April 26-2016
The Impact of Visual Effects in Movies

What’s common between Robot (Endhiran), Bajirao Mastani and Baahubali? Apart from the fact that, these were high budget movies they were also known for their high quality of Visual Effects.

Wikipedia chronicles Visual effects (commonly shortened to Visual FX or VFX) as the various processes by which imagery is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot. Visual effects involve the integration of live action footage and generated imagery to create environments which look realistic, but would be dangerous, expensive, impractical, or simply impossible to capture on film. Visual effects using computer generated imagery has recently become accessible to the independent film maker with the introduction of affordable and user friendly animation and compositing software.

Sanath PC , founder of the Hyderabad based Firefly Studios, which did tremendous amount of VFX work for the national award winning movie Baahubali and the sports biopic Bhag Milkha Bhag defines Visual effects as visualising the unimaginable and then making it believable through computer graphics. He believes that visual effects starts with imagination.

Hyderabad based Firefly Creative Studio worked closely director SS Rajamouli and VFX supervisor Srinivas Mohan on the war sequence

Out of 1,600 odd movies India produced last year, there will be hardly any movie which didn’t have the usage of visual effects. The high proportion of visual effects in movies have led to the need for highly skilled technicians for this role. While India is nowhere near global standards both in canvas and quality, we are slowly and steadily climbing movies. Baahubali has infused dollops of optimism to to mark out spot on the global arena .

We had few Indians who worked in the Oscar award winning movie in visual effects in Life of Pi and the money spinner The Jungle Book in recent times .

Madhu Sudhanan VFX legend and senior visual effects supervisor of Vishwaroopam and currently working on Vishwaroopam 2 says that the challenges of making Vishwaroopam were heavy due to non-availability of filming on actual locations either due to security reasons or economic reasons. Most of the film was finally shot against green screens in Chennai. The challenge was to make the visual effects invisible and make the audience enjoy the story.  He adds on, “I am blessed to work with Kamal Haasan as he is a legend and a genius film maker. I would rate him at par with the best in the world.” He demands the quality details to be present on the screen! I am also amazed to see how lovely human being he is! We spent many days and years together and he trusts me that I can deliver and I guess I lived up to that until this minute. Vishwaropam 2 has many innovative visual effects without disturbing the audience eye! It’s all invisible and no forced visual effects! The story demanded the visual effects scenes.”

What does a career in the field of Animation and VFX offer to a student?

India will produce 171 IAS officers , 700 pilots, 8,000 chartered accountants, 3 lakh MBA’s, 15 lakh engineers , 45 thousand doctors and lots of visual effects technicians this year .

The changing landscape of the Indian media and entertainment industry, coupled with higher disposable income, burgeoning middle class, aspirational youngsters have created massive job opportunities within the media and entertainment industry.

The rising appetite of viewers to watch movies on the big screen can be endorsed by the very fact that India’s leading multiplex operator PVR which already has 500 screens as of now is planning to add 100 screens every year. Totally India has around 2,200 multiplex screens out of 9,000 screens.

But the fact remains that India is one of the most under screened countries in the world, and the film business one of the most unprofitable. There are about 10,000 screens for a 1.2 billion Indians against 39,600 for 313 million Americans. So the opportunity is massive.

Students studying in this this area have the opportunity to work in varied facets within the media and entertainment industry. Last year India produced 1,651 movies, by far the highest in the world. To add with it we have 800 plus channels and counting. Television industry is fairly unregulated in India which means anyone with a little bit of risk appetite and investment capabilities can start a television channel. All this clearly spells out a demand for skilled technicians. Students looking to pursue a career in visual effects can pursue a two year comprehensive course from any established animation training institute. Commercial companies are always looking out for raw creative talent alongside students who might not have the best show reel but have a passion and enthusiasm for working in the area. The title Animation and VFX covers a whole arena of different roles and career prospects. A student must be determined to stick it out.

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Latest technologies in Animation and VFX

I suppose the latest technology’s being used today are Motion Capture and Facial capture (the process of capturing real world motion from actors and placing on a CG character). Although these techniques have been around for a while, they are now becoming far more commonplace and sophisticated. There are also re-visualisation programs which enables directors to envisage their concepts and ideas on the set. However, the area of animation and visual effects is always on the move with new techniques and equipment being produced almost daily.

Yes, I believe India is already showing that it can provide the talent and entrepreneurial drive in this industry with companies that played a major role in production of films like Avatar, Life of Pi and The Jungle Book. With movies like Baahubali, Bajirao Mastani and the sequel to Robot, Indian directors are turning in to Visual effects to enthral and captivate the movie goers. Visual effects is now frequently used as a tool to enhance the power of storytelling and is now an integral component right in the preproduction stage.

70 to 75 per cent films today require visual effects. Creative director, Pankaj Khandpur at Tata Elxsi, the studio that has worked on the VFX of films like Ek Tha Tiger, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Dhoom 3 stated, “From a typical Hindi film that required 100-200 VFX shots until five years ago, we are now doing 1000 plus shots per film. The scenario is definitely changing.” Close to 60 to 70 people work in a core VFX team of any well-known studio, while the number of additional artists may range anywhere around 200, depending on the requirement of the project.

As the epithet goes “Luck is the intersection where hard work meets opportunity,” visual effects industry offers the right opportunity, what is required is hard work and passion.

It’s not without its share of trails and tribulations though. There are certain Indian directors like Kamal Hassan, Rakesh Roshan , Rajamouli, Shankar  to name a few who understand visuals effects and are willing to invest and take the risk , but we need more to stick their neck out .

India as a VXF destination

There is a significant growth in the number of VFX companies operating in India. According to estimates, there are more than 40 major domestic VFX companies catering to domestic and international clients. Currently, India accounts for only around 10 per cent of the total animation and VFX outsourcing pie. However, there is room for growth, we need to build scale. Of late, the VFX industry has been shifting towards higher-end assignments. India has well developed post production facilities available at low cost. A foreign producer who comes to shoot in India can complete his entire movie here, from shooting to post production to cut costs.

If we aim and look far, the day is not far when an Indian Visual effects film will stamp its authority on the global arena.

(These are purely personal views of MAAC (India), Senior Vice President, Shajan Samuel and AnimationXpress.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views)