“India is on par with the West in a few VFX categories”

Pallabika Ganguly (ML): Visual effects, or VFX, as a concept has always been associated with big-budget Hollywood movies. Do you think this perception has changed over time, particularly in the Indian context?

Vamsi Ayyagari (VA): Industry reports put apart, India as a whole is between $500 million- $750 million industry which includes animation and VFX. Many industry experts expected that this industry is going to be $5 billion by 2008; however this is actually not. Hollywood is more than $200 million. But in India, as the industry is evolving and if we are able to put the process and skill sets in place, we can bring down the cost of production in India by one-fourth compared to Hollywood.

Now, most directors in India want to use visual effects because it helps directors to include unique and innovative shots that otherwise cannot be included due to safety reasons. We are going to see many VFX movies coming to India. The best example we can see is how Avatar and 2012 have worked in India, especially in the south (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu). These movies have been among the biggest block-busters from last year.

In some areas like wire removal, rotoscopy, tracking, basic compositing or animation for a television series, Indian companies are already on par with those in the West. But if you are talking about Avatar and 2012, we are still miles away. It is not just about using technology or the software; it is the artistic sense and technical knowledge that are missing. These are basically the major issues as far as skill sets are considered in the industry. 
ML: How big is the visual effects industry in India versus the Hollywood industry?

VA: Industry reports put apart, India as a whole is less than a $500 to $ 750 million industry and this includes Animation and VFX. On the other hand, the VFX budgets of some of the biggest Hollywood movies alone have exceeded $ 200 million. One advantage Hollywood movies possess is the benefit of spending big budgets if the story requires it. They will spend $200 million-$250 million to create an outstanding movie if the need arises. Here in India, it is not possible to spend that kind of money. 

But as the industry evolves and if we are able to put the process and skill sets in place, we can bring down the cost of production in India by a fourth compared to Hollywood.

ML: What is the difference between the VFX industry in Hollywood and Bollywood?

VA: In India, there is a trend in the industry that everyone wants to make a stereoscopic 3D movie like Avatar, simply forgetting the fact that it took four years to make the movie. If we consider the technology, that is, the camera rigs that went behind it, then we might probably take ten years to make such a movie.

The major difference between Hollywood and Bollywood movies is in pre-production. Pre-production in Hollywood is very strong. Pre-production is all about the development of concept arts, use of pre-visualisation, etc. When we speak of pre-production, we mean the development of concept and use of pre-visualisation. Most visuals that are VFX-intensive need pre-visualisation. A director gets a clear picture of his shot if he undergoes a pre-visualisation process. It is easy for him to direct a shot after getting first-hand experience of the shot through pre-visualisation.

The other issue is the big budget that a Hollywood movie has. They can spend $200 million-$250 million when the need arises to create an outstanding visual effects movie. It is difficult to produce such a high-budget movie in India.

We have been able to bridge the gaps in our studios by flying in a lot of Hollywood experts to train our people. Our creative director, Charles Darby, has experience on shows like 'Minority Report' and the Harry Potter series, and has won an Emmy award for the HBO series 'Rome'.

ML: Why is pre-production a challenge in India?

VA: Hollywood can produce intrinsic VFX because they have more than 30 years of hard-core practical knowledge. They use visual effects in a far more intensive manner and through many formats like television and advertising. For example, animation channels run very successfully in the US compared to India. Obviously, this creates an opportunity for the system to evolve and mature. VFX productions range from a budget of $4 million to more than $200 million.

In India, VFX is at a nascent stage. The concept of using pre-production techniques to produce mind-boggling VFX will take some time to percolate. Once scripts are written that make VFX an integral part of the story-telling, the process will automatically take over. People will realise that pre-production and VFX can help save expensive production money and can create a vision that complements the story-telling of the creator. But one has to keep in mind that VFX is only a tool and not the story by itself.

A movie can be shot better if the effects specialist gets involved at the pre-production level with the director. They can together create a vision that complements story-telling. As long as scripts are written for story-telling and not for visual effects, it will be more successful.

ML: Do you think visual effects of international quality are happening in India? Can you give some examples?

VA: In terms of really high-end effects, we shall probably take two-three years more to catch up with the West.

In some segments like wire removal, rotoscopy, tracking, basic compositing or animation for a television series, Indian companies are already on par with the West. But overall, one has to learn that it is not just about using technology or the buttons in the software.  It is the artistic sense and technical knowledge that are missing. These are basically the major issues as far as skill sets are concerned in the industry.

Eyeqube has been able to bridge the gap to a very large extent. Eyeqube has produced high-end-effects movies like 'Aladdin', 'Veer' and 'Madharasapattinam' which have set a benchmark in the Indian industry. 

ML: By how much does the cost rise while using VFX in Bollywood movies, as a percentage of production cost? Are the Indian directors ready to bear the cost?

VA: This is again a misconception that the budget of the movie increases if you use VFX. One has to keep in mind that a new kind of story-telling is now possible thanks to the use of VFX. I think a lot of VFX movies have been made in the last many years which show that Directors here are looking forward to using them extensively.

There are different kinds of billing systems that operate in the market. Some bill on a per second basis that ranges from Rs. 2,000 per second to Rs. 50,000 per second and others costing structures revolves around man-days. 

Today, the directors are ready to explore a new style of story telling. A lot of directors are using VFX like 'Kurbaan', 'Kaminey' and 'Love Story 2050'.

ML: How many projects do you have in the pipeline during the current financial year?

VA: We have five projects in the pipeline, which will be initiated by next month. The projects are a mix of Hollywood, Regional and Bollywood feature films. We are looking at many Hollywood productions-currently we have two on the platter. We are also working on a few niche advertisements. We as a studio have been able to create quality and execute the creative vision the directors had in mind.

ML: What are the challenges that you are facing in India and how do you see the industry growing?

VA: We need to develop artistic skills and not just technical skills. The challenge is to create our content to understand the nuances for story-telling from the VFX perspective.

ML: Do you feel there is enough high-quality manpower is this sector?

VA: Not yet. I think it will still take time. Evolution in this sector is taking place slowly.



Kulwinder Singh, Vice President, VenSat

6 years ago

I agree with Vamsi Ayyagari's views on VFX. The skill set lies in India are at par if not best. Also the challenge that he has highlighted about creating content to understand the nuances for story telling from VFX perspective.


Ashita reuben

In Reply to Kulwinder Singh, Vice President, VenSat 6 years ago

I agree on wat Vamsi says but I also want to know "How much does reputed studios appoint or train freshers for this kinda field?" when a fresher with no experience but knowledge approaches these studios they don't give him a opportunity rather appoint sumone from the other country who already has experience & which in turn benefits his country in the longer run, if this continues then the already less amount of people getting into this field of creativity will reduce to zero very soon. Here I speak on behalf of my friends along with me who are passionate enough to keep trying really hard to get a break in this industry .

Even so...For Gender Equality

Dr Nita Mukherjee narrates the story of a women’s organisation working on masculinity

One of the meanings of the unusual name of this NGO—Tathapi—is ‘even so’. When asked why she selected this name, Dr Mira Sadgopal hesitates a bit and says, “Well, there were many NGOs working on gender issues and on women’s health; even so, we decided to set up one more in 1999, ‘tathapi’...”

Pune-based Tathapi works in several districts of Maharashtra. Its mission is to promote resource development in the field of women’s health, including community health training and encouragement of communities’ traditional health knowledge and skills. Mira says, “Approaching people’s health rights from women’s perspectives, we focus on burning issues like inequities in population policy, fall in female child sex ratio, all forms of violence and universal access to healthcare, nutrition and livelihoods. We have also focused on developing sexuality education as ‘Body Literacy’ (Shareer Saaksharta).”

According to Tathapi’s website, “The backbone of Tathapi’s work has been in health training and advocacy from women’s perspectives; striving to make women and health resources accessible to local groups; and body literacy, a concept developed by Tathapi to appropriately educate children and adults with regard to body, gender, sexuality, fertility and power issues.”

Mira and Tathapi’s co-founder, Audrey Fernandes, were earlier associated with Dr NH Antia whose commitment to ‘Health for All’ spawned various public health initiatives and organisations. While partnering at the grassroots with numerous community-based and voluntary organisations throughout Maharashtra, Tathapi takes an active part in the state-level Jan Aarogya Abhiyaan (JAA) network, itself part of the national-level Jan Swaasthya Abhiyaan which, in turn, is a constituent of the global ‘People’s Health Movement’. JAA campaigns for universal basic health rights and better healthcare for all, particularly the poor and marginalised for whom healthcare is increasingly unaffordable, despite the government’s professed commitment to ‘social sector spending’.

Four years ago (in 2006), supported by HIVOS (Netherlands), Tathapi undertook a pioneering project on capacity building of men facilitators, men-focused health interventions and strategies to work with men, youth and women on the issues of masculinity and sexuality through a participatory planning process. Tathapi began with research on understanding of ‘masculinity’ prevailing in Maharashtra. “Understanding what constitutes ‘masculinity’ for particular communities is the first step towards awareness of gender discrimination, gender rights, domestic violence and of the need for change,” says Mira. An outcome of the project is an excellent booklet of stories of social change—micro-studies of men narrating how they are learning to do household chores, like washing their own utensils or clothes, and seeing the need for better nutrition and education of their womenfolk.

Tathapi’s rich collection of print and audio-visual material can be used by NGOs in Maharashtra. This collection includes posters, flipcharts, flashcards, puppet-show scripts, slide shows, video cassettes, games, training manuals, skits for role-plays, songs, etc. The Resource Directory is available from Tathapi for Rs50 or accessible free from its website.

Apart from donating to the general fund (minimum Rs250), you could sponsor a two-day resource workshop-cum-mela to tackle a local health problem (Rs8,000) or a two-day orientation workshop on sexuality education for 40 middle-school teachers & principals (Rs12,000). A health screening and awareness camp for 100 women with complete medical check-up, medicines and guidance costs Rs10,000. Donations to Tathapi are tax exempt under Section 80G.

Tathapi Trust
77, Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth Colony,
Mukund Nagar, Pune 411037
Phone: 020-24267908; 020-24260264
[email protected]
Website: www.tathapi.org


Global jitters dent market

Domestic triggers can only prop up the market next week

The market was on a nosedive last week shaving 4% over the week. The bourses were down everyday on concerns over the Greek debt crisis, which is likely to spill over the to other Euro nations, as well. Selling pressure was intense on the street dragging the Sensex below 17,000-point mark, the first time over the last two months.

Output growth in India eased a little in April. However, it still held near a 20-month high touched in February. India’s Purchase Managers Index (PMI) was seasonally adjusted after input prices remained near multi-year peaks, suggesting official wholesale price inflation could pick up from a 17-month-high of 9.9% in the latest data for March. The output price index rose for a second month in a row to 55.8 from 54.6. It has risen nearly four points since February.

China has raised the lenders' reserve requirement ratio by 50 basis points, effective 10th May, its third increase of that magnitude this year. That will take the bank reserve ratio for big lenders to 17%. The move is an attempt to reduce inflation and tame liquidity. Chinese consumer prices rose 2.4% in the year to March, surpassing the 2.25% rate on one-year certificates of deposit. Meanwhile, factory activity in South Korea picked up after a dip, surveys by HSBC/Markit showed on Monday.

The Indian government is likely to ease controls on the sugar sector as the outlook for the domestic crop improves, softening sugar prices. An impetus from the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP) has directed the government towards this. India's sugar output in 2010-11 is expected to increase to 23-24 million tonnes (MT) from an estimated 18.5 MT in the current year to September.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed its concern over the spreading of the Greece debt crisis to other euro nations. A massive Greek bailout package announced on Sunday failed to halt the increasing unrest about sovereign-debt problems along the euro zone’s boundary. However, the concern over the amount of aid and the possibility of a spread of the crisis raised jitters among investors, triggering an intense sell-off.
India’s wholesale price index is expected to fall 6%-7% within three months, the finance ministry's chief economic adviser said on Thursday. India’s annual wholesale inflation rose to 9.9% in March, compared with the 9.89% rise in February and 1.2% a year ago. The food price index rose 16.04% in the 12 months to 24th April, slower than an annual rise of 16.61% in the previous week, government data showed on Thursday. The fuel price index rose an annual 12.69%, same as the week ago.

Wheat stocks have increased more than seven times the target; however, the ban on wheat exports is still on. Wheat stocks in India as of 1st May were at 30.8 million tonnes (MT). The government has decided to give 3MT of subsidised grains in aid to states for the next six months.

Fed chairman said that a banking survey that reviewed nation’s largest 19 banks restored confidence in the banking system. US non farm pay roll grew at the fastest pace in the last four years as the private sector players ramped up hiring. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 9.9% as the size of the labour force increased.  The European Central Bank is likely to hold interest rates at existing levels. Interest rates in the euro zone have now been on hold at 1% for a year and there is expectation that the rates will be left unchanged till next year. European laws prevent ECB to buy government bonds directly from the government; however, it can buy second-hand bonds from the banks.

India’s exports were down 4.7% in FY 2009-10 on the back of the global economic slowdown. However, the country is targeting an export growth of 15% in the current fiscal. Aided by government help and the low base effect, India’s exports have been in the positive zone in the last five months after a straight 13-month decline.


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