As we all know, visual effects both subtle as well as the obvious are being increasingly incorporated in the Indian film industry. Looking at the potential of such an industry which churns out hundreds of movies every year, and a growing segment of film makers with a leaning towards VFX, the session at NASSCOM looked at the Indian industry from a global point of view. It also discussed the possibility of Indian studios working on Hollywood projects.
The panel had a star studded line up with VFX stalwarts with tremendous experience in this field. Members of the panel included Tom Whitaker (Chairman and CEO, Motion Analysis Corporation), Eric Roth (Executive Director, Visual Effects Society), Tim McGovern (Vice-Chair, Visual Effects Society), Peter Chiang (Chairman & Founder, Double Negative Ltd (UK) and Indian VFX stalwart N Madhu Sudhanan (VFX Producer). Anand Gurnani (CEO, Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AnimationXpress.com) moderated the session.
The norm of panel discussions follows a back and forth of questions and answers among the panelists and the moderator. Beginning with his tirade of questions, Anand Gurnani shot the first question at Eric Roth.
Asked Gurnani, “You’ve come to India as part of a five city tour of the Visual Effects Society (VES), what is the perception of India abroad and please share your insights as well.” “Iâ€?m very pleased to be here in India,” began Eric. In his opinion everyone is talking about India as there is a lot happening in the VFX industry here and are looking at future partnerships as well. They are concerned about the level of talent. “It is come to my notice that there is talent but it is not competitive enough. During the tour we met a lot of VFX professionals and got a chance to get to know them. We are representing VES which is an organization of 1600 artists in 17 countries. We are impressed with the passion to learn, share and the level of excitement. India is a rocket that is in the wake of being launched and is going to become a major destination soon.”
For Tim this is the seventh trip to India. He has been observing the Indian VFX industry since 2003 and has seen a considerable amount of progress every year. Opined Tim, “A lot of companies have emerged and big players have entered the market now. These include both international as well as homegrown companies. Madhusudhanan is now looking at getting Hollywood into India, besides just South Indian and Bollywood movies.” According to the panelists work is getting bigger as well with companies not working only on specific shots but on larger chunks. America took close to 25 years to reach where it is at today in VFX standards. In comparison, for India, the process has been a little quicker. Everything can be standardized here in India. What needs to be done is get R&D teams and the top people need to get involved with the creatives and the directors.
Responding to the question on his views of the Indian market, Tom Whitaker responded, “Iâ€?m impressed with the latest business models where there is a hunger for state of the art technology.”
A question posed at Madhusudhanan was on the milestones in the Indian VFX industry and the future trends in two years time globally. “Lord of the Rings has made India stand out on the global map. After which we got more movies and proved our mettle in them. Now we are getting to work on projects from the scratch to the end. In the future studios from the west will show great interest in India. The advantage that India has that it has showcased its IT abilities. R&D facilities will be set up by the west and a lot of Indian studios will set up facilities abroad. Bollywood is also improving in terms of time and budget. The next two years are going to be interesting with big shows and big names coming into the picture. VES is going to bridge the gap between Hollywood and India.”
Peter Chiang of Double Negative fielded the question “Do you see a trend of studios from the west setting up studios in India?â€? Peter said that the VFX community in London started off chasing after Hollywood. They had to convince people for work. India is in the same situation now. “My observation is that India has to work on getting western supervisors on the education front, while on the films front, the directors need to have more VFX in films,” commented Peter.
Added Eric, “Two issues come up in my mind. The first one is that of talent and creativity and the second one pertains to the question whether you can get the work done right, on time and in the given budget. India has the capability to do it. It will take a few more years to grow with foreign studios already coming here, even as we speak.”
Replying to Anandâ€?s question of “What would make for an attractive VFX destination?” Tim said, “People come to a place for a reason. Hollywood has been primarily involved in making movies in the studio; hence came the need for VFX. UK on the other hand had a heritage of films as well as a cost effective destination. Australia and Canada then jumped in. Indiaâ€?s entry point is the cost advantage. Soon artists will get trained and then become wizards.” According to Tim, India has a huge talent pool but needs to get trained. Emphasis is not to be on money. Expectations have to be realistic and should be compared to the market outside.
“What is the education scene in London and what is the recruitment process?” asked Anand to Peter. Peter responded by saying that the courses in the UK were born out of the demand for VFX artists. Once there is advance in the infrastructure and high end work in films in India, the youth will automatically get attracted to this segment. Peter is the founder of the VFX studio Double Negative and the studio has tied up with a university to train students; hence aiding them in getting the required manpower.
Commenting on the VFX supervisors perspective of India, Madhusudhanan said that earlier on, VFX was used only when a piece of fantasy had to be made. “We have to compare ourselves to world standards and then prove ourselves. We have progressed from doing rotoscopy to entire CG work and working on entire shows. The missing link is the creative set up. Rather than formulating courses at the graduation level, courses should be designed for students pursuing their higher secondary education. Fine arts can be made a part of the curriculum. Government should also take steps to introduce courses.”
Continuing on the same note Tom remarked, “If we look at the Chinese studios, what we see there is that they have created a capital. Growing in the private sector is where itâ€?s all at. There is an embedded artistic flavour here, but it takes capital to make any progress.”
Taking this point a little further Peter said that there is fantastic creative talent in India. “Creativity is the primary goal along with the awareness of technology. The idea has to be economically viable. I would encourage good education and strongly urge qualitative training.”
The panel discussion moved into an audience question and answer session. The first question asked by Punit of ZICA on suggestions for training standards. The panel was of the opinion that the standards are set by the work that is being done. U.S and UK have a strong tradition of art in colleges. In India the focus is still on careers that one can depend on. Art hasnâ€?t been encouraged enough.
The session which was encased with queries and questions was concluded by Anand Gurnani as a way of summarizing what had been discussed during the panel as a whole. On a concluding note he said, “India is gaining prominence globally. We have talent and passion. Ambition has to have the ability to reach the desired goal with focus on quality.”