Childhood is perhaps the fondest phase of one’s life. A phase that’s replete with memories, happiness and everything joyful, that everyone likes to hold on to. These bittersweet memories help an individual to temporarily escape the otherwise mundane and monotonous reality.
To relive these memories, Indian animator Sagar Funde who has been a part of Hollywood biggies like, Life of Pi, The Big Friendly Giant, The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Night at the Museum 2 and many more, has created an adorable animated short – Kite.
With the festival of ‘Makar Sankranti’ just ending, the very word brings back a vivid imagery flashing by infront of our eyes. The kite festivals and kites in general have been an integral part of local Indian life, adding a lot of excitement and fervour to it. Flown at different places at different times and occasions (for an instance during ‘Vishwakarma Puja’ in Bengal), kites usually never fail to bring back a smile on one’s face.
Funde reciprocated the same sentiment, “Bringing the childhood memories and the neighbourhood I grew up into life in animated style and then sharing it with people who had the same experiences, is the biggest inspiration for the film…I was recalling the childhood memories of kite flying, the kite battles with friends, chasing kites on street, visiting kite shops, even sometimes crafting my own kite and thread and so on. The visual became so strong in my mind that I couldn’t stop myself from making this film.”
Funde has a decade of experience and has recently finished working on Alita : Battle Angel at Weta Digital. Starting in 2007 from Rhythm & Hues Studios, Mumbai, he had been there for six years and worked on several renowned projects. Then he got an opportunity at Barajoun Entertainment in Dubai to work on their first animation feature film Bilal. Serving as a senior animator there, he was soon supervising the sequences that were outsourced to other studios.
Later he joined Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand for fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and continued there for three years. His most favourite moment there was getting an opportunity to work on legendary director Steven Spielberg in the film The Big Friendly Giant. Presently, he’s on a break and focusing entirely on finishing his short film.
Dedicating one hour everyday since last three years on Kite, Funde never had any deadline in mind as the film seems to be his labour of love. The animation he has used in Kite, is uncannily lifelike, unique and captures attention. Funde has chosen 3D animation cartoon style in the film but kept the action less exaggerated and grounded so that it looks natural and feels close to life.
“I am highly skilled in Autodesk Maya and have been using it for a long time now. I used it for my previous projects so 3D was an obvious choice for this large film. I was able show the epic scale of sets in full 360 degrees and aerial cameras using 3D medium. It also allowed me to try various iterations of the scene and camera movements,” he revealed.
Only having his laptop to do Kite, he was very careful about the load that he was to putting in it. So, instead of storyboarding he did a pre-visualisation for the film, so that the character placement and camera movements in the scene can be nailed down. Elaborating more on the techniques he adopted while making this film he said:
“I used low polygon modeling technique to model the sets, which allowed me to handle large sets easily on my laptop. I was also caching the crowd animation so that Maya doesn’t have to handle multiple rigs at the same time. I also avoided the Render Passes and instead rendered a single image to save render time. I kept texturing minimal and less detailed and relied mostly on colors. The shaders are also the basic Maya shaders and I totally avoided using Maya fur. While compositing I was extracting the characters from main image on a separate layer using colour matte technique.”
Kite has been majorly aided by technology. Being a fully CG film, the film required huge sets and sometimes even an entire city which was challenge in itself. Initially Funde was reluctant if it was possible on a laptop, but the high configuration of Alienware 17 and the powerful Autodesk Maya handled the heavy sets quite well.
As mentioned by Funde himself, the challenges he faced over the course of three years are :
The biggest challenge was building the massive sets and they consist if various things such as houses, buildings, parks, shops, vegetable market, one massive temple along with other mini temples, road layouts,vehicles,public transports, junkyard, Ganpati sets, statues, massive gates, trees, plants, grass, stones, debris, broken houses, electricity poles, power lines and list goes on.
The shot in the film varies from having no crowd in one shot to having more than 200 in another shot. On average most of the shot has at least 15 crowd characters in it.
I animated around 200 shots over the course of three years which is most challenging thing I did in my animation career so far but I loved every moment of it because of the way it turned out at the end.
It was really difficult to make the thread interact with human hand. the challenging thing was making the long to interacting properly when character was pulling it fast and thread was gathering on ground.
Currently going through editing and sound tweaks, Kite will be ready by March to start its run for film festivals. The film has no commercial target as of now as Funde is mostly using social media to promote the film.
Funde sees digitisation as a boon for this industry, given the fact that many independent animation filmmakers launch their film online. “I think we are in a golden age where a filmmaker or an artist doesn’t have to wait for a platform to showcase his talent. Social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Linkedin have proven itself by giving expose to many artist who have consistently showcased their work. In some cases artist have also benefited commercially where some producers or big studio noticed their work on these platform and have been given big offers,” concluded Funde.
The genre of Indian animation short films is still a growing baby and has a lot to create and discover. There are some artists who’re making independent films but the numbers are not that reflective. Some films also have earned a name globally but most of the people in India aren’t aware about it. We need to explore stories like Kite that appeals to wider audience.
We really hope that Kite makes your heart goes ‘Kai Po Che’!