The pandemic outbreak followed by lockdown and then again everything returning to normal had created quite a stir in the media and entertainment industry. The content creation sector was disrupted but the remote pipelines and virtual technologies made the deliveries for various platforms possible. As we welcome the New Year, we take a look at the Indian VFX industry’s 2022 performance. With major expansions of studios, and delivery of VFX for Indian films like Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva, RRR, KGF 2, the industry is reaching new heights.
It is evident that global VFX giants are looking eastwards and opening offices in India. To understand the insider’s views Animation Xpress got in touch with the heads of the noted studios in India.
DNEG fared very well in the year 2022 in terms of projects and revenues, they earned revenue of Rs 3000 crore. The national and international projects that DNEG worked on in 2022 are Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva, Black Adam, Uncharted, Bullet Train, Entergalactic, 1899, The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, Stranger Things season 4 and others.
Having its offices across borders in cities like Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, London and Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai and Mumbai in India, the company employs more than 8,000 individuals. The newly launched Sydney studio is set to start in 2023 and will be leading Geroge Miller’s Furiosa which is a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road in terms of VFX.
Talking about the budgets for VFX in films, DNEG global production and operations president Merzin Tavaria said, “The majority of production companies and filmmakers now create content that is increasingly dependent on animation and VFX. Currently, 10 to 15 per cent of an Indian film’s budget is allocated to visual effects, this proportion will increase to 30 to 35 per cent in the coming years. In addition, Indian filmmakers have increased the number of shots in their high-budget films from a few hundred to 1500 – 2000. For example, Brahmastra part one had over 4500 VFX shots, making it potentially the film with the most visual effects ever.”
With a sturdy pipeline of top-tier international projects both in feature films and episodic television series, DNEG’s production team is currently working on The Last of Us, Shazam! 2, Fury of Gods, Fast X, The Flash, Oppenheimer, Meg 2: The Trench, Haunted Mansion, Aquaman and the Lost City and American Born Chinese. On the animation front, the studio is working on the Nimona series, Garfield and Coyote vs Acme among others.
Sharing about the plans for 2023, Tavaria said, “Like any other business, we are constantly looking for ways to expand to meet our client’s needs in a better way. This includes evaluating the opening of studios in new locations, to bring exciting opportunities for local artists to work on some of the world’s biggest films and to expand existing facilities.”
Multiple award-winning creative studios Framestore that opened the doors to its state-of-the-art facility, a 90,000 square-feet, purpose-built studio located at the heart of Mumbai in November 2021 had a fruitful year. Framestore managing director India Akhauri P. Sinha shared, “Framestore has had a busy year with a very full plate and we worked on a large number of projects. This year, among the many projects we’ve delivered have been Moon Knight, Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Thor: Love and Thunder, Beast, His Dark Materials S3 etc.”
Having completed the buildout of the first phase of the studio at the end of 2021, they embarked upon and completed the second phase of the studio buildout a few months ago, heading towards their goal of establishing a full service studio. They will start the third phase in 2023.
“Among the projects that we’re currently working on are The Little Mermaid, Barbie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume three,” he said.
The seasoned professional feels that with more and more Indian films understanding the value that VFX can bring to their projects, the community in India is only going to grow and become stronger.
Talking about the New Year plans, Sinha revealed, “We will start the next phase of our studio build out next year. Along with that, we are also taking training, learning and development very seriously. Framestore’s renowned global accelerator programme, LaunchPad Pro, was something that we launched in India a few months ago, and we have big plans to expand that next year, hopefully giving a platform to more VFX aspirants to help them come into the industry.”
In 2022, RCVFX has worked on almost half a dozen feature films, both for cinemas and OTT. They have worked across genres like action – Attack, horror – Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, DocuDrama – Jogi, family drama – Gehraiyaan and feel-good flicks – Raksha Bandhan and Laal Singh Chaddha.
Redchillies has several segments apart from VFX that supplement the services they provide in pre- to post-production. For colour grading they have Redchillies.color, to cover technical fronts they have Redchillies.MotionControl along with Redchillies.DIT.
“The use of VFX in movies has increased significantly in recent years. VFX Technology has become more advanced, making it possible for filmmakers to create more realistic and impressive special effects in their movies. As a result, VFX is now used in a wide range of movies, from big-budget blockbusters to independent films. Additionally, the rise of OTT, ease of access to content, and smartphone viewing experience; all these factors have made it a very competitive market for movie makers. The use of VFX in several cases helps filmmakers explore different genres and break the content saturation,” RCVFX COO and VFX producer Keitan Yadav said about the budget and use of VFX in Indian films.
Talking about the plans for 2023, Yadav added, “Looks to be a packed year for us. Especially as it marks the highly awaited return of Shahrukh Khan on the silver screen with a grand release like Pathaan on 23 January, then we have Jawaan releasing around mid-year and then finishing the year with Dunki. All of these films have an impressive amount of VFX usage. Additionally, we are also working on the upcoming project, Yodha along with a slew of interesting titles across major OTT platforms. So, all in all 2023 is quite an eventful year and we have already started preparing for it!”
Outpost VFX Mumbai
UK-based visual effects organisation Outpost VFX that stepped in Mumbai in 2022 also performed better than their own expectations. Outpost has had a phenomenal year and surpassed the targets they had set for the year. Working remotely, they have delivered some of the most popular shows of 2022 such as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, Thor: Love and Thunder, Slumberland and many more.
“The Mumbai Outpost studio has itself grown from an initial strength of 55 to over 250 in 2022 and we foresee this growth to continue into 2023. We now have a studio in Mumbai that will enable our teams to work from the studio if they wish to do so,” said general manager Syamantak Thakur.
Speaking on similar lines as Framestore’s MD Sinha, he said that filmmakers have certainly started to rely more on VFX in producing their content to make it more visually enticing. Consequently, now it is seen that they have consciously started apportioning a good chunk in their budgets for VFX. He foresees this trend to continue in the future as well.
“India undoubtedly is a major VFX hub. In 2022 itself as many as eight international studios have opened up their branches in India and have plans on building teams that can provide end to end services. Bollywood is no exception to this phenomenon, and we will see a sharp rise in the VFX content in the local industry,” Thakur said.
Outpost Mumbai studio recently celebrated its first anniversary and they have ambitious plans to continue to grow in 2023.
“We will be growing our 3D teams to encompass a range of services that will help our global teams to deliver efficiently on the most complex shows. We will continue to invest in cloud technologies and are setting up an R&D team that will enable us to deploy innovative solutions to strengthen our systems and pipeline. We are looking forward to 2023 to bring in more success to the company as a whole,” Thakur concluded.
For PhantomFx, the past year saw a good hike of projects. After the pandemic there was a great boon in the OTT platforms allowing them to create more new content. The studio’s current team strength is 500.
“Major expansions include the revamping of our Chennai and Mumbai office to accommodate more artists. We had two phases of expansions at our Chennai studio. We are on the verge of setting up our creative studio at Hyderabad. We are also looking at expansions in yet another city,” PhantomFx founder and CEO Bejoy Arputharaj revealed.
He agrees that India definitely is becoming one of the major VFX hubs with new creative and challenging content. There is a substantial increase in VFX budget.
“New projects are on the way with creative content. As a result, we work on challenging projects that help improve our skills better and increase the revenue and budgets. Nowadays, the industry is keen in adopting new creative content into their projects and have understood the importance of giving quality content to maintain the VFX standards. As a result, the VFX budgets have also been increased by the production houses,” he elaborated.
Arputharaj voiced his expectations from the AVGC taskforce saying that it would be beneficial for the industry if AVGC provides subsidy. Many countries are providing incentives and tax benefits and they also encourage shooting. Similarly, he expects the taskforce to be supportive for those shooting and provide them with tax subsidies and tax rebates.
Talking about his plans for 2023, PhantomFx founder said, “We have more expansion plans ahead and are all set to enter into Hyderabad and our Mumbai expansions are in full swing. We look forward to the upcoming year with more expansions into different cities, both domestically and internationally.”
After finishing their work on Pushpa and RRR, the studio worked on important scenes in movies like Sitaraman and Godfather.
With eight departments, the studio houses 60 artists who have specialised skill sets. Makuta VFX’s investors have big plans for the expansion and growth of the company that will be announced soon. The studio is currently working on movies Ponniyin Selvan 2 and Project K.
Talking about VFX budgets in the film, Makuta VFX studio head and VFX supervisor Dorababu Achanta said, “There is an increase in VFX budgets as directors and producers are getting more awareness and realisation that VFX budget will be affecting the overall quality of the movie. Especially after the pandemic, the industry is giving more importance to the VFX.”
The Indian VFX industry riding high on the momentum of vibrant projects and technological advancements backed by the upcoming AVGC policies that is being shaped, is expected to touch newer heights and set newer benchmarks this year!
(Written By Dhruvi Joshi & Binita Das)