The first theme introduced internationally-renowned Japanese animator Shuzo John Shiota, one of the great creative forces in Asia's contemporary digital arena; the second theme explored the controversial and confounding area of live streaming - and, specifically, how it manages to make money.
For his part, Shuzo John Shiota needs no introduction. The President, CEO and Executive Producer of Polygon Pictures Inc - celebrating 35 years at the forefront of Japanese and Asia animation this year - is hailed among the "25 Toon Titans of Asia" by Animation magazine with two Emmy Awards to his name; the first for Disney's TV series Transformers Prime and the latest for Amazon's Lost in Oz.
With credits extending to Disney's 'Tron: Uprising' and 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' for Lucasfilm Animation, he has uniquely positioned Polygon as a bridge between Asia and Hollywood, while staying faithful to a "distinctly Japanese style" born from the nation's cultural heritage of anime.
While initially "at the mercy of big studios dictating our contributed content," Mr Shiota said Polygon is, more recently, welcoming a new era in which the studio of 300 creatives in Tokyo and another 70 in Malaysia can focus more on independent production through new distribution channels and opportunities on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.
From their first independent project Knights of Sidonia to last year's Blame!, and most recent futuristic battle to save the future of humanity Godzilla, he said: "For the first time, we are now in a position to independently transmit to the big crowds. We don't have big budgets and big stars, but we take ourselves very seriously in fusing animation styles with our Asian edge, telling our stories to the world and trying to do what no-one else has done.
"This is how we are competing, with different stories in a different visual anime-influenced style; capturing the essence of Japanese story-telling with emotional tales deeply rooted in our cultural history of manga and anime dating back to the 1960s."
As a frequent jurist at prestigious international animation competitions for nearly two decades, he believes the future of Asian animation lies in this level of commitment to individual style. "It's interesting that Asian animators started off by copying others, but with progress they are coming up with their own styles," he said. "Asia is so diverse, and there is a world of treasure in every culture. Our industry is very competitive so we need to be different. It's our cultures that differentiate us, and we have always been pretty good at visual storytelling."
The ubiquitous emoji on social media is a prime example of the strength of Asian visual representation, and how Asian animators have been inspired to successfully create their own styles, he said.
In the "binge-viewing era," he also said animators should look to the future as "holistic animators;" fusing animation across multiple platforms, such as gaming and consoles, to encourage audiences to "dwell on our content for as long as possible."
Exploring the Indiscernible World of Live Streaming
While animation is a shining star of the digital universe, live streaming occupies a more uncomfortable and indiscernible planet. Advertisers and sponsors are understandably wary, given the nature of "live" content, where anything can, and does, happen - with the potential to undermine supporting brands. Live television, which is instantly accountable to large audiences, uses bleepers to try and curb unfortunate remarks and behaviour; live streaming, as a relative newcomer to the broadcasting world, is relatively unregulated. So like many new arrivals on social media, how is it monetised?
This second theme, Monetising Live Streaming, introduced representatives of three live-streaming platforms - from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. But the question of monetising and earning raised more questions than answers, at least for now.
Kim Joon Hoo, leader and creator, Biz TF, on online platform and search engine Naver, known as "the Google of South Korea," helms a model allowing K-Pop celebrities to interact with their fans globally. "It is important for stars to create a loyal fan base," he said. Without advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions, "it's difficult to find a source of direct revenue, or use the fans as a source of revenue stream. But we believe it is a small market that can grow.
"We expect the trend to grow and utilise this fan base as a business model. Fans can share experiences with the stars they have a crush on. They can virtually be with their idols. Live streaming is not a short-lived fad. In the future, I believe we will all use it without even realising.
Like posting photos on Facebook, he said: "Now anyone can broadcast. Everyone can be a creator and everyone an audience. It will be part of our lives and anyone can become a celebrity. This is the era we live in. But how to earn revenue is a difficult question."
Pakkting Tse, PR & Marketing Manager at Asia Innovations HK which operates an Asia-based streaming platform named "Uplive", said: "Live streaming is here to say. It's a case of building a strong base and that's how we are trying to roll it out." The company's novel model involves "gifting" streaming contributors with an online version of crypto-currency, called Gifto, providing opportunity to earn from submitting content.
"It's a cutting-edge platform that can make anyone on the street a star, and attractive to anyone with talents," he said.
Akiko Matsumoto, PR General Manager, Kadokawa Dwango in Japan, a merger of media conglomerate Kadokawa which runs a video sharing site "niconico", said the company's main revenue stream was animation live-streaming from a more conventional subscription base - over two million "premium" paid members of the site that streams music, anime, manga, films and game apps for mobile devices. "We are always looking for more contents from creators because it increases viewing and online activity and grows revenue. As live streaming becomes part of daily life, especially among young people, we are also looking to advertising in the future," she said.
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