Passage to India

Earlier perceived as technically backward, the country is now a hot bed for Hollywood filmmakers looking for quality work at cheaper price

Last month we saw Shah Rukh Khan fly from one building to another in what was called the first Bollywood film with such advance special effects.
Filmmakers went about town talking of RA.One being a milestone within the visual effects space, especially because it was produced in India.

A still from Immortals

However, it is little known that, the country for a while now has been emerging as one of the most-sought after destinations for special effects. Hence causing many international creative minds to set shop within the Indian shores.

One of the most recent ones being The Notebook director Nick Cassevetes who will be in the country in January for the post-production of his comic-thriller Yellow.

Says the film's producer, Manu Kumaran, "The visual effects of the film are being done in India. The post-production facilities here are on par with facilities around the globe. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the director is coming here."

Hollywood cutting corners
From Avataar to Spiderman 3, and more recently Immortals and the Planet of the Apes, many Hollywood productions have been outsourcing special effects and CG (Computer graphics) work to India. That is the reason why the Indian VFX industry's estimated value is expected to become 560 crore by 2013.

Cost cutting measures, internationally, is one of the primary reasons that gave birth to this trend. Says Vamsi Ayyagari of EyeQube Studios, "When a film at the scale of Avataar or Tin Tin is produced in Hollywood, budgets go beyond imagination.

A still from Rise of The Planet of the Apes

With the quality of work India is offering of late, if the same kind of films effects can be achieved at more lucrative costs, who wouldn't explore the opportunity? India offers many cost-effective solutions when it comes to visual effects."

Cheap labour reduces almost 50 percent of costs for international production houses. Perhaps why some of the leading VFX studios like Rhythm and Hues and Prime Focus have set up backhand Indian counterparts that work on some of the biggest Hollywood productions.
Says Namit Malhotra of Prime Focus that helped bring to life a significant chunk of the visual effects in Avataar, "Even today, I don't think India is that equipped to put together effects of such high international standards. When we were doing Avataar, we chose to stick to our California studios.

But today, because of costs and even the lack of tax rebates in California, we are being forced to move out of there. With films like Robot and RA.One, Indian creative teams have proven that they have what it takes to get to the level of an Avataar or Matrix."

The 3D boom
Now a days, the 3D space is referred to as pre- and post-Avataar phase. Ever since James Cameron's award winning venture, the 3D industry has seen a 60 percent growth, with every other film wanting to convert from 2D to 3D.

Adds Ayyagari, "There is a lot of labour intensive work that comes from Hollywood, for example the 2D to 3D conversion which is now happening on a regular basis." In the past three years, over 50 3D films have been released across the world with a sizeable chunk of the conversions being conducted by Indian studios.
Adds Namit Malhotra, "It will be a while before Indian films are shot in 3D, but Indian studios are well equipped for the genre and only getting better."

Baby steps
However, few others think that though India doesn't lack the technical know-how and now the infrastructure, we have a long way to go. Says Saraswathi Balgam, of Rhythm and Hues, "In the last two years the visual effects work has definitely seen a 10 to 20 percent rise, but there is very specific type of work.
There are times when we are not able to deliver and that's not because of the technology, but because of the pipeline of how things are being done. The talent and aesthetic skills exist, but the timelines of projects are getting shorter. So I think it would take a while but we are definitely on our way to making a mark." 

VFX projects in India
The Flying Machine
Tron: Legacy
Moby Dick
Rise of The Planet of the Apes
Life of Pi
Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Golden Compass

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