For decades, VFX like many other industries has been reliant on cramming as many artists as possible in a big office where they can deliver on tight deadlines, beavering away on their computers to create the digital wizardry that transmogrifies the raw footages of your favourite movies and shows into a visual treat. However, this has evidently changed with the advent of the pandemic.
By this time everybody is aware of how COVID-19 has affected various sectors and industries globally including entertainment.
Previously we covered how the studios across the country like Green Gold Animation, Toonz Animation and Wackytoon Studio, Splash Entertainment have been grappling with this pandemic-induced challenges while producing riveting episodes for kids content. Recently we at AnimationXpress caught up with Rohan Desai who is the global head of Redefine; one of India’s most reputed VFX & Animation Studio to know about their take on the the current crisis and their preparedness quotient to sail through it in the wake of the nation-wide shutdown.
As DNEG’s award-winning global visual effects, animation and stereo conversion business’s offering; ReDefine started its operations in 2019 with the objective of bridging the gap between the East and West, offering creative services like animation and visual effect to expanding international markets such as China and India, as well as other global independent productions.
Here are are the excerpts fo the conversation :-
How is ReDefine coping with the pandemic-induced challenges which have shaken all industries including VFX?
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused untold suffering for people around the world. It has also given rise to big challenges for businesses, creating a period of unprecedented uncertainty and volatility, the long-term consequences of which are very hard to accurately assess. We had to respond quickly to the immediate need to protect our staff, activating our business continuity plan, enabling the technical infrastructure to allow our artists to work from home and working with our clients to ensure that their stringent security requirements were maintained. We quickly enabled over 900 ReDefine staff to work from home, allowing them to be safe with their families whilst continuing to deliver ongoing work.
How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your projects?
We continue to deliver the projects that were in our pipeline prior to this crisis, but all companies in our sector are aware that demand has dropped drastically as a result of the shutdown of physical production, with the filming of new material halted for over two months now. That said, ReDefine is in a privileged position as a global business serving clients in multiple territories, including China, India and the West, and we are in discussions about new projects in all of these markets. The fact that we also deliver both VFX and animation services is also helpful, and in fact our first animated feature film – 100% Wolf – was recently released during lockdown on premium VOD services in Australia, with further releases planned in other territories in the coming months.
Since you represent both VFX and Animation sector, could you tell us about the work from home pipelines?
Artists in India don’t always have access to adequate work from home infrastructure in their homes, which brings its own challenges, but our technology team has done an outstanding job in enabling our artists to work from home in an incredibly short space of time. In terms of process it has been remarkably smooth, with artists controlling their ReDefine workstations virtually from home. The biggest challenges have been in finishing shots, which relies on reviews on cinema screens and colour calibrated monitors – but we have put in place workarounds for those issues.
What are the projects you are currently working on?
Bharamastra, Kung Fury 2 , Rock Dog 2 , Sweet Girl and many more.
How do you ensure data protection given the fact that employees have to work from home on confidential footages?
We have had to adapt and apply industry standard security measures to protect all confidential footage in motion and that’s being accessed. The remote access technology we use ensures that data doesn’t actually leave our premises, and this provides us with assurances that confidentiality is maintained at all times.
Maharashtra Government recently sought an action plan with regards to the resumption of VFX and other post production services as well as film shooting (as in permissions to go to the studio and work) What are your thoughts on that?
Our main concern is the wellbeing of our staff. We ensure we follow protocols, precautions and guidelines at all times. Safety is the most important thing. I must also underline that, at moments such as these, panic and misinformation are the worst counsels. When it is safe to do so, we will work with our staff to begin the transition back into our offices. Until then, we continue to deliver our projects effectively with our remote working solution.
“Adapting to the new norm, providing notes and feedback virtually, but most importantly securely, has been the key agenda for our seniors, as well as use of colour calibrated monitors and high bandwidth connections to review and approve final shots.”
Any monetary challenges you faced considering the fact that the live film shooting has been stalled?
New productions and shoots came to a standstill with the lockdown and there is an absolutely essential need to feed the content creation pipeline with new projects, which have not been forthcoming recently. This will have an effect on all companies in the content creation industry, and every business is facing financial pressures. We continue to work with our clients and our employees to find the best way through this crisis.
Could you throw some light on how your studio is managing co-ordination given the fact that VFX or animation work needs revisions and re-checking by supervisors and feedback on the completed tasks?
Regular meetings and communications are conducted through Zoom and other video conferencing platforms to ensure the efficient coordination of projects and teams. Adapting to the new norm, providing notes and feedback virtually, but most importantly securely, has been the key agenda for our seniors, as well as use of colour calibrated monitors and high bandwidth connections to review and approve final shots.
What are the larger implications of this pandemic with respect to the VFX and Animation industry?
As in every period of adversity, market changes that bring risks, can also create new business opportunities and drive innovation. Digital media & home entertainment are seeing an uplift in revenues, as an increasing number of consumers opt for solutions that allow them to continue to enjoy movies from the comfort of their homes, and the innovation that has allowed our teams to work effectively from home may have future ramifications in terms of how we work as an industry. Only time will tell.