The Murky Side Of The Indian Animation & Visual Effects Industry - Homegrown

The Murky Side Of The Indian Animation & Visual Effects Industry

Despite the illusion of being all colorful and dandy, the truth behind the animation and visual effects industry is a murkier one than what some pundits portray. The Visual Effects Society, (VES) was left seething with the way the VFX team from the 'Life of PI' was affronted at the Oscars earlier this year - that led to world wide protest. This is just a gist of the dirty linen that was hung out to dry.
In India, post-production artists are browbeaten and depict a different kind of picture; a top notch post-production house compels its newly acquired interns to pay up Rs. 30,000 – Rs. 50,000 to ensure that overworked artists don’t escape their daunting tasks and thus safeguarding the interests of the company and its on-going production. Another well known animation studio that shut shop due to a mythological film which failed miserably at the box-office despite working on it for over 4 years, has reopened its doors but albeit for interns to work on hardcore production with no pay! So observing this tumultuous phase, what could be the fate of the Indian animation and visual effects industry and its artists right now?
Deb Bhattcharya, a veteran artist in the film making business, who assisted Sujoy Ghosh in Aladin, is not one of those superficial celebrated faced that you read in the tabloids. Deb along with Mark Philip and Tony Peter from Orphanage Film and Design, a boutique production house believes that the only way to salvage a crumbling fortress is to nurture and strengthen the base itself. Homegrown’s Philip Bode gets Deb, Mark and Tony to shed light on why Indian films don’t match up to international standards, Indian filmmakers choosing a formulaic approach over originality, the focus on hiring technicians over artists and the current fate of the Indian animation and VFX industry.
“Filmmakers really need to be a visionary to do a VFX film” “Even though India churns out an array of films every year, the depths of the visual effects in those films are not very vast. There needs to be a different kind of thought process to achieve a sense of realism in the visual effects of those films. I feel filmmakers really need to be a visionary to do a VFX film, because you need to visualize the shots before they are done. Indian filmmakers really need to comprehend the necessity of planning in order to understand how quality VFX is prepared. Pre-production in filmmaking needs to be considered wholly for which methodical prep work is not done for Indian films due to the unrealistic time constraints, in fact there is only a handful of who actually emphasize on having a tight pre-production for their films.”
“This is a rather formulaic approach and the most aren’t in for seeking originality” “Given the fact that there is so much to explore, design and create whole new stories around a character, we find that people are very restricted with their ideas where Indian animation filmmakers only churn out mythological films to be on the safe side. This is a rather formulaic approach and the most aren’t in for seeking originality, as this is a massive issue in India. More often than not, people approach artists with references that they want designed around existing pieces. In Indian animation, you either have films that feature talking animals that have a story to narrate, or we have mythological characters that many bank upon. Unlike Disney, we do not have anything that is sort of iconic because people of this generation are not providing any kind of material from which we could garner some international prominence. The last original animation content that saw the light of day from India was Roadside Romeo, which was where the makers tried to fuse Bollywood into an animation film. They need to churn out content where-in people could relate to, with characters that are appealing, funny and that harbor a lot of iconic intricacies such as Walt Disney’s, Mickey Mouse or even a Donald Duck. These characters have been carved with such gusto, that you would really want these characters with you. Unfortunately we do not have any iconic Indian originated characters around.”
“Over here it is more of a pressure situation”
“The first thing Indian filmmakers would want to know is how long would artists take to work on a task, and how low could they bring the cost down to. The situation is rather different outside the country where the artists are given a lot of leeway, while over here it is more of a pressure situation. While there is some work happening in India, most of the animation jobs in India is outsourced from international clients. The commercial sectors that churn out advertisements are turning to animation and VFX studios abroad for a helping hand. There are mainly two factors that compel Indian artists to look for work elsewhere - the first being money which is not as good as it seems - and the second is that there is so much pressure that one cannot function in the industry for this is not a factory where artists are churning out footage endlessly.”“Right now the focus is more about hiring technicians rather than artists”
“While there are a plethora of institutes promising aspiring artists the moon, the reality of the situation is different. Institutes only educate the technicalities of the craft, rather than getting to the roots and teaching the aesthetics which is crucial. Most of the animators around have a lucid picture about animation and its principles, that they incorporate those same principles into 3D animation. Right now the focus is more about hiring technicians rather than artists, studios need to realize that in order to produce quality work - they need to hire artists and not technicians. Most of the post-production jobs around are pretty technical, for instance you would need 300 people for rotoscopy work for a Bollywood film. If we need this industry to grow we need to focus on quality and innovate something new. If this trend would persist then in about two to three years we could see iconic content coming from the cinematic stables of India, and people around the world would take note of it. When one visits international animation filmmaking conventions like Annecy or MIPCOM, Indian animation is nowhere on the map.”
“With their indecisiveness, it clearly shows that filmmakers are not sure about their vision”
“Clients really are a problem because, they don’t understand what really does into animation and VFX. Some of them only consider it as they think this is the newest trend and craze about town. It takes time and money to achieve something credible, it cannot be achieved in a week’s time and it cannot be cut short on money.  It is requisite that artists be given the freedom to explore and not churn out different versions of a visual piece. With their indecisiveness, it clearly shows that filmmakers are not sure about their vision and it cannot be achieved by banking on an artist to create different renditions of something they fell is right. We have more of an egotistical battle where many folks think that they know a lot about films and don’t feel the need to talk things out and just provide a basic brief. Since everything is constricted to time, quality suffers.”
“Editors cannot merge shots that they haven’t seen”
“I believe the biggest problem with VFX films in India is the editing process, editors cannot merge shots that they haven’t seen. The editor needs to be educated and thoroughly understand what the scene needs to look like. Editors need to be provided with look plates and other resources, as a random element inserted after a film is shot needs to be meticulously planned out to avoid jerkiness in the scene. Studios need to spend more time on where the right budgets are allocated and nurture people to enhance their vision. They need to stop making them work laboriously day and night.”
“The fact that VFX is being reduced to ‘clean-up’ jobs in India, talks in volumes about the production value of a project”
Filmmakers and producers need to strive for better production value and utilize the departments that are meant for the overall nourishment of the film. Clean ups are a forte these days with artists clearing up wrinkles and tummy tucking obese actors in favor of polishing the film. Directors need to understand that they need to make certain efforts and visualize what is required - and communicate with the artists directly. You have to be very clear with what you want to do with your film.”
Words: Philip Bode.

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