Contiloe CEO draws light on the VFX carried on Ashoka, Hanuman, Maharana Pratap and the state of the creative industry

Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman, Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap. All these shows have one thing in common apart from the fact that they are successful TV shows. All three of them come from the robust production house, Contiloe that’s been actively producing shows that require visual effects. What was once never taken into consideration as the medium that can showcase the unimaginable into reality is now being used as a medium to not only bring the unknown to life but also to portray real life things via technology. With the Indian visual effects industry gaining a lot of momentum in the recent past in the Indian film industry, how can the television industry be left behind? Indian TV serials have also joined the bandwagon of incorporating VFX in their shows and this is not limited to just mythological shows. AnimationXpress got in touch with Contiloe, CEO, Abhimanyu Singh, to know more about the VFX carried in their currently airing shows Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman and the off air one Maharana Pratap.
“To start off with, Contiloe got into VFX because we were compelled to get into it as it was the kind of stories that we tell. If you notice, ever since the beginning, while we were producing horror shows, we were required to use the medium of visual effects as in that genre there’s an inevitable usage of special effects and VFX,” says Singh. Gradually the technology changed and the production house got into various genres like historical, mythological, fantasies. With new genre getting added to its kitty, Singh obviously needed more support of the VFX and that’s how they kicked in as a full fledged VFX unit as well. That doesn’t mean all of the VFX work is carried out by the studio, as some of the projects are at times outsourced as well. “The genre that we’re dealing with needs a lot of visual effects to be a part of storytelling. And therefore we have taken the aid of VFX to deliver an effective and impactful story.” The Contiloe VFX team is consistently small with about 30 people working in the studio. However, since Contiloe keeps outsourcing projects many a times, another 50 to 60 people come onboard totalling up to about 80 to 90 people working across projects. “We have Hanuman, Ashoka, sometimes a little bit is needed for Adaalat. So in these different genres, we continue to use VFX, and we outsource a large part of it,” adds Singh. “The creatives, some part of the production is taken care of by us and a certain part of production is outsourced. The creatives, which are the most important part, and how to do those creatives, is then basically headed by Deepak SV. Deepak has been with us for many years now and has also been handling VFX for quite sometime. He takes care of mainly the creative aspect of it and how to do it also. As of sketching out the plan for various VFX sequences, the VFX team sits with us when the script is being read out and that’s where it’s decided and discussed as to where all VFX will play its role. The team explains how and where all are they going to showcase the VFX and accordingly the storyboard is set.”
As Contiloe has different genre shows under its hood, how different is it working on a mythological based show like Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman from the historical events based shows like Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat and Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap? “In Maharana Pratap and Ashoka, the same amount and kind of VFX is used because it’s about crowd multiplications, set extensions, certain 3D assets which are created like palaces, eras being recreated and exterior locations. As for mythological show like Hanuman, there’s a huge amount of VFX involved, mainly because it goes into a complete fantasy zone. Full episodes are shot on live plus chroma screens. As opposed to Ashoka which is more of live action, in Hanuman, the character can fly which isn’t possible in real life. So when compared to earlier shows where Hanuman was seen flying, he actually had his Gada on his shoulder and he was floating and not flying. This has changed now as in the present day scenario, the viewers are now watching Hollywood movies and so they would want to experience the same realistic feel.” Keeping in mind that these shows are aired on weekdays everyday, delivering quality VFX is a challenging job because of the time crunch. So for each episode for a historical show about 10 to 15 artists work for 12 hours a day. In the beginning of the show it goes up to 50 people as that’s the time when most of the assets are being set up. Whereas on a mythology show, it can range from 80 to 100 artists working on a regular basis! Indian audiences are now watching American shows like The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Daredevil, Once Upon A Time and many more. If we compare the VFX delivered for Indian television series as opposed to the VFX carried out in International shows, India still has a long way to go. Commenting on this topic, Singh justifies, “Visual effects is a combination of three things; time, money and quality. Now the issue is, you need to have at least two of these to be able to achieve commendable VFX. So if you have time and money, then only you will get quality; you have time and quality, then you need the money. Basically, time and money are two utmost important things. We neither have the time nor the money. So, how will we be able to achieve that quality?”
Hanuman Before After
Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman Before After images
Singh further explains his point with an example: The maximum budget you get for VFX is Rs 1 lakh per episode. So if we consider 10 minutes of VFX in an episode, that works up to Rs 10,000 (approx $147) a minute and Rs 150 (approx $2.5) a second. As compared to the International guys, they are producing for $10,000 a second and we are producing for roughly $3 a second. And on top of that they have time in their hand whereas we have no time. So till we don’t get into seasonal stuff and until the budgets don’t go up for VFX, we won’t be able to produce that high quality VFX shows. In the end, Singh mentions that it’s not that Indian TV shows don’t want to deliver high quality VFX. It’s just that there should be more of government involvement wherein the government should encourage creativity, visual effects and animation. “The government should be encouraging but it is doing nothing, as they are taxing each and everything. How will you have new industries emerging. Why does VFX and animation lack in India? What incentive does anybody have to invest in the fields of VFX and animation? We do it, because we are storytellers. But where is the incentivisation to studios to do it. India is a price sensitive nation. The channel is paid less by the cable operators and DTH. It’s an advertising driven economy wherein the consumer has to pay nothing. If the consumer does not pay to a platform, a platform does not pay to the maker, if the maker doesn’t get paid, how will we pay?” Listening to Singh’s words, one does get a clear picture about the state of the VFX industry in India. We are getting to witness usage of visual effects in TV shows but the quality of it still has a long way to go, but we can’t put the entire blame on the artists. It’s time for the government to take some action and give leverage to the blooming VFX industry.