Agent Vinod VFX: Interview with Prime Focus' Merzin Tavaria - AnimationXpress

April 24-2012
Agent Vinod VFX: Interview with Prime Focus’ Merzin Tavaria

Under the guidance of Chief Creative Director Merzin Tavaria and VFX supervisor Keith Devlin, a team of more than 60 Prime Focus VFX artists in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh worked together to deliver 626 VFX shots and DI for the film. AnimationXpress.com’s Farhatnaz Ansari interviewed Merzin Tavaria, Co-founder and Chief Creative Director, Prime Focus about the VFX work Prime Focus has done for the Saif Ali Khan starrer Agent Vinod, challenges faced and more…
Excerpts

What was the kind of VFX work involved in Agent Vinod?

‘Agent Vinod’ was a niche project for our team, as it is an espionage film with a perfect mix of action, thriller and drama, with oodles of glamour.

Visual effects contribution by Prime Focus plays a key role in this racy action packed movie, with our VFX team working round the clock to deliver 626 VFX shots. Our work includes visual effects for helicopters along with other VFX for bombings, bazookas, bullets, car chases, and even an awesome autorickshaw pursuit, everything bound to keep the audience glued to their seats. With VFX spanning throughout the film, the team handled several key sequences such as nail-biting traffic sequences, fight sequences which have glass splintering across the screen, as also the grueling climax sequence.

Moreover, the popular ‘AV’- Agent Vinod’s signature initials as well as the opening title sequence were contributed by Prime Focus. It was delivered by Prime Focus’ creative team of five professionals led under the creative guidance of Huzefa Lokhandwala and Prakash Kurup, Co –Founders and Chief Creative Directors, Prime Focus and was executed at the Prime Focus Commercials facility at Khar. The entire title sequence perfectly blends the gritty live-action sequence with thrilling graphic representation, setting the pace of the high-octane spy story.

Who was the onsite VFX Supervision?

Prime Focus brought in VFX supervisor Keith Devlin for ‘Agent Vinod’. He comes with impressive VFX credentials having worked on prestigious international projects including the James Bond movies, the Harry Potter series, Lara Croft – Tomb Raider and many more. Prime Focus was delighted to have Keith with us, and given his impressive body of work.

His contribution to the film was enormous as he not only supervised the entire VFX but was also involved in extensive location supervision. He was involved in the production process right from the beginning, working closely with the Director Sriram Raghavan, DOP C.K. Muraleedharan and Action Director Peter Hein.

Were the other VFX vendors involved in this project?

As far as VFX and DI is concerned, Prime Focus is blessed with the most efficient professionals from all over the globe, enabling us to work independently and hence we have never felt any requirement for any other vendor involvement while working for Agent Vinod.

What were the challenges in the VFX production of this film? How you tackled it?

We treated every problem as a potential advantage and found VFX solutions that presented additional value to the film rather than a compromise. Some of the challenged include landing a chopper in the over-crowded Connaught Place. Seeing a chopper land is something that has been done in countless films so we used the limitations to our advantage and came up with a much more visually exciting option. Working closely with Peter Hein’s superb stunt team, we had the bomb crew rappel down from a craned platform, replacing it later with the hovering CGI chopper. The end result is much more satisfying than merely watching a chopper land and some guys stepping out. Other challenging sequence that comes to mind is a particular hotel blast sequence for which the team took care to maintain the realistic look of the blast, whilst ensuring the safety of the actors.

How many artists from Prime Focus worked on this project and for how long?

As a Creative Director, I was overseeing the project and VFX supervisor Keith Devlin led a team of more than 60 Prime Focus VFX artists across the facilities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh who worked round the clock to deliver the project.

What is the reason behind bringing Keith Devlin for this project?

Keith Devlin was brought in to ensure that the overall quality of VFX served as an integral part of the filmmaking process. Giving value to the film with VFX, and not merely using VFX as a ‘band-aid’ was something we wanted at the outset

Bringing Keith helped us to raise the bar of VFX delivery for a film based in India. He played a pivotal role and was deeply involved with this project right from the beginning.

The working ethos that Prime Focus adopted under Keith’s guidance resulted in saving time and money on set whilst factoring in the hectic shooting schedules of the stars. What Prime Focus wanted to emphasize through this film is that VFX can be used as a normal tool in the filmmaking process, something that is very much the norm in Hollywood these days.

How was it working with Director Sriram Raghavan, DOP C.K. Muraleedharan and Action Director Peter Hein?

We liaised closely with the DOP of the film C.K.Muraleedharan. His creative and artistic sensibilities are admirable and we had to match the grading to keep up with the aesthetic appeal of the film. What he actually aimed for was to create a look that the audiences had previously seen only in Hollywood movies. With tight deadlines, it was a challenging task for us and we are proud to deliver DI that exactly achieves C.K.Muraleedharan’s creative intent and vision.

Speaking about the experience, I was involved in the production process right from the beginning and it was a sheer delight to work closely with the Director Sriram Raghavan, DOP C.K. Muraleedharan and Action Director Peter Hein. We had a hugely enjoyable collaborative working relationship.

What was the challenging part in providing the DI to the film? How you tackled it?

Considering the time constraints, the entire Prime Focus team worked round the clock to achieve director’s Sriram Ragahavan’s vision of thrilling action that enraptures the audience. The overall look for the film was set by Prime Focus colorist S Manoj C.P.K Verma and Rohan Desai, DI Head and Chief Colorist at Prime Focus. While grading the movie, the color palette was altered according to the storyline.

It was a bit challenging for our DI team to switch and maintain the colors and textures as per the demanded requirements, considering the fact that the action sequels were shot in more then six countries. The color tone for the scenes shot in Europe was set to cool and pink whereas the look for Russia changed to orange and breezy. A very desaturated look was maintained for most of the sequences based in New Delhi while a lot of brown was utilized to grade sequences in Afghanistan.

Anything else you would like to add?

With ‘Agent Vinod’, it was pioneering effort on our part as we were involved in the process right from the initial stage, delivering a massive amount of VFX shots in a short span. It shows how VFX can smooth the editorial process and work in tandem with action and cinematography to enrich the appeal of the film instead of being merely a secondary solution. We successfully achieved what the director and producer had in mind – to match the VFX standards to those of Hollywood. It was a really exciting project, that we’re very proud to be part of. We would like to specially thank Saif Ali Khan and producer Dinesh Vijan for placing their trust in us.

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