Here’s a trivia – let’s see if you can solve it. What do Hollywood blockbusters like Shrek, Gravity, Avatar, Maleficent, How to Train Your Dragon, and Interstellar have in common? If you haven’t cracked it yet, let us not keep you in suspense anymore. All these movies and many more have visual effects artists and animators from India.
Yes, Indian VFX artists and animators are in huge demand in Hollywood.
More and more Hollywood studios are turning to the vast pool of young specialists in India to work on the visual effects of their movies. The gravity-defying, awe-inspiring sequences that seem to explode on screen are actually created halfway across the world in a studio in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, or Chennai.
Impressive body of work
If your heart almost jumped out of your mouth when James Bond skydive from a plane or skied on dangerously tall mountains in Skyfall, you have a group of Indian visual effects artists to thank (or blame)! It was a large team of special effects artists in Bangalore that worked on these jaw-dropping sequences in the 007 film.
Similarly, if you were left wondering how could a tiger actually be sitting on a boy’s lap while watching Life of Pi, the sequence was created using special effects in a studio here in India. The film, in fact, was replete with many such awe-inspiring visual effects for which it deservedly won the Oscars. As many as 200 scenes from mega blockbuster Avatar were worked on by an Indian VFX company.
And next time you are watching the insanely popular television series Game of Thrones and say to yourself, “Man, those dragons look realistic,” know that these fire-breathing creatures were brought to life by one of the many Indian VFX companies.
The point we are trying to make is that India is emerging as the undisputed leader of the animation and visual effects industry. According to data shared by a FICCI-KPMG report on the country’s media and entertainment industry, India’s animation industry generated a whopping Rs 4,490 crore in revenue in 2014 – an increase of 13% from the previous year.
If you thought that was good news, wait till you hear this. The industry is all set to double in size to Rs 9,550 crore within five years.
Change in trend
Post production work coming to India is actually nothing new. In the past, most of the post production work for Hollywood movies used to be done at studios in LA. While they got the good stuff (read primary shots), studios in India used to get the leftovers (read secondary shots).
However, things have changed considerably over the last few years. Indian studios are now being entrusted with creating visual effects for important shots. It’s not entirely uncommon for them to receive the entire visual effects work for a film either.
Another change in trend is the presence of Western animation and visual effects artists in Indian post production companies as opposed to earlier when mostly experts from India used to travel to Hollywood to work in their studios.
According to an Animation Xpress article published earlier this year, India has nearly 300 animation, 40 VFX and 85 game development studios with more than 15,000 professionals working for them and Hollywood is knocking on their doors.
The cost factor
Needless to say, cost is a huge factor driving this trend. The low cost of labor in India has driven many cost-conscious Hollywood studios to outsource the expensive digital effects work to companies here. Experts suggest that labor costs in India are one-10thof what they are in Hollywood.
But cost alone is not the only reason why Hollywood studios are shifting their visual effects work to the country. In India, they have found an immensely talented pool of computer and graphic experts who are well versed with the Western culture and way of life, speak fluent English, and have done some amazing and award-winning work in the past.
So, while there is a definite cost advantage of working with Indian post production companies for Hollywood, there is also an assurance that the skilled artists in the country would produce highest quality results.
Range of work
The digital effects work coming to India ranges from the really creative and powerful to more labor-intensive and mundane tasks. While on the surface, a certain task may look superior to the other, both are equally important in the final outcome.
So, for every Indian company that wins an Oscar and worldwide recognition for its visual effects work, there’s another one that is quietly performing low-key tasks like wire removal, rotoscope, keying and match moving wire removal, rotoscope, keying and match movingwire removal, rotoscope, keying, etc. in a studio somewhere in the country. But both are contributing to a film in their own way.
In conclusion, next time you see James Bond perform a gravity-defying stunt, a tiger sharing a boat with a boy, or a man trapped in another dimension, don’t forget to wonder if it’s a couple of Indian VFX companies or technicians/artists at work!