Thursday, October 16, 2014

How a VFX Supervisor will save you a tonne of money.

Hasraf Dulull  taught a wonderful course on VFX at Raindance Festival. From his notes, here is a article from Raindance website.

VFX and SFX is the fun bit of filmmaking, right? Explosions that look cool and blow up everything on the screen, they can make Harry Potter and the Gryffindor Quidditch Team fly around, turn Ian McKellen into Gandalf and just about anything else you can think of. But why should you even bother considering thinking about this unless you’re going to blow up The Rock at the end of your film? Well, let me tell you…


These days you can’t just write a high concept script and expect a meeting. So why not get a VFX Supervisor on board from the start. It can progress the project towards a more creative and interesting one as well as luring in better actors. Not only that but if you’re looking to get some funding for a project even bigger, It’s a way to get your trailer noticed at festivals without breaking the almost non-existent bank.

Getting the Green Light.

The studio loves you, you’re gonna be the next big thing, you’re on your way to getting your teeth whitened as you read this, but the studio has asked you to budget accordingly for the production…

So why not bring in a VFX supervisor sooner rather than later and save the struggle of unexpected costs and hassle later on.

Why would I even bother?

It can not only save you money but can also help you be as creative as you want to be without your ideas running away and spending all of your budget on that crucial title sequence that you want to explode out of a skyscraper in New York. They can also help you to test out cameras, lenses and locations as well as advising you on what to do in SFX, VFX and what not to do at all (avoid Go-pro or 7D footage for heavy VFX work that requires tracking, green-screen, low-lights etc, it’s just not good)

What about my script?

Well your script can be easily broken down by your best mate/VFX Supervisor (the are the same person) and they can identify the visual effects and special effects within the script, breaking them down into scenes with ball park costs. Again, it’s all about that budget of yours and how precious it is!

Tips on saving more monies!

- Don’t use rigs/reflective objects/anything of the sort in the shot expecting post to be able to sort it out. It’ll cost you time and too much money.

-Same goes for anything else that you think can just be rubbed on in post. If it can be easily moved out of the shot in 10 minutes then it’s going to be much cheaper/quicker and more than likely better than using the eraser tool.

-Every cinephile loves 35mm, but unless you’re Nolan or Tarantino it’s just going to be a waste of money. To edit it in post it needs to be scanned and blah blah blah. It’s just not worth it. Treat yourself when you have more money.

-Speaking of saving money, budget to have a VFX supervisor on set for the duration of the shoot. If anything goes wrong it doesn’t cost you all of your budget for the day.

-Stock footage is your friend! You might want to splash out and get your VFX supervisor to create some CGI explosions, but why do that when you can purchase stock footage, do a bit of grading and then integrate it into your own shots for a more realistic and less tacky approach to explosions. It’s also a great way to find good quality establishing shots that only need a small amount of VFX to bring out a couple of features that make it yours.

Filmmaking is all about planning and storytelling. Use VFX to help tell your story and plan it so that no production company can ever pick it apart!

you can read more about it on

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Starting Blog Again After 6 Long years. Saying Hello to ?? - is anyone still reading this blog ;)

I am posting in this blog after 6 years,  My last blog-post was on October 8, 2008 and today is 15th October :) . So i don't know anybody reading my blog or not BUT if you are reading this please do comment and say back hello.
From now on i will be post regularly and effectively.

i started this blog when i was student of VFX and want to share what i find interesting back then. but not able to keep it up because i am no longer a student :( . From VFX I jumped in to film making, even tried my hand in to direction and doing editing stuff also AND doing many boring work for earning money :(.

same days before comeback to my blog and see that many people still reading blog even some peoples giving good comments about blog as recently as past year. Even i did't open my blog from tow years ;) .

so decided from now on i will be posting My experience & Knowledge what little i have. as i am more in to film making now'a'days, i will post VFX techniques & Tips as director's point of view.

so here is my first post after 6 Years

Thanks and have Good Day
Pankaj Pratap

*don't forget to say hello to me :).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Techniques of Wire Removal

  • General Techniques for Wire Removal
1. Wire Removal By Painting Frame By Frame
The primary comment made about wire removal is "we'll just paint it out in post." But painting out on a per frame basis is extremely difficult when done over a series of frames, potentially causing the images to seem as if they are boiling. While a clone tool works well on a single frame, the lack of frame to frame cohesion means the 'fix' boils and becomes very visible once the clip is played. Of course there are times that wires are only catching the light for a moment,  and thus an isolated frame is still very effectively fixed by a manual painting, either by cloning or delicate painting. Cloning is much more effective, as it clones not just colour but grain or noise that is also almost always present.

2. Rig Removal By Patching Over The Top

One solution using this method is based on finding a clean frame from some other point in the clip and  pasting it over the top of the offensive rig or wire. This works best on static cameras, and does not work on people in movement. Since the fill for the patch is static, considerations need to be made for grain and noise. Various tricks can used to solve this, including compounding or averaging several clean frames, reducing the grain/noise so it can be reintroduced at a later stage.

Another approach is to patch the wire and then use this new clip as a "reveal back to" clip in a manual painting environment, or roto the patch back in with finer attention to detail than the main patch. This has the advantage of replacing the minimum amount of the overall image but can suffer if there are other light changes that the 'patch' is not matching and tracking in terms of colour.

At its most extreme implementation, the patch approach becomes a 2D environment replacement which we discuss later.

3. Stabilise and Paint Back

One approach to solving a moving shot is to stabilize the image, fix it, and then invert the stabilization. If a wire is moving relative to the background, this approach can be very effective. Once the background is stable, the artist can paint back to a previous frame where the line or wire isn't seen. So unlike painting back to a still as in the patch version discussed previously, the artist paints back to moving clip offset in space to the foreground. This 'moving reveal' can be slightly noticeable when done at this stage but when the original camera motion is reintroduced it can seem flawless.

Problems arise with motion blur. A stablised image still has the blur contained inside that frame from any original camera movement. If this is offset in time - the foreground may have a different camera motion blur than the offset clip below at any point in time. Reveling the 'offset background' will then revel the wrong amount of blur, which can be a problem.

4. Roto Clone Tools/Source NodesTo solve the problems in approach one (manual painting), there are faster computer-assisted approaches to cloning and painting. A common approach is to create an accurate matte of the wire or rig via rotoscoping. This matte is used to cut a hole in the iamage. To fill the hole, the same frame is slid or shifted to reaveal a part of the frame that is wire-free. In flame this is done by using source nodes, which move the matte or foreground independently of each other. There are many similar approaches available in other applications.

The reason this approach works so well is that it matches motion blur or light changes since each frame draws from the same frame for the fix. It can be thought of as a dynamically updating patch approach. The disadvantage is the issue with sharp edge transitions. Since the entire wire matte region is replaced with the same scale patch, what works on camera right may not align camera left or vice versa. This means that some shots work amazingly well, but a very similar shot with different structural solid lines at a differents angle may produce very poor results.

5. Automated Tools: Matador to FurnaceMatador
This early paint product had specialized roto, paint and wire removal. Matador was originally developed by British developer Parralax, and was acquired by Avid along with Parralaxs compositing application Illusion. Available only on the SGI platform and priced around $15,000, Matador was one of the first digital rotoscoping tools which gained a wide acceptance in the film post production pipeline. Matador started as a tool made for editing still images, so many of the tools used for motion work were not well thought out. Matador provides excellent matte creation tools including b-splines, motion tracking, and a full set of painting and cloning tools, with full 16bit/channel support. Avid stopped development of Matador in the late 90's.

The original developers tried to spin it off into a new company called Blue, but that never took off. Matador had strong wire tools that allowed for median painting that would remove a wire from a frame via a brush that performed median filtering.


Developed by Scott Squires,  at the time an Industrial Light and Magic visual effects supervisor, Commotion was used for years at ILM before Squires formed Puffin Designs and released it to the public. Commotion, then called Flipbook, was sighted often at ILM and mistakenly referred to as the “secret ILM motion version of Photoshop. Though Commotion looked very similar to Photoshop in some respects, Commotions interface and tools were designed for moving images, and was the first tool on the desktop to offer realtime ram based playback. This realtime core functionality was the foundation for all of the wire removal tools added as the product developed.

Advanced wire removal tools include raster based paint, spatial and temporal cloning, clone to center wire removal tools (which painted from the outside of the brush stoke to the center of the same brush stroke), auto-paint, unlimited bezier and natural cubic b-splines, motion blur on rotosplines, and a very fast and accurate motion tracker. Commotion quickly became the de-facto roto tool in the industry, replacing Matador in most post facilities. Commotion curves could even be exported and imported into AfterEffects. Puffin Designs was acquired by Pinnacle Systems in 2000, but sadly development has stopped on the product. All the original developers left and no new work ever been done on the product.

Most paint work done in the wire removal process is used for touching up film or video footage. This includes removing wires and rigs, removing logos, dust busting, scratch removal, etc. Clearly, roto plays a key role in solutions beyond hand painting. Roto-based approaches have the huge advantage in that they are repeatable, or able to be rendered, so a shot can be reworked without requiring starting from scratch. Roto is therefore often central to any wire removal process. In these circumstances, the roto tool must provide a procedural temporal and/or spatial cloning. Spatial cloning is a type of cloning which takes pixels from one position of the frame, and paints the source onto another position on the frame. Photoshop's rubber stamp tool is an example of spatial cloning, but it is not easily automated. Temporal cloning allows one to paint pixels from one frame in a sequence to another frame. Commotion's Super Clone tool is an example of temporal cloning.

A good wire/roto tool should provide both of these options so users can offset position and frame number together. Other cloning tools include wire removal tools which allow you to draw a line to zip out a wire. Typically, wire removal tools clone pixels from a specified value on either side of the line, then smear the outside pixels together to cover up the wire or scratch. More advanced wire removal tools will add advanced cloning techniques to the wire removal process. For example, Commotion looks at a specified number of pixels on either side of the line, flips those pixel values then cross dissolves to cover up the wire.


One of the few companies to aggressively try and produce specific wire removal tools is The Foundry in London. Released initially as plugins for Flame, The Foundry now produces a large variety of solutions for a range of applications such as Shake and Nuke.

The Foundry's Furnace tools are based on producing a rotoscoped or animated spline path that can then have a variety of techniques deployed. The Foundry's spline defines the shape of the wire (straight or curved) and the width. It will then use one of four techniques to clone, average, clone to center or temporally remove the wire. In so doing it attempts to not remove film grain and instead just replace the wire. The techniques increase in computational complexity, and are generally agreed to be currently some of the best implementations anywhere, "best in class".

It is openly agreed - even by The Foundry, - that the tools are not one button press fixes that always work perfectly. Rather, the logic is that the wire removal tools can successfully remove a large amount of unwanted wire, but the last 20 percent will need manual or human intervention. As you can hear in this week's fxpodcast, nearly all professional wire removers use Furnace for this reason, and universally agree that getting the job 80% done is invaluable. However, there is a significant gap between any computer solution and an acceptable feature film final shot.

MokeyAs the task of wire removal extends to rig removal, The Foundry and companies such as Imagineer Systems also produce planar trackers. These trackers are widely used to solve wire and rig removal but are not solely aimed at these tasks. Imagineering produces a set of very impressive planar tracker solutions such as Mocha which will track a region of a shot. These regional tracking approaches allow much better "patch' style solutions since the 'patch' can now move in three dimensions and much more seamlessly blend with the original plate.

Imagineering also produces automated roto tools such as Mokey which can aid in separating an object from the background. The combination of this and rotoscoping allow the 2D and 3D environment techniques discussed next to work well. Products such as Mocha and Mokey are not wire removal tools in and of themselves but impressive and valuable tools that aid more advanced solutions which would otherwise be impractical.

7. 2D Background Replacement
Some of the most advanced solutions do not try and minimize the region of the frame which is being painted or retouched. Rather, they remove the entire background and replace it with a clean background tracked in 2D to look real. An example would be wire work done for a martial arts film. In these films extensive wire work is often required. Chinese senior VFX artist August Zhuang gave the example of a fight on wires staged in a small clearing, in front of bamboo. The complex nature of the vertical bamboo made many techniques fails and the amount of complex wires and rigs needed to be removed meant the shot was always going to be very complex. Rather than tackle the wires individually, Zhuang and his team roto-ed the actors off the background and then replaced it.

Using multiple frames from the sequence which revealed clean sections of the background, the team was able to piece together a single long panorama of the bamboo clearing. They would then track this matte painting back in to every shot, replacing the original background with a nearly identical flat 2D cyclorama without any wires. They were careful to create accurate 2D tracks and apply the correct amount of motion blur on each shot. This approach proved more effective and less time consuming than wire removing 20 individual wires one at a time.

8. 3D Environment Replacement

The logical extension of 2D set replacement is full 3D set replacement. Some productions choose to start this way and film the original plate on greenscreen, while others seek more realistic lighting by filming without greenscreen and manually rotoscoping all the key elements such as actors, and then dropping in 3D behind them. In cases where primary plate photography is not greenscreen,2D background replacement techniques such as the ones listed above can be used and the matte painting is projected or mapped over 3D geometry to allow more complex 3d spatial camera moves. 3D environment replacement has grown in popularity in large part to the advances in 3D tracking and 3D automated camera software from companies such as Pixel Farm, 2d3, Syntheyes, Realviz and 3d Equaliser.

For Die Hard 4, the elevator shaft behind Bruce Willis was extended and a virtual 3D set added to build out from the real set. The set extension had to be three dimensional to work with the complex camera moves that the team at the Orphanage was presented with. The shot works due to the quality of the wire removal on the foreground, the accuracy of the roto, and the skill of the Orphanage's 3D team in matching the lighting and textures so accurately.

In this week's podcast we speak to Aaron Rhodes, the Roto/Paint Supervisor at the Orphanage. We discuss the approaches below in terms of the real world of feature films and the Orphanage's work on Die Hard 4 in particular.

Sourse :- vfguide

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2007 - 2008 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations revealed

Animated shows from FOX, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are all in contention for an Emmy this year.
Heroes, Battlestar Galactica and others are in the running for the big VFX awards.
On Sunday, September 21 at 8 pm the telecast awarding Primetime Emmys in 29 categories will be presented before a black-tie audience and televised by the ABC Television Network from the NOKIA Theatre, Los Angeles live.

Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Series

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA "He That Believeth In Me" -- Sci Fi Channel -- Universal Media Studios in association with R & D TV
Gary Hutzel, Visual Effects Supervisor
Michael Gibson, Visual Effects Producer
David Takemura, Visual Effects Coordinator
Doug Drexler, CGI Supervisor
Kyle Toucher, CG Artist
Sean Jackson, CG Artist
Pierre Drolet, CG Modeler
Aurore de Blois, Senior Compositor
Derek Ledbetter, Compositor

HEROES -- "Four Months Ago" -- NBC -- Universal Media Studios in association with Tail Wind Productions
Eric Grenaudier, Visual Effects Supervisor
Mark Spatny, Visual Effects Producer
Gary D’Amico, Special Effects Supervisor
Mike Enriquez, Lead CGI Artist
Michael Cook, Lead CGI Artist
Diego Galtieri, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Ryan Wieber, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Chris Martin, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Daniel Kumiega, Lead CGI Animator

HUMAN BODY: PUSHING THE LIMITS -- "Strength" -- Discovery Channel -- Dangerous Films Ltd. in association with Discovery Channel
Tim Goodchild, Visual Effects Supervisor
Louise Hussey, Visual Effects Producer
Mike Tucker, Special Effects Supervisor
Nick Kool, Lead Model Maker
Hayden Jones, CGI Supervisor
Mark Pascoe, Lead CGI Artist
Angela Noble, Lead CGI Artist
Peter Tyler, Visual Effects Cameraman

JERICHO -- "Patriots And Tyrants" -- CBS -- CBS Paramount Television M
Andrew Orloff, Visual Effects Supervisor
Blythe Dalton, Visual Effects Producer
John Stirber, Special Effects Supervisor
Chris Jones, Compositing Supervisor
Michael Cliett, CGI Supervisor
Lane Jolly, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Johnathan R. Banta, Lead Matte Artist
Josh Hooker, Lead CGI Artist

STARGATE ATLANTIS -- "Adrift" -- Sci Fi Channel -- Pegasus III
Mark Savela, Visual Effects Supervisor
Shannon Gurney, Visual Effects Coordinator
Erica Henderson, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Jason Gross, CGI Supervisor
Jamie Yukio Kawano, Lead CGI Artist
Michael Lowes, Lead CGI Artist
Giles Hancock, Lead Matte Artist
Jeremy Kehler, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Daniel Osaki, Lead Model Maker

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES -- "Pilot" -- FOX -- C2 Pictures in association with Warner Bros. Television
James Lima, Visual Effects Supervisor
Chris Zapara, CG Supervisor
Lane Jolly, Compositing Supervisor
Steve Graves, 3D Modeler/Animator
Rick Schick, Compositor
Jeff West, Compositor
Bradley Mullennix, Modeler

Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

COMANCHE MOON -- "Part 1" -- CBS -- The Firm/Sony Pictures Television/CBS Paramount
Scott Ramsey, Visual Effects Supervisor
Randy Moore, Special Effects Supervisor
Chris Martin, Visual Effects Compositor
Megan Omi, Visual Effects Compositor
Richard Sachar, Visual Effects Compositor
Ragui Hanna, Visual Effects Compositor
Daniel Kumiega, Visual Effects Animator
Cedric Tomacruz, Matte Painter
Kristin Johnson, Matte Painter

THE COMPANY -- "Part 2" -- TNT -- Scott Free/John Callery Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television
Viktor Muller, Visual Effects Supervisor
Vit Komrzy, Visual Effects Producer
Jan Vseticek, Visual Effects Coordinator
Miro Gal, Lead Digital Compositor
Peter Nemec, Lead Digital Compositor
Jiri Stamfest, Lead Digital Matte Painter
Jaroslav Matys, Lead 3D Digital Artist

JOHN ADAMS -- "Join Or Die" -- HBO -- Playtone in association with HBO Films
Erik Henry, Visual Effects Supervisor
Jeff Goldman, Visual Effects Supervisor
Paul Graff, Visual Effects Supervisor
Steve Kullback, Visual Effects Producer
Christina Graff, Visual Effects Producer
David Van Dyke, Visual Effects Producer
Robert Stromberg, Visual Effects Designer
Edwardo Mendez, Compositing Supervisor
Ken Gorrell, Special Effects Coordinator

LIFE AFTER PEOPLE -- History Channel -- Flight 33 Productions for History Television Network Productions, A&E Television Networks
Matt Drummond, Visual Effects Supervisor
Max Ivins, Visual Effects Supervisor
Steffen Schlachtenhaufen, Visual Effects Producer
Melinka Thompson-Godoy, Visual Effects Producer
Andrea D’Amico, Visual Effects Producer
Danny Kim, Matte Painter/Compositor
Dave Morton, Lead Visual Effects Artist
Jim May, Digital Artist
Casey Benn, Digital Artist

TIN MAN -- "Part 1" -- Sci Fi Channel -- RHI Ent.
Lee Wilson, Visual Effects Supervisor
Lisa Sepp-Wilson, Visual Effects Producer
Sébastien Bergeron, Digital Effects Supervisor
Todd Liddiard, Lead Visual Effecs Compositor
Philippe Thibault, Lead Visual Effects Compositor
Les Quinn, CGI Supervisor
Mike Goddard, Lead CGI Artist
Ken Lee, Lead CGI Artist
Andrew Domachowski, Lead CGI Artist

For a complete list of Emmy nominees, go to

VES releases white-paper on VFX

The Visual Effects Society (VES) has published its first ever white paper, entitled "The State of Visual Effects in the Entertainment Industry."
The paper, drawn from inputs from numerous sources including a VES think-tank discussion, the VES Executive Committee and others, examines existing conditions within the VFX industry and how these issues affect the entertainment business on a macro scale, from workflow to the interaction of personnel within various departments. The white-paper also assesses the extraordinary impact that the digital revolution has caused.
"The VES is the foremost knowledge-base in the world concerning VFX and we feel that we have a unique perspective as to how the work of visual artists and technologists intersect to have a huge impact on the business model bottom line," said VES Executive Director Eric Roth. "We are very excited to publish this first paper, which will serve as a foundation for future white papers delving into significant issues which face not only our craft, but the entertainment industry as a whole," Roth added.
For the white paper:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interview with VCL Creative Director Pankaj Khandpur

Animation in films is taking baby steps with each movie that gets released and many predict that YRF-Disney‘s Roadside Romeo, slated for a late October release, will be the litmus test for animation films in India.
Visual Computing Labs (VCL), a division of TATA ELXSI, located in Mumbai has seen most of the work for Jugal Hansraj‘s magnum opus happening within the confines of it‘s formal yet cosy studio floor. Presiding over the team is the Creative Director of VCL, Pakaj Khandpur.
Stalwart Khandpur is amongst the most well known and respected professionals in the business, in the animation, VFX and gaming industry; in Bollywood and also in Hollywood.

In an exclusive interview Khandpur talks with passion about his director Jugal Hansraj, the current trends in VFX, the importance of good training and his moorings on the realities of the Indian Animation.

What new projects is VCL handling?
We have started work on the second film, after Romeo, which is also a Yashraj-Disney film. It doesn’t have a name yet… it is untitled. The script is ready and preproduction has started.

So what is the movie about?
(laughs) Buy a movie ticket and see it 18 months from now.

So it is the second movie coming from the Yashraj-Disney stable?

Which stage is Roadside Romeo in?
About 95 per cent of the animation is done and we are in shot finalling and lighting, Right now and about 15 per cent of the movie is completely ready, on film. We have seen it, we have presented it. It’s been liked a lot. It’s looking very good and we are very pleased with the quality we are getting in terma of the quality of animation, the quality of look and feel, lighting. We believe that this [Roadside Romeo] will be fairly close to an international specification as opposed to what we say ‘this is good for India’. I think this will be good for the rest of the world as well.

You have worked with many Bollywood directors. How has your experience of working with Jugal Hansraj been, given the fact that this is his debut as a director?
Jugal is an incredible person. I disagree completely with the idea that because you’ve never directed a film, you can’t direct one. We all started somewhere, isn’t it? We all started from not knowing what we were doing, to beginning to know what we are doing. The thing about Jugal is that he has two very admirable qualities that have helped Romeo a great deal. Number one, he has passion beyond what I expected anybody to have. He has written the script;in fact, he has lived, eaten, drunk that script. So he knows when something works for him and how well he works for him. He knows the story and the performances inside out. He has directed the performance of the voice stars brilliantly.

The second incredible thing about him is that he has the patience – because as you know animation requires a huge amount of patience – far more than any of us do. In animation there is a huge leap of imagination that you have to have between the time you actually start seeing the basic work till the final render. That period could be more than a year! You therefore have to fill in the gaps a lot. You are looking at a character and saying that this looks nice as a playblast but what will it look like with lighting, what will the mood be when the lighting, texture, fur, backgrounds come in… none of which you are seeing but you are expected to react to it. It’s like shooting a film with the lights turned off and telling the director, “Don’t worry, when the lights come on it will look great.” The director can see vaguely, barely what he needs to see, but he has to imagine a lot of things. And that is an incredible [quality]. In fact, that is something that I would tell all potential directors of animation films.

To come back to your question, I think it’s an asset that he has never directed a film before. The fact that he has never directed helps; if he had, especially a live action film – you’d be spoilt. In a live action film when you are shooting a scene, when actors do the shot and they get it right, you know it’s done. There is nothing more for your imagination to see. In this instance [animation movies], not only are you imagining the whole film and how it works - because you are also not seeing scenes in order – but you are also expected to imagine within the scenes.

Is TATA ELXSI also working with UTV?
We have been working with UTV in other areas for many years. Personally, I have been involved with UTV in the past. The UTV and UTV Spotboy logo has been done by us. We are talking to them about animation as well.

About features as well?

So can we expect UTV and Visual Computing Labs joining hands together?
Right now we are working as we are with other clients in delivering animation production [to them].

Which trends do you see in VFX?
It’s very good to see that the bar is being raised every year, and it is being raised not proportionalely but logarithmically which means every year the amount of use of VFX goes up manifold. That’s an incredible thing to see. We are thrilled that our work is getting more exciting and challenging every year. We are forced to learn new things, be more innovative in what we do. What else could you wish for? Filmmakers are beginning to understand and use the power of VFX. It is an incredible time to be in this business.

Where does India stand in the global VFX scenario?
It’s a fairly simplistic question but there is no simple answer. Hollywood is a benchmark because they have pushed the curve a great deal. They have the resources, the money-power, the software skills, the artist skills and they have all of these by a factor of 300 or 400 more than what India does. When you have that high level of capability in all areas, your filmmakers want to push the bar. India is a micro-ecosystem. Studios like TATA ELXSI are already doing work for international projects. We have worked for projects like last year’s Spirerman 3, Ghost Rider and Lions for Lambs, Iron Man this year. In fact, we have credits on these films. We have done bits of Indiana Jones.

Now, are we doing that level of work? No. We don’t have the resources, the capability and the skills in adequate numbers to be able to do it. Once we have the skills, there is no reason why we won’t be able to do it. Right now you can do it [work which meets international standards] in pockets and you can do it in very limited quantities. For example, we are doing some fairly cutting-edge work for Indian feature films. But our output is limited by the number of artists with the high-level of skill sets that we require. As we go forward and more and more artists and willing to enter the field and take the trouble to learn and grow as artists, there is no reason why you won’t get to the same [international] spot.

What have been VCL’s recent Indian projects?
Joodha Akbar, Taare Zameen Par, Aaja Nachle, Tara Rum Pum, Rang De Basanti, Gandhi My Father, Dhoom 2, in the past one-and-half-years.

TATA ELXSI has made foray into gaming. What are the developments on that front?
It’s early days in the gaming business. We have some interesting work going on right now. It seems to be gaining definite and quick traction. Our teams are in Bangalore (console gaming) and Pune (mobile gaming). VCL Mumbai handles the art. Though we are setting up smaller skeleton units for art in each of these units for specific work, but when it becomes large scale work we [Mumbai] will still take care of the game cinematics and art.

We also remember that our pedigree as a company is that we are a software engineering company. We have almost 3,000 software engineers. So a large part of our capability is indeed delivering an end-to-end solution to the client which is from writing the algorithms for the engine all the way through to the final art and geometry that is required to make a game.

How much does VCL contribute to TATA ELXSI in terms of financials?
The turnover of TATA ELXSI is more than Rs 400 crore for the last financial year. At this moment, VCL contributes around 5-10 per cent of the total revenues. We are hoping that VCL will be the fastest growing part of TATA ELXSI.

IP creation or service providing: where do you see most of the revenues coming from?
Right now there are no revenues in IP creation. Animation is nascent, it’s a baby business. There have been one successful animated film (Hanuman). The others, I understand, have not done as well as they could have. So there is no animation industry, so to speak. We are hoping that this will change. As professionals we are hoping that our own [Indian] market recognises animation as an industry, as a genre and appreciate it and pay good money to see it. That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? But you have to start somewhere.

A film like Roadside Romeo will be a watershed film, it’ll be a milestone. The reason why it’ll be a milestone is that it will be India’s first mainstream Bollywood film. It is not a mythological. All the animated features that we have spoken about and seen are mythologicals; because it’s a safe bet. Generally I think you are more forgiving as an audience when you see a mythological because you are seeing your beloved gods and characters performing. So you are kind of forgiving about the quality standards, as the subject is so dear to your heart. It’s a safe subject, people assume that a mythological will receover its money.

Now, here comes along a film like Roadside Romeo which has nothing to do with mythology. It’s a proper Bollywood masala-formula film. It has a hero, heroine and a villain. It has a boy-meets-girl and a boy-loses-girl. It has six songs. So its following a typical Bollywood formula, right? In fact, it’s spoofing the Bollywood formula. The beauty of the thing is that it’s built to international specifications and quality levels. So you are seeing good international quality animation product but you can connect with it. As an Indian audience you can connect with it. Now, the success or failure of Roadside Romeo will be a very good indicator of where the animation industry is going. So we are praying, indeed, that films like Roadside Romeo do well at the box office. In our business like any other business, nothing succeeds like success. So even if you are a brilliant film but if it’s not successful, you haven’t [really] achieved what you had set out to achieve. Hence, it is important that we are a box office success, so that there is a future for this industry.

In the case of outsourcing, why are companies in the business? Because we realise that IP in India is not adequate yet to build the kind of organisation that you want with the people that you require. It’s not enough to fund you and to keep you going. And it is not going to be. If you ask me as a personal conviction, change will happen. But the objective is that you outsource, get the stability you need and then start doing IP when you are ready to do IP. See, all of us can jump in and say ‘let me start doing my own film’. It takes a lot to do your own film; it’s not easy to do it. It requires huge skill sets and huge amount of revenues to do it well. If you are doing, then do it well. But for that you have to spend a lot of money, get the skill sets, spend a lot of time and have lots of patience. So while you are doing all of these things, you have to outsource. And in the mean time, the scenario is that you will have IP that will work, maybe some crossover might work… we don’t know. Once you see that there is an industry that can be sustainable… that’s the whole key. There is no point in you and I doing business if you are operating in an industry in which there is no future.

When it comes to VFX, what do you see as the emerging trends globally?
The use of more and more technology that is being kicked into projects. For example motion-capture is a big deal. I predict that you will see a lot more of motion capture, and not only in animation. I am talking VFX, about CGI done using motion-capture. Beowulf is a recent film in which the CGI has been done completely by motion-capture. That’s one trend.

We’re going to see a lot of high-technology being kicked into VFX. Yet the traditional artistic skills will still be required in CGI… even if it’s digital you need great talent to be able to pull it off. So, are we getting there [international standards]? Yes, we are. We are using exactly the same technology as the West is using. In fact, we as a company, are writing some of the tools that the West is using. We are providing pipeline tools to one of the top three animation companies and the number one VFX company in the US. So when you say that we are using the tools, we are actually creating them, on one level.

Is India more technically sound than the West?
Let me give you a parallel… the Indian software engineer is very well respected. So if you noticed, it is the technology in engineering skills that is going out first, whether outsource or off-shore or even near-shore. Like we do some work in Japan - what we call near shore – we have set up our own centre but not at the clients’ location but in our own location in Tokyo. So, definitely the Indian mind is considered very analytical and mathematical… it’s a proven record since the late 1970’s. Hence the first thing that gets required and wanted is engineering and technology services. We are doing it in gaming.

You might ask me why is creativity not following? The reason is simple. The logic applied is– I am not necessarily agreeing with it – that when you talk creativity and aesthetics you are talking about cultural sensibilities. You are talking about designing something for an American audience but by an Indian designer. How easy is that to bridge? I don’t know. But that is definitely a thought in the minds of North American costumers. We have been involved and have designed every single part of Roadside Romeo, right from the the visualization to pre production. Would an American company get us to do that? I doubt it. Why? Because they will say how do you understand what American culture is? But that line is blurring, it’s a matter of time before one of our projects are seen and people say that ‘these guys are like us’. OK the language is different. But it’s just a matter of modifying the attitudes. What’s the big deal in doing that?

What do you see as their pros and cons of Indian animators?
The Indian animator is very good. Indian animator is also completely indisciplined. That’s a pro and a con straightaway. Our power of expression is brilliant, our animation capability in my opinion is as good as the rest of the world. I think a little bit of mentoring and guidance and, I think, our animators will be as good as anyone in the world. It’s only a matter of time. What’s holding us back is the fact that there are not many animation projects. Now if you don’t have enough animation projects, where do you learn, where do you grow? Who do you bounce off ideas against, who do you mentor under? It’s only when you do enough of them, is when you start growing and doing better things.

There is a certain discipline that is required to deliver animation in a reasonable time. That is the key. Unfortunately, our productivity levels are not really good. Considering the kind of animation we do, we can certainly do better than that. Artists in India need to understand that it is a profession and in a profession it is not just enough to have the power of expression and the talent. Disciplining the talent is as important. Sometimes there is a question mark about Indian deliveries, timeliness. You hear less problems about Indian quality but more about Indian timeliness. It is important to fix both.

What are the projects VCL is working on right now?
There is the untitled project with Disney which will have animals and will be a Bollywood masala film. When it comes to VFX, we are working on about five projects right now including God Tussi Great Ho, Drona, Bachna Aye Haseeno and Rab ne Bana di Jodi. It terms of Bollywood we are expecting a big project by July end for which we are co-bidding with the Hollywood company.

The level of HR inflow into the industry is often criticised. Comments.
We have as a country not invested time in training. We have not invested in helping students to grow and become good artists. If you are talking about training schools that do operate in India.. those are not training but vocational schools, those are schools that teach you how to use the tools. And they do their job. What are the aesthetic and artistic skills that you have inculcated in your artists, is the question mark. So just because you can do a great walk-cycle, it means nothing. But doing a walk-cycle with attitude that gives you a certain storytelling is the key to the whole thing. Who teaches you that? Nobody does. We still don’t have, it might have changed, any institution that does this kind of training. What investment have any of us made in the proper sort of training? So why are we complaining? You’ll be stuck with this: low productivity, lack of professional attitude, lack of discipline, lack of adequate aesthetics and creativity. You don’t think when you work… you press buttons. That’s the sad reality. When you are saying that artists enter the business with the intention of making money, well they’ll exit also equally quickly. Because earning money is an end product to what you do, it’s not the reason why you do what you do.

Can you elucidate on your concept of training?
I believe in this concept of the right sort of training. I believe in vocational training certainly but it is only the base level you can start with. After that, there is a hell lot that you have to learn. We take artists who have either worked for a year of or have done vocational training. We have a school of VCL, so to speak, we take 20 artists every three months and we work with them on the floor. After the first month or two they are actually mentored by actual departments. They have very rigorous schedules. We have had three batches, and all 60 are with the company.

Recently a batch of 20 students and artists from here were sent to the University of Southern California for a workshop that we designed, which the University of Southern California executed for us. It was academic training, it was understanding your role in the history of CGI. We did the history of animation, how VFX was done before digital technology came in. At the same time we they had exposure to cutting-edge technology: what is stereoscopy, they actually spent two days at a motion-capture lab there. We did a cross-pollination of artists, through which the animator was studying visual effects. This was done so that the artist knows his universe. It is unfortunate that many artists have blinkers on. They do not realise that the fine degree of specialisation will make one very dependent on everybody else.

I have to convince my artists that what they are doing is the finest and the most noblest thing that they could ever do.

What are the challenges while dealing with technology?
We are the first studio in the country that started with massive, which is a crowd multiplication algorithm and has an artificial intelligence component. In fact, we are using the world’s fourth fastest CPU, with 4,000 CPUs, based in Computational Research Laboratories for rendering Romeo.

What are you your hopes and aspirations from Roadside Romeo?
I just hope that we go where we want to. If we can all contribute be it training, be it evangelist, be it pushing the curve with every project. In VFX we have reached a place where we try and do things that we have already done. And if you look at our track record we do a maximum of a dozen films every year as we try to do the best job possible. So, with Roadside Romeo I was very clear with what I wanted. I told the team, I told myself, I told everybody that when we see this film projected… no one should say ‘this is good for India, yaar’. Any audience should see and not wonder where it was made. What is good for India should also be good for the world. So that’s why it‘s so critical that the film should work.

My advice to anyone who wants to make an animated film in India: don’t do it (laughs). It’s very difficult. It takes the mickey out of you. If you are doing it above a certain level to maintain the desired quality, it becomes very difficult. No excuses, remember, in whatever we do.