Set up 74 years ago, Famous Studios, located in Mahalaxmi could easily be seen as a heritage site for being the birthplace of India’s most iconic movies. Some regard it as the mecca of India’s advertising scene, others see it as the country’s post production hub. We visited the studio to understand what lies at the heart of its legacy.
Over the course of the past seven decades, it has been a recipient of numerous awards including film industry’s greatest honours; Dadasaheb Phalke Academy and the Indian Motion Picture Association’s recognition for its outstanding contribution to Indian Cinema.
Ask Famous Studios’ managing director Anant Roongta about the driving force behind its success and he answers that their greatest motivation is ‘the joy and fulfilment of facilitating dreamers and content-creators with all the possible resources needed to unlock the next level of creativity.’
Recent winner of AVGC 40 under 40 contest Anant is a third-generation entrepreneur, and the grandson of JB Roongta, the founder of Famous Studios. In a candid conversation with AnimationXpress, Anant touched upon the legacy of Famous Studios, their various verticals and expansions plan to facilitate content creators.
Myriad Offerings of Famous Studios
With no intentions of resting on past laurels, Famous Studios has been going strength to strength in its multiple offerings over the past decade.
What began as a bold foray into the world of Indian cinema and television has now metamorphosed into a canvas for hundreds of artists for creating content masterpieces with state-of-the-art equipment and expert technicians: a turnkey content solutions provider for anything that a content provider needs.
The sprawling facility which houses upgraded shooting floors now offers its facilities in multiple locations across the city. Recent upgrades and international collaborations such as their joint venture with Centroid, The Landing (Media City UK), new co-working spaces, Dolby and Netflix certifications for creative video and audio post have propelled the brand as an all-inclusive service provider for advertising, OTT, film and broadcast.
Visual Effects & Virtual Production
Spanning specialised production (hi-speed visual engineering and motion capture), post-production services (editing, finishing, grade, VFX and sound) and IP creation, Famous Studios is fast becoming a microcosm of the content industry.
It has predominantly been the go-to site for VFX and post production in the advertising industry. However, it is now actively diversifying its portfolio and working upon a host of OTT shows of various genres and long form premium originals.
Speaking about the impact of the lockdown and their path to recovery, Anant details, “Due to Covid there was naturally a setback but we are now back to full capacity – a combination of Work from Home and studio. Notwithstanding the challenges of the covid crisis, we are expanding our team in a gradual manner. We hope to add more team members to our existing setup and launch new verticals in the course of 2021.”
Known for enabling innovations through various creative partnerships with global giants, Famous Studios have always endeavoured to bring in nuanced ways of content creation.
Two years ago, they partnered with Centroid to become India’s earliest adopter of motion capture and virtual production; cutting-edge technologies popularised by the likes of Mowgli fame Andy Serkis and The Lion King fame Jon Favreau. Their motion capture facility which is a part of the Famous Studios infrastructure in Mahalakshmi has facilitated various filmmakers to create blockbuster movies.
Speaking about their association with Centroid, he shared, “It was a brand new technology for the Indian market so it fell in very organically because today you are capturing body movements. It reduces the stress on the VFX team and the technology allows you to capture those challenging bits of the script in an easier way. Mocap and the same facility can be used for virtual production. Through mocap, there are many possibilities. You can add an animated character in your virtual set, scout locations and adjust camera angles.”
Virtual Production powered by game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine has been ruling the roost in the west, having enabled ground-breaking projects like Mandalorian. Courtesy of virtual production, movies are now being shot against LED walls coupled with in-camera effects.
Having sensed its gigantic prospects, the effects industry has been vigorously lapping up this technology. Recently, Famous Studios joined forces with Cineom, Centroid Motion Capture India, Green Rain, Liminal to launch their virtual production pop-up R&D lab for the future of content creation.
Throwing light on their experiment, Anant informed, “We are actively looking at setting up a virtual studio at our premise in the next few months. However, we are being cautious as it is crucial to have the right ingredients in place which includes the right technology and talent. We wanted to test the potential of this technology and understand how we can leverage it. After a successful response, we are seriously considering launching our own virtual studio in collaboration with other leading partners which we hope to set up in the first half of 2021.”
Post-production and IP
In 2019, Famous Studios set about planning a five year strategy which included expansion and upgrade of its existing post production facility and slowly pivoting the business model to create, produce and own content.
Netflix and Dolby partnership
Their Dolby and Netflix certified facility provides packaged all-round digital solutions for TV commercials, branded digital content, reality shows, web series and feature films.
Partnership with Industry Veteran Justin Jose
Famous Studios recently partnered up with India’s leading sound recordist Justin Jose. Jose is known for having mixed Madras Cafe: India’s first movie mixed in native Dolby Atmos. He has won multiple accolades including a National Film Award for the Best Re-recordist for the movie Bajirao Mastani in 2015 and for Walking With The Wind in 2017. His notable works include Baahubali, Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani and Uri: The Surgical Strike.
Localisation and mixing
Not limited to facilitating domestic projects, Famous has successfully helped western movies to reach domestic audiences through their localisation expertise.
Having dubbed and mixed various catalogued Hollywood titles with the help of various top-notch dubbing directors, the studio is also largely invested in making foreign content accessible to the nooks and crannies of our diverse country.
Partnership with Netflix NP3
Given the standards and quality checks that the OTT giant is known to ensure, Netflix has evolved a post partner program (NP3) which verifies that the products and systems – their vendors – meet the technical and delivery specifications.
The Netflix Post Partner Program (NP3) collaborates with post-production partners globally to ensure that the millions of Netflix member’s viewing experiences are top-notch and seamless. NP3’s focus includes language dubbing, audio descriptive services, master quality control, and post-production partners supporting Netflix-commissioned workflows.
Having delivered a variety of post-production services ranging from VFX to mocap to mixing, Famous Studios was recently declared one of the verified partners in the list of the only few studios that pass muster on the quality front.
Dolby Atmos & Vision
Poised to spruce up domestic content to bring it on par with western counterparts, Famous has upgraded their post-production facility to Dolby Atmos (a state-of-the-art tool that elevates the sound to breathtaking realism, making it ultra immersive and high-quality) and Dolby Vision (the ultimate industry standard tool that produces some 68 billion colours with 12 bit colour depth).
Enhancing the visuals is no mean feat. Apart from VFX and editing, movies go through an advanced process called colour grading. In order to grade movies in the most efficient way, experts use sophisticated technologies. Committed to tick all the boxes, Famous Studios have brought in Baselight which is an advanced grading tool for professional colourists along with DaVinci Resolve Panel; a panel that includes 12 primary colour correction control knobs, giving colourists the ease and flexibility they need
Having evolved a conducive infrastructure designed to serve the demands of the entertainment industry, Famous Studios is bustling with activity with dozens of events taking place every week; ranging from concerts to product launches to feature film shoots. Anant shared, “We took a leap of faith and expanded our facilities to offer a co-working space and other ready-made sets taking into consideration flexibility and convenience for our clients.”
Expounding on the legacy of Famous Studios and the international partnerships inked in service of the content industry over the years, Anant shared, “Having been around for so long, we’re grateful to our partners and stakeholders who have entrusted us with a variety of projects ranging from processing to mixing to producing so much content over the years. It is very humbling to have these clients. We want to continue with the same culture and ethos as an organisation and use that to grow our business further.”
With an unflinching commitment to facilitating content creators with the requisite tools and expertise, Famous Studios has indeed become a go-to site for every stage of content production.