VAM Summit’22: Day three saw eminent personalities take up the dias and discuss all things VFX with respect to films and series

The VAM Summit organised by AnimationXpress saw an assortment of distinguished speakers sharing their stories and industry updates on day three. The theme was Films and Series and the sessions discussed virtual production, virtual workstations, and viewing the VFX world through the glasses of the creators.

The third day of the VAM Summit opened its gates virtually with an enriching address onViewing the VFX world through a film producer’s glasses‘. K.Jam Group of Companies founder and president Kia Jam who has been an independent film producer for the past 20 years expressed his excitement for the amazing technological advancement in filmmaking while emphasising the importance of the art of good storytelling.

The session was carried forward by Famulus founder Suchit Mukherjee who tried understanding Jam’s view on the Indian film and also the visual effects industry.  

Kia Jam appreciated the fact that ‘India has such a rich history’ in the movie business, with so many good actors and filmmakers. “In my opinion, the film industry in India is obviously one of the most prolific in the world, because you guys have been making more movies for longer than just about anybody,” he said.

The L.A. based producer pointed out that the pandemic has forced everyone to get even more creative. Also, post-pandemic the technology continues to get better, easier, and cheaper to work with. We are able to do more work today than we were able to do before. 

The producer who has been working with Warner Bros., DreamWorks, New Line Cinema, and so on opines that it is a really dynamic as well as challenging time to be in the business.

Asked if there has been a shift with the use of technology, CGI, VFX towards making movies that are big with different worlds and characters, Jam said, “For me, there never has been a shift. I think visual effects are a really critical and important tool. But it is just a tool. If you don’t have a good story or a good script, in my opinion, none of that matters.” He thinks it’s really critical to find a blend of the two (the creatives and technology).

Next up was a panel discussion called ‘Virtual production is a reality.’ The speakers were: Loneranger Productions founder Vikram Bhatt, Viga Entertainment Technology co-founder Vivek Reddy, and Stage Unreal head of operations Nesikaa. The session was moderated by Epic Games evangelist- India/ASEAN Arvind Neelakantan.

The panellists deliberated how COVID-19 introduced unprecedented challenges to the production process and virtual production capabilities became a key differentiator for content creators moving forward in a COVID-19 entertainment landscape.

Kick-starting the discussion was Bhatt stating how brilliantly wonderful the advent and application of Unreal Engine has been for him. “We began to study the Unreal Engine and it was unreal. It can create any world and the result is as photo-realistic as cinema.” Taking it ahead from there, Nesikaa shared, “We considered ourselves to be successful when we understood how to incorporate virtual production with an indie-based film market.”

Commenting on what the future of virtual production is going to be in the near future, Reddy said, “In the next two to four years we will see proper digital humans coming on board in virtual production and real-time engines are going to have more tools within them so that we don’t have to use multiple software.”

Following the panel discussion was a brief session called ‘How we made it by ABAI-COE: The Motion Capture @COE for Unreal Short Films.’ The speakers were: AVGC – Centre of excellence Bangalore centre head Shiji Sunil and AVGC – COE Bangalore technical head Aravind Kalyan.

The duo played a clip that showed in detail the various motion capture facilities and services available in ABAI-COE studio. It is the country’s first-ever advanced motion capture system for media and entertainment. The centre is open for small and medium studios, and freelance artists to create their projects and the art infrastructure will be at par with any best international facility. 

“Even today, we are prepared to take up the virtual way of project execution because we have our directors, supervisors, and a seven-member team on set who is ready to support. Since we are backed by the government, you can be assured that you won’t get a price like ours anywhere else. So, anyone who wants to make a movie like Avatar, any director, freelancer, or any individual who wants to experiment should be able to make their dreams come true in the smallest amount,” explained a proud Shiji. 

The next session was ‘How Virtual Workstations are Powering Creative Creators?’, where the speakers shared insights on the current trends of the industry, growth, and evolution of virtual workstations during a pandemic. The eminent speakers of the session are NVIDIA head Proviz Business – Asia South Nikhil Parab, Yotta Infrastructure EVP and COO Sayed Peerzade, and Velankani Cloud Solutions director-data center group Vineet Kumar Pagaria. The session was moderated by founder, chairman and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari.

Parab shared the top five current trends of the market which included high resolution, globalisation and collaboration, evolving 5G networks, virtual production and digital humans. He also shared the data of NVIDIA and said, “NVIDIA has 1.3 billion gamers and we have over 54 million content creators spread over TV, film, VFX, YouTube. NVIDIA is also powering new age workloads including VFX, rendering, animatronics stimulations, and many others.”

Peerzade highlighted how the industry is adapting to virtual workstations and cloud-based GPUs. He spoke about how GPUs made computer graphics,  video editing, and gaming applications very easy to access from remote locations. He also shared about how creators require access to project data, and how virtual workstations enable them with agility to collaborate along with power and performance while maintaining the cost, security, and resilience.

Pagaria mentioned how the pandemic has given the opportunity for all industries to rethink how they want to go ahead and optimise their businesses. He shared, “We also found our time in pandemic to see how we can utilise the technology trends and move towards efficient working and collaborating with the right organisation.” 

The panel members also spoke on the evolving machine learning, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

In an interesting session titledMaking of 83 ReDefine 2D head Bharat De shared the visual effects breakdown of the Ranveer Singh-starrer sports drama 83. After sharing the breakdown, he spoke about the various challenges his team faced while working on the period drama.

The frenzy surrounding the story of the Indian squad that won the 1983 Cricket World Cup, was brought to life by amazing techniques used by the visual effects artists. The artists at ReDefine worked on a mix of 3D and 2D shots to recreate the period drama.

“We distributed the entire 3600 shots into categories. 300 artists were working on those shots,” De said.

The session was followed by another interesting presentation by ‘The Mill: Creating the Extraordinary‘, the panel members included The Mill executive producer Guha and The Mill head of creative Ariele Podreider Lenzi.

Guha presented the history of The Mill. He shared, “The Mill is a world-class creative studio renowned for its pioneering visual imagination and pixel-perfect craft. We are specialists in ideation partnering with agencies and brands to deliver across all the media. We are designers, artists, developers, directors, producers, coders, animators, doers, makers, runners all sharing the same ambition of creating memorable experiences.”

The panelists shared the making of the Pepsi trailer The Call for the Pepsi Super Bowl 56 which featured five hip-hop legends and  Verizon‘s 5G ultra wideband advert which used intensive VFX to develop a fully photoreal game-like alternate universe. They also answered audience questions related to virtual production.

Next was the ‘MPC: Beyond Imaginationsession, where MPC supervisor compositing Wineeth Wilson showcased the VFX breakdown of Disney’s Cruella series. MPC delivered about 1,150 shots out of which they had delivered about 90 per cent shots from Bengaluru.

Wilson shared the clips of the shot breakdown, where he presented the entire process of creating the digital assets, background, lighting, and other workflows.

Day three of the VAM Summit included an engaging panel discussion on an intriguing topic:The floodgates open.’ The speakers were: Omdia chief analyst media and entertainment and European Digital Cinema Forum president David Hancock, MX Player CCO Gautam Talwar, and SOL Production founder and producer Fazila Allana. The session was moderated by Variety international correspondent Naman Ramachandram.

The panel focussed on discussing how VFX has become an integral part of content production, how the filmmakers/content platforms plan to strike a balance between flexibility and overall budgets, what are the future possibilities of filmmaking and more.

David kick-started the segment with a presentation where he studied the trends in the international film industry and how the box office fared in the last couple of pandemic-struck years. Gautam stressed on the fact that because of the kind of content that is being produced by the OTT streaming platforms, moving forward cinema will have to rethink what is the content strategy that they now want to come up with. Fazila touched upon the rise of demand for regional OTT content and the sudden increase in the consumption of the same.

When there’s far too much content to make sense of, curation is king; and this could end up being crucial to the streaming and cinema wars of 2022.

Next, redchillies.vfx VFX supervisor Ronak Sanghadia presented an exciting session on what went into the making of the tear-jerking biopic Shershaah. The film based on the life of a true martyr and a Param Vir Chakra-awardee Captain Vikram Batra, from his first posting in the army to his death in the Kargil War, had some marvelous visuals that were quite challenging to achieve.

“The VFX supervisor was Somen Das and we executed around 1,375 shots,” Sanghadia shared.

Dust enhancements, bullets being fired, smoke addition, blasts were added in the action sequence to make it appear chaotic. These were important as it was very critical for the film to show the devastation that happened. 

Similarly, other iconic moments from the film were also onscreen wizardry done by these master artists. The visual effects that went into enhancing this action drama definitely took the storytelling a notch higher.

And with that, day three of the VAM Summit came to an end with the key takeaway being the fact that VFX industry has been able to adapt to the lockdown and has become an integral part of the content-creation process.