#FeatureFriday: VFX – Exploring the prospects of modern wizardry

It’s striking for Indian audience to see numerous Indian names rolling by in the VFX credits of big-ticket Hollywood movies.

Quite why the level of VFX sophistication is still not at par with some of the Hollywood projects still sets many of us scratching our heads in curiosity despite India virtually being pegged as the VFX capital of the world in many circles. It becomes imperative to first understand the complexity of the digital world.

For instance Red Chillies Entertainment has worked for big Hollywood blockbusters like Sin City and Indian-owned company Double Negative went on to win an Oscar for the movie Interstellar. It is astonishing to discover that the intricately marvellous dragons in the series Game of Thrones were also designed in an India-based Prana Studios. 

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It is a matter of curiosity as to why Indian creators are still not able to deliver the Hollywood-style sophistication in their own movies. In fact, international projects account for 73 per cent of the revenue of the VFX industry in India according to a 2017 KPMG-FICCI report.

There could be two reasons. One is budget, since the feasibility of the project is always uncertain given the capricious and discerning minds of the Indian audience. Another could be the demand, since it’s not yet entirely speculated and quantified as to exactly what percentage of Indian audience is keen on big-budget VFX-heavy movies.

While India is still testing its toes in the VFX-heavy waters with movies like Fan and Bahubali that managed to capture imaginations of the masses, filmmakers are yet to come around to the demands of the VFX content.

In the global media industry, a confluence of forces is growing with an appetite for path-breaking, cerebral and quality content backed with investment. With the rise of OTT Platforms such as Netflix, the quantum of work for the VFX industry has increased exponentially.

FluidMask Studio founder and VFX expert Viral Thakkar rather ruefully commented, “There is a lot of time that goes into research and development and VFX supervisors are there with the project right from the start but things work differently in India. There are different departments dedicated to different aspects of film-making and VFX department is relegated at the end in what they call a post-production department which does not give the VFX an adequate amount of time to work on the scenes as things become rushed by then”

Budgets in Hollywood are nearly five times that of Hindi Cinema which makes catching up with Hollywood even more challenging. Hollywood is a massive industry with the wherewithal to produce high-budget VFX-oriented movies. Millions of dollars are invested in a single project with no time-constraints as such.

Fireflies founder and VFX veteran Sanath PC shared, ”If one really wants to understand the VFX scene, they need to study the growth in the local industry both in terms of volume and quality.  What is the kind of presence VFX has in movies over the years and how there is a major leap in the volume of work and quality of work? According to me, VFX  adds real value and it is becoming an unavoidable part of a project, be it Indian or Hollywood”

However, Indian film-makers are steadily coming around to the demands of VFX as it’s assertive from the fact that the team working on Baahubali spent a year on a sequence depicting the protagonist climbing a gigantic waterfall: It is just a five-minute scene on the big screen. As the audience for VFX-rich content grows, we really hope Indian film-makers give it enough credence and heed with time as we scale up in the graph of VFX sophistication in our movies and continue to churn out movies that truly dazzle.

Games