What do the films The Tree of Life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 and X-Men: First Class have in common? Well, all three have been nominated for the Oscars in the visual effects category this year. There is also an Indian link that binds these top grossers — all of them were converted to three dimensional (3-D) format by a Mumbai-based company called Prime Focus (PF).
The dream run of this visual effects (vfx) company founded by four friends started in a garage in the mid-nineties. Today PF has not one but many studios across the globe and the credibility of working on prestigious vfx-heavy films such as Avataar and Ra.One. The fact that Geroge Lucas, creator of the Star Wars series, got in touch with PF speaks volumes not only about this firm in particular but also about Indias growing prowess in the vfx industry. We are in the process of converting the Star Wars series into 3-D, says Merzin Tavaria, co-founder and chief creative director, PF.
PF is not the only company that is getting a lot of work from Hollywood. Pixion, another Indian post production company, is also going great guns. It provided the effects for The Kings Speech, but usually focuses on catering to the Indian film industry. Till 2007, Bollywood treated special effects and computer graphics as a post production job. We vfx artists were initially only expected to clean up the shots. Now things have changed. Today, filmmakers and visual effects artists work as a team. We do everything, right from colour correction to making unrealistic shots look real, says Viral Thakkar, head of CG and VFX supervisor at Pixion.
Recent Bollywood blockbusters like Singham, Ready, Bodyguard and Don 2 were high on vfx and computer graphics. Remember all those flipping cars and slow motion fights? Explaining the hard work put in by vfx artists, Thakkar says, With the hectic schedule that most stars have, at times we have to make scenes shot during the day look as if they have been shot at night. Or even add the sun or the moon if a director wants it, he adds with a laugh.
Apart from films, vfx artists can work in commercials, TV programmes, games development companies as well as the education sector. In an era of short attention spans, animation and vfx filmmaking is an effective learning aid, says Ashish S.K., CEO, Reliance Animation. For instance, in a geography lesson where students need to understand what an eclipse is, an animated film on the topic will not just engage the students but can also be viewed a hundred times to understand the concept. Many educational service providers such as Educomp, Tata Interactive Services(TIS) and Edustroke are using these new age technologies to make learning more interesting.
According to a recent Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry-KPMG report, steady growth in outsourced work, conversion of 2D to 3D and emerging digital platforms are expected to ensure that the vfx industry grows at an 18.5 per cent per annum clip. And with almost every field requiring enhanced communications to engage audiences, the need for vfx and animation will be on the rise.
And this will, therefore, give rise to job opportunities at film studios, production houses and game development companies, as well as create a lot opportunities for freelancing and consultancy.
So how much can a fresher expect to earn? The starting salary is Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month for interns. You can expect to earn between Rs 25,000 and Rs 35,000 with three to four years of experience, says Yunus Bukhari, founder, creative director and vfx supervisor of Art.ery Animation & Fx, Mumbai. Bukhari, who has been associated with Bollywood projects Koi Mil Gaya, Devdas, Rakt, Khel, Josh and 3-D live action film Toonpur Ka Superhero, feels that the industry is far more promising today. During our days, we had no formal institutes but now there are institutes such as Arena Multimedia, Big Aims, MAAC and many more where you can train and then bag an internship with veterans and never look back, he says.
If you have the knack of expressing ideas and emotions in a visually attractive manner, vfx is the field for you. Apart from creative thinking, you need to know the fundamentals of visual communications, iconography, image processing tools, the nature of electronic media and the art of storytelling to have a successful career in the animation industry. Most institutes such as Big Aims, MAAC and Arena Multimedia give students a chance to take the plunge right after high school. To gain admission to some of these institutes, you need to clear an aptitude test. The glamour, fame and money this career provides is the stuff of dreams. With over a lakh jobs being created, there is significant demand for a highly skilled workforce which merges technical and artistic capabilities. And that itself makes this career a lucrative one, says Ram Warrier, business head, MAAC.
If you have it in you, you can strike gold in the animation and vfx industry now.
Show me the money
● Starting pay ranges between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000
> Within two to three years, one can command Rs 25,000-30,000 a month
● Those in the Asst Animation / Creative Director / Asst Technical Director or Supervisor level command Rs 60,000 and above. The lucky ones may even earn as much as Rs 1 lakh a month
● Freelancers can earn Rs 45,000-60,000 a month or more, provided you have a minimum four to five years of solid production experience and are skilled enough
One can work as
● A character designer: Creates or sculpts characters for the movie
● Compositor: Combines various film shots that have been taken at different locations and in different ways in order to form a coherent shot.
● Paint artist: Creates paintings of places that can only be imagined, such as the mazes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
● Key frame animator: Creates the important frames of a sequence, then the software fills in the gap
● 3D modeller: Makes models required in 3D format
● Layout artist: Arranges text and images to create a pleasing layout for billboards, books and so on
Where to learn
- MAAC (Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics)
- BIG ANIMATION INSTITUTE
- TOONZ ANIMATION ACADEMY
- ARENA MULTIMEDIA
- ANTS ANIMATION INSTITUTE
- FX SCHOOL