Next Media Animation Draws Attention to the News

You may not know Hong Kong-based Next Media Animation by name, but if you’ve watched the news in the past six months or check out YouTube clips regularly, you have certainly seen their ‘ripped from the headlines’ handiwork. Next Media was first thrown into the spotlight last December when their animated simulation of Tiger Woods’ S.U.V. crash and his wife chasing him with a golf club became a huge viral hit and generated 2.5 million hits you YouTube.

Based out of the same building as the company’s Taiwanese newspaper, Apple Daily, Next Media Animation began animating news items last September, based on information the team picked up from the Web and Apple Daily‘s own reporting. Despite criticisms from journalism ethics advocates and those who object to the graphic nature of the projects, these animated segments have garnered a global following for the studio, which is owned by billionaire tycoon Jimmy Lai.

‘Our studio was formed two years ago, but we didn’t release our news animation for public consumption until September 2009,’ says Mark Simon, Next Media Animation’s commercial director. ‘Next Media has a great deal of experience and a great track record in attracting and building an audience in print. Now, that experience is being applied to online video news and animation.’

Simon says that his company has taken the online video service provided by most newspapers around the world one step further by bringing animation into the mix. ‘By using the tools of the animation industry, we can fill in the gaps of video news coverage,’ he notes. ‘We animate the missing pieces’the missing action. Events that aren’t captured on video camera can be animated, and that’s how we can tell a fuller story.’

The company has a staff of just over 200 and services other parts of the Next Media group, mainly the Apple Daily website in Hong Kong, the Apple Daily website in Taiwan and the TV news operations in Taiwan. Simon says they are upping their work for external news and entertainment clients. ‘We’re seeing a lot of demand from these external clients and we think this could grow to be a big part of our business,’ he adds.

Next Media has recently taken on new assignments for Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] block and BBC’s Newsnight series. Reuters will also begin distributing animated graphics produced by NMP. There are also plans to distribute news animation to TV stations directly.

When asked about the motion capture or CG tools they use to create the animation, Simon replies, ‘We use the same tools that everyone else uses. But what makes us different is how we’ve deployed those tools to be ultra-fast, to work within an ever-quickening news cycle.’ What has been reported is that the studios artists lift details from news photos while actors in motion sensor suits recreate the action sequences of the stories. What’s impressive is the speed (and at times, sense of humor) with which they are able to provide Web audiences with animated re-enactments of the headlines.

As Lai told CNN in February, “Is the whole part accurate? No! What is important is that we are keeping the integrity of the news. You know, if I’m talking to you and the animation comes out that I’m in a blue sweater instead of a red one, the detail is wrong, but it does not affect the integrity of the news.”

To learn more about Next Media Animation, visit: http://nma.com.tw/index.html