VAM Summit’ 22 | Day 2 witnessed an insightful session on emerging VFX technologies and future pipelines

The second day of the VAM Summit saw an insightful compendium of panel discussions, presentations by the VFX masters where they weighed upon emerging tools like virtual production, in-camera visual effects, advanced chip-sets, real-time rendering, and the super-growing metaverse.

The summit began with a keynote on ICVFX (in-camera VFX) Adoption in Film & TVby Epic Games virtual production producer Nancy Xu.

Xu highlighted how the ICVFX technique has made virtual production easier. While explaining the ICVFX she said, “ICVFX is a technique where visual effects are captured in the camera instead of the post-production process. The camera is able to capture the images and bring them to life in a much clearer way than post-production can offer.”

Xu showcased various clips from various feature films and series including Modern Love, Dinosaurs: The Final Day, Game of Thrones: House of the Dragons. The shows and series used heavy ICVFX which made the production of environment and elements easier and budget-friendly.

Xu shed light on various tools and techniques and narrated the importance of building LED stages around the globe as it helps the next generation of filmmakers. She also shared key points on Foundry Spotlight which is a toolset that allows players to create their own stories, environment, characters, monsters. 

Xu also shared glimpses of MetaHuman, it is a free cloud-based app that enables anyone to create digital humans, and how MetaHumans come as fully rigged and ready to animate in Unreal Engine.

The next session was Accelerating The Adoption Of New-Age Tech‘, where the speakers shared insights on how the right kind of new age technology has amplified content production. The eminent speakers of the session are Famous Studios creative head FHOA Jayant Hadke, phantomFX Technology head Vinay Gedan, DNEG Mumbai head of VFX Jigesh Gajjar and virtual production & VFX supervisor Scott Squires. The session will be moderated by DNEG VFX supervisor Tim McGovern.

The discussion travels around the emerging tools including virtual production, real-time rendering, AI assisted machine learning, and so on. Tim and Squires shared how the technology has evolved through the case studies of
Avatar, First Man and Mandalorian. The speakers also shade light how proper planning can lead to real time production of the content and how green screens will take a back seat and LED walls will be the way forward. 
Famous studios also shared their use of Unreal Engine in various projects citing the example of their Dhoni commercial for Unacademy. The eminent panelist also burst the myth that machine learning will not take away jobs, in fact it will help to make the work more exciting. Gedan shared that how they are creating digital human with a photograph and once they license it, they will create multiple assets which they could use to populate any environment.

The next session titled ‘The Dawn of Virtual Workstations in VFX’ saw an informative presentation on Virtual PRO workstations by Yotta Infrastructure DGM – Product and Services Sandeep Pathak.

Pathak highlighted the advantages of adapting Virtual PRO workstations and how Yotta decmocratised the virtual production needs through Virtual PRO workstations. He said, “When we talk about the reality of virtual production, people are using expensive physical workstations. It is difficult and expensive to maintain hardware refresh cycle, remote access, real-time collaboration so to take care of these challenges YOTTA decided to democratise the virtual production need through Virtual PRO workstations.”

Virtual PRO workstation provides hassle-free and cost-effective services and ensures data security and also has flexible monthly plans. Virtual PRO workstations are a perfect alternative to traditional, high-end, expensive physical workstations. The virtual desktops are powered by advanced Citrix VDI technology running on the Yotta enterprise cloud. Yotta’s PRO workstations ride on Adaptive H.265 which gives access to sharp, responsive 3D graphics applications from anywhere in the world.

Day two of the VAM Summit included an engrossing panel discussion on the topic Re-imagine the new possible for your VFX pipeline.’ The eminent speakers were: Famulus Media & Entertainment head of CG Dhiraj Singh Chaudhari, Labyrinth Cinematic Solutions CEO and co-founder Siddhartha Jayakar, ABAI AVGC Centre of Excellence secretary B.S. Srinivas, Hula Hoop VFX Studio head of production Navin Venkatesh, Silvercloud Studios HOD technology Navin Patro, White Turtle Studio VFX head Godwin Fernandes, Autodesk India & SAARC technical solutions manager – M&E Samit Shetty, and Firefly Creative Studio owner Sanath PC. The session was moderated by founder, chairman and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari.

The panel discussed how the pandemic changed the working methods of all the AVGC sectors and out of the various sectors, the VFX industry was most affected. This is why there was a need for creating a new pipeline to fulfill the trends and meet the virtual production needs. The VFX experts expressed how VFX pipelines aren’t something to be scared of. Once you understand the fundamental components and how they fit together, it’s fairly easy to build new workflows that fit your particular creative needs and technical resources.

Studios have discovered the importance of better production pipelines that create a more collaborative environment between directors, supervisors, and artists. This way, they can bring all of their ideas together to create a shot that is going to be much closer to the final results without having to run it through post-production multiple times. The speakers also stressed upon how the VFX pipeline in the near future is going to be heavily influenced by artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

The session was followed by another interesting presentation by Epic Games India/ASEAN Evangelist Arvind Neelakantan on the ‘Shorts India Program: How we are enabling Indian studios to adopt an Unreal pipeline’.

Neelakanatan gave a quick presentation on how Epic Games evolved and what is their vision and mission, and how they are delivering their vision through Unreal Engine.

He shared a few key points on how Unreal Engine is helping to make virtual production easier with pre-visualisation options. He also highlighted the features of UE4 and how it is being adopted widely across the globe. while talking about Unreal Engine usage, he mentioned, “Unreal Engine is used in animation, virtual set, virtual location, previsualisation and many. There are 250 plus films and projects using UE4 since 2016. ICVFX is widely used in Disney’s The Mandalorian.”

Sharing the Indian Unreal Engine projects, Neelakanatan played the video song Kalavathi from Sarkaru Vaari Paata starring Mahesh Babu and trailer of Kannada film Vikrant Rona starring Kicha Sudeep. These films also used ICVFX for their virtual production.

Neelakantan highlighted the Women Creator Program 2022 where they are committed to inspiring and training women creators. Epic Games is set to expand WCP to South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and plan to select 20 women creators. He also gave a brief note on the Shorts India Program.

Next was ‘ABAI-COE: Facilities & Solutions enabling Virtual Production session where the speakers were Technicolor country head Biren Ghose, ABAI AVGC Centre of Excellence secretary B.S.Srinivas, and AVGC Centre of excellence Bangalore centre head Shiji Sunil.

The panel proudly showed the audiences a presentation where details about the recently opened centre were given. The Centre of Excellence has state-of-the-art facilities that will give the AVGC industry in Karnataka and entire India a holistic technological boost. It is a highly equipped AVGC post-production lab providing the industry with resources to generate high quality content. The COE also has a finishing school that will train and provide highly skilled technicians to the companies in Karnataka, thus facilitating employment opportunities.

“When we say we are the centre of excellence, we try to bring the best from all over the world; be it motion capture, photogrammetry, or any other setup that we have. We always try to give the best quality,” added Shiji. “All the futuristic technologies that are available at our Bangalore centre are affordable and any studio in our country can avail of it. Nothing is exorbitantly priced because we want the content creators to churn out the output they have visualized in their minds,” informed Srinivas.

With the country’s first ever advanced motion capture system for media and entertainment, open for small and medium studios and freelance artists, to create their projects, this art infrastructure will be at par with any best international facility. 

Day two also witnessed a session called ‘How to use virtual production to tell your best story’ by disguise VP of virtual production Adnan Ghani.

Ghani started the segment with a presentation that explained in detail the kind of work that’s done at disguise. Disguise is a platform for creatives and technologists to imagine, create and deliver spectacular visual experiences. Combining the leading experience production software with powerful media server hardware, disguise empowers brands, artists, production houses, and their partners to tell stories that inspire their audiences.

“Virtual production is still incredibly difficult as an engineering project. It is a feat in engineering to get all the different components to work together. We make the complex simple,” Ghani explained while talking about the art of using virtual production to tell the best stories. He further stressed why disguise is the ideal platform for anyone to choose. He shared, “With disguise for virtual production, you can save time by making creative changes on set in real-time and get photo-realistic results with pixel-perfect quality.”

Finally, it was time for Metaverse! an opportunity or a challenge for content creators? Let’s explore‘. The panelists were GuardianLink co-founder & CTO Arjun Reddy, Gamitronics CEO Rajat Ojha, Paperboat Design Studios and Occult VFX Studios director and co-founder Aashish Mall, Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka, and the session was moderated by production technology veteran VK Gupta.

Over the past few years the topic Metaverse has become the interest for various industry stakeholders. The experts shared how they are investing and creating the world of metaverse. All the experts at the panel were quite excited about the metaverse. Ojha shared how it is going to be different from gaming, and how it is essential to create awareness about it. And for that they created a metaverse PartyNite with Daler Mehndi singing at a concert. Chilaka also stated that the technology is new and slowly the company will uncover going forward. Mall shared how the metaverse will be going to be another world, the new real estate and anything and everything is possible. 

Reddy shared how cryptocurrency and NFTs are going to be a new form of investment and how it will bolster the state of the metaverse. He further shared that since it is the early stage and the credibility and awareness is not there in the market, therefore while entering the market he roped in Amitabh Bachhan and sold his NFTs to his fan base. Going forward a lot of development are going to happen in space and the industry stakeholders can’t  wait to explore it more. 

Day two of the VAM Summit gained a lot of traction from the audience and industry people as it explored new-age tools and engines in a content production pipeline and the emerging virtual workstations, Unreal Engines helps in speeding up the workflow.