SIGGRAPH Spotlight: Episode 9 – Mohammed Saeed Harib

SIGGRAPH Spotlight: Episode 9 – Mohammed Saeed Harib

Hot off the heels of SIGGRAPH Asia 2017, the ACM SIGGRAPH International Resources Committee brings you another new episode of SIGGRAPH This time IRC member Anupama Hiregouda sits down with Mohammed Saeed Harib (animator), of the United Arab Emirates, to talk about his work on the UAE-based cartoon series “FREEJ” and reflect on the animation industry.

Listen on SoundCloud below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


FULL PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Anupama Hiregoudar (AH)
Mohammed, please tell me a bit about yourself, your background, and what do you do.

Mohammed Saeed Harib (MSH)
Hello everyone and thanks, Anu. My name is Mohammed Saeed Harib, and I am a UAE national. I studied general arts and animation at Northeastern University in Boston, and I started working in Dubai Media City as a marketing executive for three years, almost, making sure we have enough stationary. And then at one stage I had to follow my dream — took a loan from the bank with the support of an incubator, like a funding incubator, a governmental one. We had to go through a very rough and rigorous process — three years, actually, it took to obtain this $1 million loan. And then finally, yes we obtained that loan, and I went ahead to create the first ever 3D Arabic animated series called FREEJ.

AH
Well that’s fantastic, Mohammed. Have you ever heard of SIGGRAPH and what SIGGRAPH does?

MH
Well yes, I did hear about SIGGRAPH of course, and follow the latest advancements when it comes to software and technical related stuff to my field. But you know, I’m more of a director, and I always leave that technical side to our beloved studios, wherever they are.

AH
Have you worked with international communities such as SIGGRAPH?

MH
Well, when it comes to the technical side of things, I’m sure a lot of the studios we have worked with — and we work with many studios in India, in Singapore and in Paris, and they all have their lead technical teams — and I’m sure many of them do have an outreach program to many members from the SIGGRAPH community. I don’t know them personally; a director cares for the last product, so sometimes we don’t dive too much into that. But we value whatever they come up with and whatever advancements — because I can see that year after year that our shows are easier to make, are more beautiful. There’s a huge number of efficiencies, that nowadays I can make a much nicer show in less time.

AH
OK, that’s fantastic. And can you compare this working experience that you have seen in different countries to the one in your own country, the UAE?

MH
Well, in the UAE we are the pioneers, so we have the benchmark, so we have learned a lot from working with other studios, seeing what they do, how they’re set up. I have to say, we don’t really focus on the technical side of things here very much, we are a very creative kind of pre-production setup and post-production setup, and we do then outsource these projects to those companies that have that technical aspect. But we feed off each other, and because we had a chance to work with the best studios around the world—some of them won Oscars—I remember Mick Rosen 2010 for the best animated short. And so, you work from like a factory, based, let’s say animation company, based somewhere and an award winning somewhere, and I think we gather some knowledge from all of them.

AH
So, for people who are looking forward to working in the Dubai or Abu Dhabi, would you offer any advice no these people?

MH
Well, I think the region here in general is ripe, let’s say, for new ideas that, before you need to set up a company, and have huge capital, but with everything online, you can really connect to everyone around the world. You don’t have to have a physical shop, everything is kind of virtual. We certainly have benefited from reaching out to artists that are available around the world who freelance for us. The UAE has a very interesting business proposition where you don’t have to pay tax if you’re on a free zone, so from a business perspective it’s really nice. And we have very up-and- coming, young, and clever minds that some here, transition here, work here for a year or two. People who grew up here are also very smart because they brush shoulders with the best, so you know, if they can bear the heat, you know, I have no problem for them to come.

AH
So, do you have some notable companies that are in the UAE that you have worked with, apart from Lammtara?

MH
Well, we service big clients, but we rarely collaborate with other art studios or animation studios here, because as I said, they’re kind of non-existent, and we are the pioneers in what we do here, but we do work for the Dubai International Film Festival, which is something that we pride ourselves on. We team up with event companies that are also big here, so they do, you know, concerts or weddings or launches, like, let’s say Flash which is a very big governmental company, or Design Lab, which is the biggest Middle East wedding company. Sometimes now with these kind of events, they need creative video mapping content. These are new areas that are emerging.

AH
So, in the UAE do you see any international collaborations in the future?

MH
I think it’s from a long time ago. Since we started, all our work is about us collaborating with other people in different countries and in different fields currently and in the future, yes. It makes life easier when everything is around, but sometimes you need to reach out for the best talent, and now with the help of technology and the internet and the speed of it, you really don’t need to move from where you are.

AH
And do you think UAE will be an art hub in the coming future for up-and- coming artists who want to try and experiment with new things?

MH
UAE and Dubai in particular have a beautiful art program that starts in March, there’s a biennale in Sharjah, which is one of the Emirates, there is Art Dubai, Dubai Fashion Week. We have the film festival, and all of them are amazing events to go to and something to look at, and we see a lot of galleries popping up. We see a lot of new kinds of street art that we see everywhere now in Dubai, and Dubai is pushing to go to that direction. And we can only benefit from what is happening.

AH
So, Mohammed, are there any project that have caught your attention, or any projects that you would like to recommend of the upcoming new artists or work or books?

MH
To be honest with you, my fascination with creativity shifts, so sometimes you will see us working on animation shows; sometimes you will see us all gathered round to do an app, and we will try to see what’s really fascinating. We always find something fascinating in the medium we work on: if it’s a simple storybook or an app or a game or a full-blown short or an event or even a wedding song. There is always an element of fascination and, I think, your own personal touch that you bring in. There are a lot of a beautiful and emerging creative fields, I would love to tackle them one-on-one. I have to say, I’m not a fan of traditional painting and stuff like that, but you know, we have preferences, and I think that I’m more into the creation of the creative idea and finding a nice medium to place it in.

AH
And can you give us fun facts about Dubai and a reason for people to come and visit this beautiful country?

MH
Fun facts about Dubai? I think the best thing about Dubai is I can be in the desert 20 minutes from my home, which is five minutes away from the beach. So, if you want to go surfing, swimming you can. If you want to go ride a horse, like I do, every dawn in the desert, you can. If you want go skiing, you can, diving, you can. I think it’s one of those destinations that has everything in one place. It’s very family-friendly, shopping is amazing here, the people — the fusion of people and the cultures here — it’s amazing. Service is top-notch, from the moment you board the plane to the moment you board the plane again to leave, I think you’ll be dazzled by Dubai. It’s too much to look at first, because you can’t believe how abstract it is at first, but then you discover the grace, and you discover the people, and find the small warehouses like where we are right now, and find the gems that are in Dubai.

AH
Thank you so much, Mohammed.

Leave a Reply