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Studio has designs on Kingdom

PROMINENT French 3-D graphics school Objectif 3D will open a branch in Phnom Penh next year in a bid to gain a financial competitive edge, with an eye to eventually attract animation outsourcing to Cambodia, Director David Fieloux said late Wednesday.

“Studios in France need to reduce salaries, costs, but the professional companies want trained students able to create animation at the same quality,” he said. “Our school in Cambodia will train students with the same quality as in France, but with less cost.”

Fieloux, and the school’s educational director Francois Belenguer, made the announcement at a meeting of the Information and Computer Technology Business Club of Cambodia (ICTBC), a group founded six months ago with the eventual aim of forming an association to speak for hi-tech players operating domestically.

The school is intended to be a trend setter, using its reputation and international level of education to attract outsourcing projects and possibly even full-fledged branches of design companies to Southeast Asia to take advantage of its highly trained graduates, Fieloux said.

Expenditures at its main school in Montpellier, France, had been driven up recently by the cost of its location – especially taxes – he said, anticipating that the only major expenses at “Objectif 3D ASEAN” would be purchasing computers and hiring staff members.

The second step is to start creating 3-D animation in Cambodia.

Objectif’s European school has trained many top designers in the industry. Its graduates’ work features in films such as Shrek the Third and Batman Begins, and video games King Kong and Prince of Persia 3.
Pointing to past success in pulling big-name 3-D graphics firms to follow its school, within two years of opening the Montpellier school, prominent video game company Ubisoft Entertainment established a branch in the city to mine the talents offered by Objectif 3D’s alumni, according to Fieloux.

“The first step is to open the school, and the second step is to start creating 3-D animation in Cambodia,” he said.

“We intend to accommodate 20 to 30 students here,” he said, and downplayed any possible difficulty in attracting the best in international talent to relocate to Phnom Penh.

According to an informal poll of its French students, Fieloux says, roughly 50 percent would move to Cambodia to complete the two years of training, given a proposed reduction in tuition fees from US$9,054 to $4,527 per annum.

The school is also looking to include a number of local students, although he admitted that costs might prove a barrier to locals unless an NGO funder could be found.

Lack of computer know-how among prospective domestic students was not necessarily an impediment to attending, he added. “Talent in graphics is the main ingredient to success. Software is just a tool.”

The teaching programme will be in a mix of English and French initially, but if after two years a Khmer-speaking student achieves the level of skill required to become a teacher, classes will be offered in that language as well.

One ICTBC concern is the lack of intellectual property rights enforcement locally, but Fieloux said that because the end product of graduates’ efforts would be exported for assembly abroad, losses from piracy in a domestic 3-D animation industry would be minimal.

Roland Chan, director of marketing at Business Software Alliance (BSA) Asia, said last week that further growth in the Cambodian IT sector required pursuing enforcement of established antipiracy laws.

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