‘Kedarnath’ VFX breakdown: Recreating beauty and calamity at once

There are various reasons why the VFX credit list isn’t getting shorter in 2019. The number of VFX shots is continually increasing over time. I could recollect days when a podcast reveals that the movie Jurrasic Park of 1993 had about 50 VFX shots. Nowadays the biggest VFX movies have between 1,000 and 3,000 VFX shots, not only that even non-VFX movies, like period dramas and Adam Sandler comedies, now have many of VFX shots. The transition from 50 VFX shots and 1000 VFX shots in minimum have made a remarkable indication that incorporation of VFX shots in the movie is the trend. Taking the example, a Bollywood movie Kedarnath which hit the theatres at the end of the year 2018 has met with decisive reactions at the box office primarily because of its VFX work. The movie Kedarnath showed the calamitous premise of the Uttarakhand floods apart from that it showcased the magnificence of the old Kedarnath temple, beautiful landscapes of Uttarakhand surroundings and offered a glimpse into the lives of people residing in the area along with their daily struggles concerning earning a livelihood from the pilgrims. Speaking with AnimationXpress, Kedarnath movie and After VFX head Vishwas Savanur shared that the movie VFX has many intricacies since it is around water and it is quite challenging to create water and it is one of the toughest things to develop in VFX or animation. The movie has more than 126 shots of water and over 900 shots overall excluding water. The movie contains general VFX shots, the added environment in the background with the inclusion of work from the departments of matte painting, simulation, animation, lighting, colour grading, paint clean up and composition. On being  asked of the difficulty level in the creation of the flood in the movie, Savanur expressed, “Creation of the flood sequence was the most complicated due to the grandeur of Indian water bodies as far as Kedarnath is considered. Also, background plates have to be matched to the live locations.” As the trend of VFX goes, the division of work has excelled a lot. There is usually a different person for each task because specific skills required even if the major tasks are done digitally to speed up each job. Therefore it is crucial for studios to strategise and manage the division of tasks considering the area of expertise. Savanur shared with us that for the movie Kedarnath they have used digitally upgraded technology, despite that around 120 VFX artist worked on the project and he emphasised that there were 50 members of CG FX team who have worked closely to create a titanic version of water for the movie. To get a more profound insight into the movie VFX here is the exclusive breakdown for you : – To live up to the mark of the natural beauty of the mother nature at the backdrop a lot of green screen shots have been used according to the studio there are around 609 green screen shots in the movie and it took them about six months to finish the VFX work of the film.   -The movie has used many reference shots of the water from the actual Uttarakhand massacre and shots from the internet and merged them with cinematic touch as according to Savanur to show water on the big screen was one of the toughest challenges for the VFX team. – To showcase the original alluring beauty of nature, the landscapes, the mountains, the hustle bustle of the Pahari life, the studio has especially worked in increasing the light as well as the saturation level of the content to make it cinematically perfect and enhanced. – The movie has shown a lot of old Kedarnath temple shots which was practically not possible as the temple top was utterly damaged because of the Uttarakhand flood. Thus the studio had to recreate the temple top of the old temple from the stock images. Not only that the team also created the whole backdrop of mountains and glaciers for the movie since at present there are no glaciers capped mountains around the temple after the Uttarakhand flood. -Recalling the torrential disaster, the VFX representation of the giant wave submerging the Kedarnath temple is stunning as it reveals how the wave bounced on temple top and subsumes everything. With the presentation of the water flooding the temple, it is understood that water simulation techniques have been incorporated in designing the shot as well as background replacement. -As many shots were used from the real stock images and videos thus many were not cinematically appealing or correct therefore in the matter of colour, saturation and so on they had to tweak the shots to make it visually and cinematically perfect. On the technology front Real, Houdini and Nuke were used to make every shot perfectly blended. Since Kedarnath is accounted as one of the VFX heavy Bollywood releases and with that the trend of incorporating heavy VFX has leaped a height thus Savanur expressed “there are more and more producers and directors writing scripts keeping VFX in mind as India has reached the level where quality VFX output can be delivered.” As Kedarnath has set a new benchmark with the help of VFX, we hope to see more such stunning imagery in the future from After and other studios as well! Here are few more shots: