“How did they manage to pull this off!” – people often exclaim while watching movies. Well, those cinematic experiences can be best attributed to special effects (SFX), visual effects (VFX), and animation. Special effects do happen in reality and are achieved on sets during shooting in a physical and tangible way to create a condition that would not occur naturally or spontaneously. On the other hand, visual effects are achieved in the post-production phase, with the help of computer-generated images.
Presently, due to the introduction and dissemination of a host of powerful animation and compositing software at relatively affordable prices, VFXs are simpler and cheaper than SFXs. A recent report by KPMG stated that the Indian animation and VFX industry now stands at $1.23 billion and it is estimated that in the next five years, the industry will almost double its size and reach $2.6 billion.
Use in advertising
In India, the advertising industry has paved the way for experimentation with animation and VFX. Sourya Deb, an independent filmmaker and writer told BE, “About 30-40% brands in the national market depend on pure animation. These brands believe that their stories can be better expressed through animation.”
Reacting to the sub-standard content in various cases, Saurabh Sharma, Partner and CEO, Think WhyNot Films, told BE, “Clients do not often invest in building their understanding of the VFX workflow and appreciation of the optimal output. As most projects require a large commitment of time and money, many clients end up being in a nervous state of mind or develop trust issues pretty early in their dealing with representatives of the VFX department.”
Limitations in regional film industries
With the increasing use of VFX in India, films like Ra One, Krrish 3, 2.0, Bahubaali and others have taken Indian cinema to a different level. However, there are still various criticisms against the quality of VFX used in Indian cinema. Additionally, this sector suffers from various bottlenecks in the regional film industries. Tapan Chakraborty, Faculty, Department of Animation, Roop Kala Kendra, told BE, “Though Bengali films are not heavily reliant on VFX, there have been a refined use of VFX in certain films.” He also pointed towards the inferior quality of VFX used in various cases - especially in Bengali soap operas - mainly due to budget and time constraints.
The lack of infrastructure provides a few options in Kolkata for 3D animation and VFX. Though a few production houses have separate units for VFX and animation and are focusing on quality, they are not enough to bring a total change over. Mumbai and Chennai are better placed due to availability of a variety of options.
According to a report by a national English daily, the Indian imprint on Hollywood is acquiring new heights with astounding special effects in a wide range of films from Avengers to The Shape of Water. Industry insiders are of the opinion that Indians are known for their dedication, hard work and cheap labour which attract the industry to hire them. The communication skills of Indians in dealing with clients also put them in an advantageous position over others. Deb stated, “Just like there are several talented Indian engineers who work in the Silicon Valley, the same is applicable here as well.”
Future and prospects
Over the last few years, animation and VFX have also emerged as an important academic discipline. Various government institutions have included it in their curricula and various other private training institutes have been set up. Chakraborty stated, “Most of the private training institutes focus on the related software. VFX requires a lot of planning for execution from script to screen for which the students must be acquainted.”
Nilanjan Banerjee, a post-graduate student in visual communications from Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore, told BE, “These courses offer multiple platforms for exploration - from explaining complicated concepts with easy visual cues to the creation of storyboards for a film or characters for games and even designing user interfaces.”
For this sector in India, a major portion of the revenue comes from projects where companies work as outsourced vendors for international clients. The Indian entertainment industry is also warming up to these emerging trends. With the rise of OTT platforms, Indians now have access to global content. Their preference and tastes are increasing. This necessitates the production of quality work as the audience might reject poorly done projects.