Visual special effects are common today in movies and ad films. Those with the requisite technical skill set and an artistic and aesthetic temperament can do well in the field
Rajnikanth’s recent film Robot was one of the biggest hits in the history of Asian cinema. Besides the larger-than-life persona of Rajnikanth, the real ‘hero’ of Robot is visual special effects (VFX). Again it is VFX which will ‘overshadow’ Shah Rukh Khan in Ra.One which will be released in October. VFX will make SRK do impossible feats.
VFX is also used in ad films, for instance, Salman Khan jumping from the mountain top in a para-glider in the Mountain Dew ad.
Some of the biggest film hits of the last decade have either been animated films or films with visual effects such as the Harry Potter series, the Chronicles of Narnia and Clash of the Titans to name a few. In fact, today most of the films have some element of VFX although this may not be so apparent.
Cinema which was a restricted industry in that only a few technicians such as film editors, cinematographers and creative artistes such as directors, actors, musicians, lyricists, screenplay writers were involved in it. But today VFX which is widely used in the film industry has opened opportunities to hundreds of creative personnel engaged in creating VFX.
The National Association of Software Companies (NASSCOM) states that the estimated requirement of talent in VFX and Animation in 2012 would be 29,500 highly skilled artists.
The Price Waterhouse Coopers report on ‘Indian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2010’ estimated the Indian market size of VFX and the animation industry at US$ 402 million in 2009 and is expected to grow at a rate of 27 per cent to reach US $ 1.17 billion by 2014. In India, VFX career opportunities exist in Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai.
VFX calls for two sets of skills. The technical skill set is software based, while it is also important to have an artistic and aesthetic sense. Both are critical.
VFX combines the best of the arts and the sciences; youngsters who are creatively and artistically inclined can look at VFX as a very strong career option, but will need to supplement that innate artistic inclination with technical and software skills. VFX doesn’t only require artists but also techies who could develop in-house proprietary software, scripts and pipeline innovations.
There is a diversity of skill sets in VFX. Within the general production process, there is tracking, layout, animation, modelling, lighting, rotoscopy, prep, paint and compositing.
MAYA, Boujou, 3D Equalizer, Nuke, Shake, Silhouette and Photoshop are the most commonly used software.
Institutions, degrees and diplomas
As India has a vibrant film industry, the advances made in VFX is a natural extension. Big names in the film industry have entered the VFX arena. For instance, Whistling Wood International, is an academy launched by Bollywood director-producer Subhash Ghai. Another recent entrant is the Institute of Creative Excellence (ICE), an initiative of Balaji Telefilms with yesteryears star Jeetendra Kapoor as the Chairman and Ekta Kapoor, producer of such teleserials like Kyunki Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu thi, as its Director. ICE takes students through the basics to advanced training in live action VFX required for films and TV.
Several institutions across the country, including Bangalore conduct both degree and diploma courses in visual effects. FX school in Mumbai provides a nine-month diploma in VFX and digital filmmaking and another nine-month diploma course in computer animation and visual effects.
The Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC) in association with IGNOU offers a BA degree in 3D Animation and Visual Effects. Students learn 3D modelling, 3D lighting, 3D animation, FX and dynamics, fluid systems, cinematography, cinematic lighting and digital image enhancement among other things.
The Bangalore campus of Manipal University has a BSc degree in Visual Effects. Over six semesters students learn animation, digital art, cinematography and editing, basic 3D art, 3D lighting and surfacing, 3D animation, FX and dynamics. They also do an advanced VFX project.
The Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology has a two-and-a-half year undergraduate professional diploma programme in animation and visual effects for 2D and 3D animation.
Cavalier Animation in Bangalore has a BSc degree in animation and film-making and a short-term diploma in VFX.
Some of the reputed institutes abroad are Vancouver Film School (Vancouver, Canada); Cal Arts (California, USA); Dave School (USA); Escape Studios (London, UK): Ringling College of Arts & Design (Florida, USA); Van Arts (Vancouver, Canada); Gnomon School of Visual Effects (California, USA). There are some institutions in India which have international affiliation or have partnered with institutes abroad for a few courses.
* Manipal University, Bangalore campus, Survey No 36, Chokanahalli, Hegdenagar, Jakkur Post, Bangalore North, Bangalore-560064. Phone: 22796000/ 22796111
*Whistling Woods International, Film City Complex, Goregaon (East), Mumbai-400065. Phone: (022) 30916000.
* FX School, 105, Morya landmark, Opp Infinity Mall, New Link Road, Andheri (W), Mumbai-400053. Phone: (022)42354235.
Frameboxx Animation and Visual Effects Pvt Ltd, SVP Nagar, Near Versova Telephone Exchange, Andheri (West), Mumbai-400053 (Phone 22-65262927).
* Institute of Creative Excellence, Killick Nixon Studios, Opp Linkway Honda Showroom, Next ot Chandivali Petrol Pump, Chandivali, Andheri (East), Mumbai-400072 (Phone: 22-42390040).
* Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC), 23, Shah Industrial Estate, Off Veera Desai Road, Andheri (West), Mumbai-400 053. Phone: (22) 40821111. There are centres in Koramangala, Indira Nagar and Jayanagar in Bangalore.
* Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Yelahanka New Town, Doddabalapur Road, Bangalore-560106. (Phone: 40446964).
* Cavalier Kammanahalli, 218/1 Above Alice Jewellers, 3rd Block, HRBR Layout, Kammanahalli Main Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41732580.
From the horse’s mouth
Akhauri P Sinha, General Manager, MPC (The Moving Picture Company), India
On MPC in Bangalore: We have a team of 160, who create effects for live action films which would otherwise be difficult to shoot or carry out. There are two or three kinds of effects — for instance creating something which does not exist like a monster or spaceship. Another kind of special effect is making a real character do impossible things like flying on a carpet.
On VFX education: The biggest problem most studios face today is the talent crunch; There is a huge gap in the ability of the students who come out of our local institutes and the requirements of the job. Talent is not ‘production-ready’, hence the studio has to invest in resources, time and energy in trying to bring them up to speed. Institutes engaged in imparting visual effects education need to have a long-term strategy in tune with the standards of the industry.
On the VFX industry model:
The VFX industry in India does not function under the Outsourcing/BPO model. There is a lot of cutting edge and high-end work that is done out of India. The projects that MPC worldwide – including Bangalore — works on are very complex, hence the talent and skill sets required are of an extremely high level. This is true of most studios that do international projects.
On big players in the VFX market:
Apart from MPC, the other big players in the VFX industry globally and in India are Sony Imageworks, ILM, Rhythm and Hues, Prime Focus, Reliance Media Works and TATA Elxsi.