Emmy-winning artist Rubaiat Habib reflects on his journey
Rubaiat Habib from Bangladesh is one of the members of the 'Character Animator' team that won an Emmy last year, in the technology and engineering category. Currently living in Seattle, Rubaiat completed his undergraduate studies in Computer Science and Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. He is a senior research scientist at Adobe Research by profession and an artist by passion.
The technology and engineering Emmy category recognises groundbreaking contributions that bring new workflows, tools, and capabilities. The main idea behind 'Character Animator' was to showcase how to add animations to any hand-drawn cartoons by acting in front of the camera.
There are specific challenges to animate a 2D flat artwork with just a webcam, especially when designed for a wider audience. Animating directly from the camera input without any specialised software and technology is what made 'Character Animator' a huge success.
"Our team deeply believed in the mission of democratising animation and motion graphics, the care and passion in every little detail of the design is evident in our work," shares Rubaiat. "Half of the team are engineers, and half of the team are research scientists and several members also won Oscars in 2019 as the original creators of Adobe after Effects."
Passionate about drawing from an early age, Rubaiat aims to make animation a powerful medium of communication. During his undergraduate studies at BUET, Rubaiat, along with his team published a 30-page graphic novel. Rubaiat wanted to give life to the cartoons and characters he created, however, as animating the drawings was a very time-consuming and tedious task, he started exploring CG animated films.
The documentary, "The Pixar Story" inspired Rubaiat on art and technology inspired each other for the development of a new medium. "While computer graphics and animation has made a lot of progress in the last decade, they are made for professional use," shares Rubaiat. "It is such a powerful medium for communication and if we want to democratise the power of animation for everyone, we need a different perspective, a different way of looking at animation and interaction."
Rubaiat wanted to connect his passion for drawing with his profession in Computer Science. "I wanted to develop my career as a professional cartoonist. Given the limited career opportunities, I decided to move abroad and pursue my dreams," expresses Rubaiat.
Cartoon drawing later motivated Rubaiat to submit his PhD thesis in a comic format. The motivation was to communicate science with art and storytelling. "I remember that it inspired many researchers in my field to try out innovative formats to communicate science and technical concepts," expresses Rubaiat. "This is how science should be communicated; I just wanted to make the medium animated and interactive."
Fascinated by Pixar Animation Studios and the first 3D animated feature film "Toy Story", Rubaiat considers cartoonist Herge and his narrative techniques, humour, and visual style a big inspiration. "I drew a lot of technical ideas from classical 2D Disney animation books from the 70s and 80s," shares Rubaiat. "In pen and paper, ideas and expressions are unbounded, which enabled world-class Disney animators to develop unique hand-drawn styles and expressions."
Back in 2016, based on his PhD thesis as a scientist at Autodesk, Rubaiat launched 'Sketchbook Motion', which is a drawing app. Using this tool, animation can be added to any existing image. The app received the Apple iPad App recognition. Every year Apple selects 1 app among million other apps in a very competitive landscape, and this is one of the biggest achievements of Rubaiat's career.
Rubaiat showcases his artworks on his Facebook page, Rubaiat Habib Art. Last year, he worked on a project that aims to present the Bengali Alphabet in new, visual ways for children.
As a research scientist, Rubaiat's goal is to invent new technologies and experiences that can turn into future products through experimenting with new types of presentations and storytelling formats.
"Don't let others dictate your trajectory; everyone can carve out a unique career trajectory that didn't exist before," Rubaiat shares as his advice to young animators and cartoonists.