachings that makes people reflect, I believe the number can be far greater than that.
More importantly current low quality kid’s cartoon on Buddhism mainly only shows the story of the life of the Buddha. While this is great, the effect would be better if suttas can be made into animated movies - delivering teachings with real life effect for children and adults, especially those unfamiliar with the teachings.
I again couldn’t help but do more investigation on the feasibility of this idea. The leading game engine for games and virtual reality is Unity (it is free to use, lowering production cost & more people can work on it collaboratively if it is feasible). And then there is the option of Autodesk Maya (paid), 3DS Max (paid) & Blender (free) for creating the assets (people, house, trees). Once the assets are created, it could be re-used in multiple different scenes and/or suttas. Blender & Unity has also open sourced many animations under the creative commons license. There are tutorials that would teach one how to build a modern high quality animated movie from start to finish. The tutorials are based on cutting edge animated movies, so you could build the same high quality, realistic animation.
I’ll try to investigate further if this is feasible so the word of the Buddha can be spread in the most accessible and current method. It would be great if SuttaCentral would like to consider this idea. I would appreciate any help, insight or resources to find out more if this is feasible. I apologise if anything I suggested or wrote is blameworthy. Thank you for your time reading.
Hi Bhante Sujato, thank you for your kind words and encouragement.
Is it possible for me to email Mr. Navin to find out more about his thoughts and possibly look into combining efforts?
I will try to get a grasp of the skills and learn the entire process required from an animation point of view. I have read before of a team of 3-8 people building an entire game environment or animated movie from start to finish. So I believe it is doable. By open sourcing so people with skills from different parts of the world could collaborate, it is definitely possible.
I have zero artistic talents but I’ll give it a try, take it step by step and see where this goes.
I recently encountered Undone on Amazon Prime Video. Although it is a show, I watched it to understand the novel use of animation. And it is quite novel.
Basically the technique used is to film live actors and render them as animated using the an automated “animation” image filter. These animation filters leach out the details and firm up the outlines of what is seen. Although seemingly pointless (i.e., “where is the actual animation done by an artist?”), the effect is quite startling and compelling.
What is compelling about Undone is that one perceives the reality behind the images as well as the falseness of the images. This is much like what happens with immersion when we become aware of the sensations distinct from form. In other words, the artificiality of the animation underscores the delusional nature of identity view.
Furthermore, this technique of automating animation affords the possibility of interjecting actual artistic animation seamlessly into a narrative. There are scenes in Undone that blend the mystical with the real. Since both are animated, the mind sees no break in continuity. Therefore such a technique would be quite adept at illustrating the psychic manifestations described in the suttas. There would be no loss of continuity.
I would avidly follow the results of your animated exploration of the suttas. I have watched films about the Buddha using traditional acting techniques and not found them helpful to my study–the very richness of costume and acting detracts from the contemplation of the Buddhas dispensation. The advantage of animation is that it strips away those distractions. We see that we are just looking at forms.
A random thought just intruded–if there is interest in multilingual animations, we are currently exploring other languages in Voice. The audio is segmented and available indexed by Bhante’s segmentation ids. What this would let you do as an animator is to easily synchronize animation with sound segment-by-segment within a sutta. The result would be, say, SN12.23 animated film with a Deutsch, Portuguse, etc. soundtrack. Just a thought…
Multiple languages is definitely a great idea. There are lip sync software available that mimics lip movements for varying sounds in Blender software. But I’m not sure how good are those and how to use it. I’ll remember to check it out. I think I might start by collecting free 3D assets that is suitable for a scene in ancient India first.
Trying this out alone as a beginner, I won’t try to re-invent the wheel and just use whatever assets are available in public for free. Once there are more resources and a clearer idea of how to get to the finish point, then things could be improved later on.
I won’t post anything that has entertainment value to the mind here - like other animated films as example or something along those lines or to encourage someone to watch something with entertainment value. I hope others does the same as it may affect the practice of our Sangha & fellow lay people - I’m afraid of the resulting kamma .