Coalition, the answer to a flourishing VFX industry in India

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The visual effects industry in India is barely a couple of decades old, which pales in comparison to the global scheme of things, but has grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of years based on the learnings that it has taken from past experiences. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, these are merely baby steps that have been taken, the entire journey is yet to be traveled (which is a never ending road of exploration and experimentation).

In the earlier feature (How much is too much when it comes to S/VFX shots in movies?) we had seen that although the number of shots or work which goes into the filmmaking process nowadays – keeping in mind special effects and visual effects – has grown exponentially, the kind of work which is being done by various visual effects studios is still not at par with what you get to experience when you are watching a Hollywood feature film in the same genre. So what is required to attain similar (if not better) results in the Indian context of things? Let’s try find answers to this perennial question/allegation/doubt/criticism… you get the picture!

Join forces and work to your strengths!

EGO! Yes these three letters are one of the primary reasons responsible for currently strangling the industry to breathe with ease and not allowing established as well as newer mushrooming studios to have a sustainable growth.

It is very common in the ‘West’ for VFX outfits to work collectively on a single movie project, as it is believed that they are better off working on the sequences which they have a mastery in, also allowing the production of the feature film to wrap-up on schedule as well.

Here there is already the issue of manipulation of pricing from both the movie production houses as well as the VFX studios’ end. Here is how it works – When a production house has locked in its cast and crew for its new project, it will then narrow in on the number of sequences – which the director believes will require the assistance of special effects or visual effects (although it always ends up having double of the estimated, if not more, in terms of the VFX shots for those sequences) and then the director along with the production house scout for a VFX studio, which they believe will be able to pull off the shots just like it plays out in the head of the director.

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A still from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was very rich in visual effects and was one of the highest grossing movie of 2014

This is precisely where things begin to go downhill; how can a director possibly be in a position to predict the number of VFX shots that would be required for a particular sequence in his film, when even the visual effects supervisor sometimes has an error in judgement after having years of experience under his/her belt. What is required, and is a best practice in the ‘West’, is to involve the VFX supervisor right from the scripting stage itself. This will not only enable the director to better visualise his project, but will also clear any doubts in his head as to how many VFX shots would be required to deliver a particular visual heavy sequence in the movie, with the right guidance by his VFX supervisor.

Things are improving slowly now, with new age directors giving their undivided attention to the inputs given by the VFX supervisor at the early stages of the project, but there is always room for improvement as well as the need of the hour is to look at getting photorealistic effects in our live action feature films and not leave us asking at the end of the movie ‘Did we just see an animated movie?’

The filmmakers and visual effects studios down south in India have always been lauded for their attempt in pushing the envelope in the kind of stories they tell on the silver screen or even the kind of visually extravagant tales of valor and endearing love stories.

What has also enabled these filmmakers to live their dreamy tales on celluloid is the fact that everyone involved in any of the projects want to contribute towards making the film a success, keeping aside personal agendas and profitability on an individualistic standpoint.

Take the example of any of recent movies, like Shankar’s ‘I’ or SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus ‘Baahubali – The Beginning’, each of the projects had many VFX studios working together to ensure the director’s vision was brought to life. These are things which are yet to be explored in other sectors of the film industry, majorly Bollywood, but for that to happen, production houses need to take a call on whether they wish to shell out crore of rupees on roping in the biggest of the stars or think more wisely and invest in adapting the best in technology and enhance the experiential quotient of their stories.

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SS Rajamouli with VFX supervisor Srinivas Mohan during the filming of the war sequence from ‘Baahubali – The Beginning’

Where is India’s Visual Effects Society?

Taking forward the curse of ‘the three letters’, the Indian visual effects industry has in the past five years become a lot more stable than what it was may have been a decade ago, but yet if seen from the growth index it is hardly anything worth of mention.

It’s high time the industry wakes up and smells the coffee. We always keep hearing tales from the crypt about how Rhythm and Hues had to shut shop even after receiving an Oscar for its work on ‘Life of Pie’, but have we really done anything to avoid such instances from occurring in the near future?

The country has some of the most experienced VFX supervisors and producers, who have seen the industry stumble, crawl, walk and even rise up to the occasion during the last decade. All that is needed is for these artisans and  visionaries to come together on a common platform and look at long term solutions for the hurdles that are currently restricting the industry from growing at a faster pace. Everyone is aware of the ‘Elephant in the room’, but it is now time to guide it out of the room and make room for a more high growth oriented approach towards improving the way the VFX industry is currently functioning.

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It’s a sellers market, not a buyers! Remember it!

Price manipulation is something that has been troubling the film industry overall, but if there is one segment of the filmmaking process in recent history that has suffered tremendously is the visual effects department.

There is this saying, ‘A good/bad edit can make/break the film’s box-office chances’, though this saying still holds much truth even now; there is a lot of weightage that VFX also carries for the visually appealing movies of today and it has become indispensable now.

We had made this statement in the earlier feature as well, but this is a point that needs to be driven home to all VFX studios. The industry will always have sustainability issues if the studios don’t ask for the right price for the work that they do on films. Having spoken to many industry stalwarts in the VFX space, we have got to know that most of the studios lose almost 1/4 of the original quoted price’s share of any project due to overshooting the required number of hours allocated for a particular project, as there are last minute revisions and re-shoots that are sent from the client and the studio delivers the work to ensure the client leaves happy, but in the process causing sleepless nights for the artists, who are working on the project with much dedication and passion.

These are things that need urgent attention from all VFX studios across the country to ensure employee welfare and at the same point of time being credited for the work they do, not just in kind but also in monetary terms.

In conclusion we once again urge all the folks in the industry out there to not only respect your work, but also demand the right price for the work you do! Because after all everyone knows what will happen to a ‘Baahubali’ or ‘Krrish’ if there was no VFX to bring the dream of the director alive!

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Feel free to write back to us with your feedback and suggestions on what else would you like to read more on TheGraphicSlate.com on our email id: tgs@thegraphicslate.com

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