February 27-2013
PIXION works on Stereoscopic 3D and VFX for India’s First 3D Dance Film ABCD: In Conversation with Remo Dsouza and Pixion Team

ABCD, Any Body Can Dance, released early this month, is India’s first 3D stereoscopic Dance Film Directed and Choreographed by Remo Dsouza, a renowned Indian Dancer, Choreographer, and Actor. Produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ronnie Screwvala, ABCD stars PrabhuDeva and Ganesh Acharya in chief roles along with the participants of Dance India Dance.

Mumbai based Pixion Studios has added the flavors of 3D and VFX to the movie.

At Pixion Studios, the team force behind ABCD was:

VFX Head& Supervisor:  Viral Thakkar

CG Supervisor:  Sudhir Trivedi

Compositing Supervisor:  Prashant Thakur

Fx Lead:  Viresh Raut

VFX-Line producer:   Swapnil Dhawre

AnimationXpress.com’s Zeenia Boatwala caught up with Remo Dsouza, Director of ABCD to know more about his vision about making ABCD into a 3D Dance Film, along with Viral Thakkar VFX Head and Supervisor for ABCD, Sudhir Trivedi, CG Supervisor and  Prashant Thakur, Compositing Supervisor to know about the execution of 3D and VFX for the movie.

Here are the Excerpts

Remo, it’s a pleasure to have you with us on AnimationXpress.com, Congratulations for Any Body Can Dance, We would love to know about your vision behind making ABCD into a 3D Stereoscopic Dance Film?
For me, ABCD is a movie having many untouched and fresh aspects!

Creating ABCD-Any Body Can Dance into 3D Dance Film came about because of two prime reasons, with the first one being that, I always preferred to present the audience with something new and distinct in Dance!! Hence, I thought to reveal dance in a 3 Dimensional style so that the audience could enjoy every dance move in 3Dimension and pick something rare. My second vision was to get the audience involved, relate to every aspect of the film and feel that it’s a true to life experience taking place as it’s a real film with an original story line and characters

Can you share with us about the vision you followed while directing ABCD 3D?
I feel ABCD does give out an International feel! My vision and approach was to bring across an international level look and feel to all the aspects of this movie. I also wanted the audience to be happy thinking that they would get to watch something new with a Blend of 3D and Dance together. Apart from working on delivering the international appeal to the film, I defined varied aspects of the movie, keeping the taste of Indian viewers in mind. In India, 3D needs a lot of popping out, whereas in Hollywood, they do not use lot of popping and hence I’ve adopted poppings and other stuff keeping the audience in mind.

According to you, what are the interesting highlights of ABCD?
Coming to the interesting aspects of the movie, I feel, it’s a powerful fusion of dynamic Prabhu Deva working for the very first time in a Bollywood Film, and fresh faces from Dance India Dance, who were already known in television but facing the Big Screen for the first time, with the engaging 3D and the music is of the movie is also a nice delight!!

Could you share your comments on the work done by Pixion Studios.
Pixion is the best studio! I love the work done by them! Viral has done a spectacular work on the movie and because of Viral and the team at Pixion; I could deliver this film with a grander scale!

Please share about your on shoot experience? And your reaction when you saw the 3D shots?
On shoot experience was fantastic! I was really happy with the way each and every shot was coming out [Smiles]. And, whenever I used to put on my 3D glasses and see the shots, it gave an amazing feeling and made me more excited about the movie.

Animation for you is?
I’m a big fan of 3D Animation. 3D, according to me, is an animation medium which looks different and captivating. Hollywood comes up with some stunning 3D animation movies. I watch all 3d Animation Films!! My personal favorite is Avatar.

Any Closing Comments
Sure, I would like to tell my readers that, it’s the first time that I’ve tried to create something new at this level, which involves a mix of animation and dance and original story telling . With ABCD, my further plans are to keep creating new and unique films, so support me in my endeavors, keep watching my movies [Smiles] and enjoy!!!

Conversation continues with Viral Thakkar, VFX Head& Supervisor of Pixion Studios

Viral, how and when were you approached for ABCD?
We were approached by UTV at the planning stage and were briefed regarding the scope of work. We worked out a solution for them as far as the VFX was concerned.

What was the brief given to you by Remo? And the deadline to complete the project
We were given 25 Days to complete the project! Apart from the crowd simulation shots, there was a sequence where PrabhuDeva thinks about the dancers clashing with each other. The effect that Remo visioned here was, the clash of dancers, and then they bursting into a combination of Red gulal and water.

Remo discussed this shot with us and then we developed a rough effect for the same, which was appreciated by him. The entire plan was to make this shot look dynamic considering it was in a stereo space.

Which was the most challenging part for you?
The most complex part was undoubtedly the dance performances, where we had to create the stadium, crowds and lights entirely in stereo space. On location, we had approximately 300 extras which weren’t enough. Remo wanted a massive stadium with 15000 people cheering and dancing to the performances. We initially planned of shooting crowd plates for the same, but we couldn’t due to time constraints. So then in this case, I assured Remo to go ahead and shoot the performances in an indoor green screen studio at film city. The studio was not as large as Remo visualized the space to be. Apart from various other challenges, we had to deal with numerous rays of lights emitted from 1000 odd lights on stage. We had to preserve the lights and get rid of the green screen behind. This was a task for our prep team.

Our FX team spearheaded by Viresh Raut did a fantastic job on creating CG crowds system. The crowd performs differently in all shots. The team had to animate exactly the way the foreground live action crowd would cheer. We utilized the stereo space in a very intelligent manner and made sure that the created CG stadium should have the required depth in stereo. Remo wanted us to make it look like a huge stadium and was happy with the output.

And the most interesting shot?
Yes! There is a shot which was looking fabulous and Remo was also very happy to see it. The shot in which the foreground characters are performing a particular dance step, which they imitate from the performers on the stage, was very interesting. There were a group of dancers performing the dancing steps and also other 15,000 CGI people, who were behind the real people.  In this shot, we had to animate the 15,000 CGI people exactly the way the characters in the foreground were imitating the dance.

What was your approach as a VFX Supervisor and Head?
I wanted to make the movie look fantastic and have a grander scale. Remo and Dadu Sir, the DOP of the movie, kept immense faith on us in whatever we did and as I was along with them at the shoot, it became much easier to understand their views on the movie and work accordingly.

Please tell about the research done?
We knew about the technicalities involved in working on films that were shot natively in stereo. We made sure that our homework was done perfectly before we started shooting the film. On set, I made sure that, we recorded all relevant details including the intraocular distance, camera and lens data.

I along with the stereographer on the film, Indy, made sure on how would the final depth of the shots be and this area has to be completely visualized because we were shooting the Vfx sections against a green screen and the depth for the foreground characters had to be set according to the depth we would create in the CGI environments.

Once all the relevant data was gathered, we accurately recreated the stereo camera rig virtually and started placing the CGI Environments, which was not an easy task. For creating this, we went through immense research as there were times, when the depth would not match according to the foreground live action plates. But, in the end we were all happy with the output.

Please share the challenges on the 3D Front?
Apart from a few pipeline tweaks done, we were very careful in blending the live action and cgi crowd. The seamless integration of the live action stereo plate to the cgi plate required a lot of precision. Indy, the stereographer has carefully ‘designed’ 3D for the film with most of the depth being in the negative space. It’s only a few shots, which have elements coming outside the screen space. We followed this graph and made sure the depth is right and the audience doesn’t leave cinema halls with a headache.

Any other difficulties you’ve faced?
Oh Yes! How did we forget this!

There was one particular shot where Dadu Sir wanted a scaled shot from the crowd’s point of view, in which the crowd is looking towards the stage. But, as we were confined to a small shooting floor, Dadu Sir couldn’t get a proper depth.

As there were huge gates at the studio, we suggested them to take the camera out of the studio and build a ramp, so that, the moment when you are standing out of the studio, you are able to see a part of the life action plate through the gate and on the other sides of the shots you see green walls, which are the exterior of the studios.

The advantage in the shot was that, you could see the entire crowd in the shot, and here our team had to create stage and crowd extensions, with creating CGI Lights because the stage and crowd was getting cut. We have to create every bit in this shot starting from lights, crowd, stage, stadium, glitter falling in front of the camera, everything was CGI, tracked in 3D space and we went through every possible complication in the shot.

Dadu Sir, had made use of various concert lights and here our task was to match the lighting to the foreground lighting. There is a scene in the movie, where there is a light taking place on the foreground crowd and that same light sweep had to be created in CG for the CG Stadium.

Conversation on the 3D front with Sudhir Trivedi, CG Supervisor Talks about MODELING, ANIMATION and LIGHTING done for the movie

Creating the crowd shot has been a massive job?
Yes! I personally also feel that the crowd shot was huge but a great experience to work on!!

Initially, we picked all the key information which Viral had brought from the shoot, and then decided the stadium look and model, the position of the dance according to the stage, and then created a pre viz with a rough crowd and showed to Remo. It was a challenge to keep everything proportionate in the stadium with a huge crowd. After the model was given a go ahead by Remo, we started the look development with lighting and decided the light sources, projection lights. Remo was so happy with the CG work that he said ‘wish all the shots were done in CG” as CG delivers a natural look and feel.

Please share on the Modeling front?
As per the brief and shoot references the modeling team had to model the massive stadium using the reference data from the VFX Supervisor(Viral Thakkar) which consisted of lens info, images, set info, blue prints to create a BREATH Taking CGI STADIUM which incorporated the crowd.

And how about lighting?
To achieve photo real lighting to seamlessly blend the actual crowd in the shot was a big challenge! The massive lights made it difficult for the lighting artist to handle the scene, so they have to split the file in order to get the desire effect; this was managed skillfully by the lighting team. They took every challenge head-on and placed more than 200 hundred lights in order to maintain the essence of the shots and blend it seamlessly and beautifully with the actual shot plates thereby making it look dynamic, they also played with laser light, neon effects, which you see on dome ceiling and on the stadium crowd to further beautify the shot

Was Animation smoothly executed?
The Animation team went through lots of video and live reference of crowd cheering, clapping, jumping, waving, to achieve realistic animation, by key framing every motion to blend CGI motion seamlessly with real motion. Viral along with the animators went ahead and shot references wherein the animators themselves cheered, waved and rooted in front of the camera just to get the feel of the cheering crowd. It was quite a challenging quest for the animators to follow Director’s Remo D’souza‘s shots specific brief, wherein they have followed specific action for a shot.

Compositing Supervisor, Prashant Thakur also shares his experience on  the compositing done for ABCD

The biggest challenge was to complete the project within 25 Days. In such a short span of time, we had to keep focus on the stereo pipeline, create cg crowds, roto and composite various shots.

During the work process, we realized that there are certain CG elements, which were getting repetitive in the movie and as we didn’t have enough time to re render the shots again, we created few 2D motion graphic designs to avoid the repetitive elements. Immense work has been done by using lens flares, flash lights and light travel on various shots to give out a complete dancing stage feel.

An Animated Yellow Strip, which was animated according to the flow of music, was given a great feedback by Remo as he felt that it became a lovely add on to his imagination.