‘Nila’: What went behind the creation of a virtual model

Due to the unprecedented situation of Covid 19 crisis, the fashion world has taken a hit as the industry is yet to take a virtual leap in terms of events and shows. For many sectors it was an overnight thing to initiate operating remotely, however, there are various other industries that were not ready for such shift. While there is a crisis, there is also a scope of the business, and understanding the same, Inega, India’s artist and talent management agency revealed India’s first digital model – Nila.

According to the brand Nila means ‘moon’ in Tamil and her age is 20, perennially her favourite emotion is love. She marks India’s foray into the world of digital ramps, after other international digital influencers such as Lil Miquela and Imma Gram. In conversation with AnimationXpress Inega Prograde, CEO Rahul Pai said “Nila was an Idea and that idea slowly blossomed into a discussion we had earlier this year somewhere in January/February and we thought we should explore the possibility of bringing her to life. That was actually when the whole pandemic struck and by March when we were going into lockdown and the whole industry came to a halt we decided to get her developed right away, that’s when we sought out an artist who could deliver on the vision we had and we began right away, all in all it took us about five months to get her to this stage.”

Globally, brands such as Valentino, Dior and Prada have already welcomed virtual models into their campaigns, to complement real models. Trying to humanise Nila, there is a story weaved around her, according to Pai  “For now we’re working more on static imagery to build her persona, her likes, the products she uses, her favourite Bollywood Actors and the list will go on. These are characteristics that humans build over their lifetime and  we need to introduce them one by one to her followers. That’s what’s going to make Nila unique.”

With the tech prowess that we have in topday’s time, designers can design clothes and just feed in those and fabric specifications into a software that will create a virtual representation of the design and it’s only ‘fitting’ that Nila will try on those clothes and will share her thoughts too.

To try out various clothes on the ramp, models need to have various body language and expressions, therefore we were curious to know whether Nila has the same qualities to walk the ramp? Asserts Pai , “Of course she can, but takes a lot more than a compliment to get her to smile, she can pretty much do anything we need her to do but at the moment we’re just focused on developing her expressions and basic body language. When we reach that point where we want her to be walking down a ramp we will employ the right tech that would help us with that.”

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Nearer. Clearer. #helloworld #model #virtualgirl @inega @inegaprograde

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Initially for project there were three members in the team, and it was confidential until they fixed on the artist and began the work. Once they had a couple of sketches and were moving into the development phase that is when they reached out to their team for feedback.  The biggest challenges for them were “her features and her expressions, as it was all in the detail”. The makers didn’t want Nila to be hyper realistic. “She is a Virtual model and she needs to own that! You wouldn’t believe it but it took a lot of back and forth to make her unique and lock in her features”. said Pai.

Many gaming shows project mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality characters in live performancec. Recently Riot games, in an opening ceremony featured the companies new virtual K-pop quartet, K/DA, dancing and singing alongside live performers on-stage.While performing the K/DA original track “POP/STARS,” Soyeon and Miyeon of K-pop girl group (G)I-dle, and American singers Madison Beer and Jaira Burns, were joined on-stage by their League of Legends in-game personas, Kai’Sa (Burns), Akali (Soyeon), Ahri (Miyeon) and Evelynn (Beer), each rendered as augmented reality characters. While the ladies of K/DA were invisible to the naked eye, the group could be seen performing in sync with the real-world talent on the venues jumbotron and via the official live stream.

There are high chances that Nila might be projected as mixed reality live on ramp as he said  “This is definitely something that we’ll be working on in the near future. We’re already in talks about the possibilities with our artists.”

Lastly we a sked him whether digital model Nila will replace real life models; he replied “We don’t really see that happening. The human form will never be replaced, we might come close to doing so but the human eye can make out the slightest imperfections and can call out a CGI model versus a real human being I would say almost 9 out of 10 times.”