Read about the latest trends, happenings and updates in the VFX, Animation and Gaming Industries. Srushti VFX is a creative studio offering art, animation and vfx services for the advertising, film and gaming industries.
For long, the term celluloid was synonymous with the Motion Picture Industry. The optical illusion called phi phenomenon that helps to perceive still images viewed in rapid succession as continuous motion has been stimulating the audience ever since a late 19th century. Before the arrival of digital technology by the late 20th century, most of the movies were filmed using film cameras where the images recorded onto a plastic film through a photochemical process were screened using a movie projector. The 21st century saw an amazing uprising of the digital technology and now most of the movie making is entirely digital… From pre-production to final distribution.
As the name implies, in the digital process, the images are captured as digital video images on Charge Coupled Device based cameras other than traditional film cameras. In the digital process, the end result can be saved in a flash memory, hard disk or videotape. The history of digital cinema dates the back the too late 1980s when Sony tried to marketize their electronic cinematography using its SONY HDVS Professional Video Cameras. Sony wasn’t entirely successful at this but they didn’t go unnoticed either. One of the earliest feature films to make use of digital technology was the Italian film Julia and Julia that released in 1987. Directed by Peter Del Monte, the movie was shot on HDVS using HD technology and was then later transferred to 35mm. This technique of converting High Definition images to a film like quality became popular after this film and several Television shows made use of it to have the film like output while still shooting at High Definition. In 1992, came the first public demonstration of digital cinema in the United States of America. The film ‘Bugsy’ directed by Barry Levinson was screened at the Anaheim Convention Center before hundreds of attendees and the event had a spectacular news coverage. The film was then released nationwide on Christmas Day and it went on to receive ten Academy Award nominations.
When talking about technological advancements in movies, more often than not, the name of one franchise always comes across. Such has been its legacy. The Star Wars. Phantom Menace, the first installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy released in 1999 and it became the first major motion picture theatrically distributed as digital cinema using a Pluto storage system in D-5 Format. The film grossed more than 900 million worldwide making it the second highest after Titanic at that time. In the same 1999 released Tarzan directed by Kevin Lima and Chris Buck, Toy Story 2, directed by John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, Bicentennial Man directed by Chris Columbus that was in the format of new digital cinema and made use of QuVIS wavelet-based compression algorithms.
There were already indications that the digital revolution is going to own the 21st century. And so it did. The 21st century began with films like Mission to Mars directed by Brian De Palma and Fantasia by Walt Disney which followed the trend of digital cinema. One major breakthrough for digital films in 2000 was the success of a micro-budget feature film Blair Witch Project. The film was the first wide-release film primarily marketed by the Internet. In 2001, director Robert Rodriguez, popularly nicknamed as “one man crew”, for his style of making films by handling most of the technical departments on his own, came up with ‘Once Upon a time in Mexico’. The film is the first known film to be shot in 24 frames and in HD quality. In 2002, Star Wars released their second film in the prequel series which was shot using Sony HDW-F900 and since the digital era has flourished its way through mainstream filmmaking. From 2012, it is estimated that almost half of the films produced each year are digital. Avatar, Gravity, Life of Pi, Sin City, The Hobbit Series, Hugo etc are some of the finest examples of movies shot in Digital Formats.
Before the digital era, men had to work in the projector rooms behind the theatre to manage tins of highly flammable and heavy film strips. Now, one simple machine will do their job completely. The PC based movies are very easy to handle, unlike film cameras that call for delicate care. With the latest technology, we can buy our own projectors and have a theatre like an experience in our very own living room. Another advantage is that it can be compressed into small memory and it can travel fast and can be shared among many people. Shooting in the film has its own set of advantages, the most notable one being the resolution obtained from even the medium format cameras. The debate over film versus digital camera is never ending and the choice is absolutely up to the professional instinct and experience of the user. But one thing is for sure. The evolution of digital technology has been a revolution!
If you are an aspiring filmmaker most of your mentors and teachers have already told you the importance of clarity. Perhaps one of the most important weapons in a filmmaker’s armory is clarity. Even for a screenwriter, it is quintessential to write as he sees the film. When you read a clear screenplay, you actually see the film in your mind. To summarize, we could say that in every aspect of filmmaking you have a visual cue of how the final product will be. In other words, you have to see your film before it is made! Now, you have several tools to do this. Storyboarding is a way, yes. But storyboards are normally a pictorial representation of your shots. What if you could actually see a moving three-dimensional digital version of your scene before you film it? This is known as previsualization.
Simply put, previsualization is the process of visualizing the complex scenes before filming it. Suppose your film is rich in computer graphics and it includes unique story world and creatures. Most of your filming will be within a background of blue and green screens and how will you get your live actors to emote and perform the way you want? Wouldn’t it better if they see how the final version will be? Unless they get a visual feel of the landscape they are in or the enormity of the giant creature covered up in the green screen, their performance will not be real. Or suppose you have to film a highly complicated action or chase sequence. Quite often, some shots that looked impressive in storyboards will not really work well in context. But, if the cinematographer gets a feel of how the shots move between the scene through previsualization, it will help him develop the meticulous frame for each shot. What about an editor? He can smoothly fit together with your footage with the sample video to guide him through. Even VFX supervisors will know the kind of work they will have to do and it helps save their time and manpower. Another benefit of animated pre-visualization is that it helps directors, cinematographers, editors and VFX supervisors to improvise and experiment on various factors such as camera movements and placement, lighting, duration of each shot, art and staging etc. Imagine the time and money you will spend to experiment them all during the live shoot! Filmmakers used to say “We will fix it in the post”, to imply that they will cover up their mistakes in post-production using the modern digital equipment. Well… Previsualization says “Fix it in pre”, so that the errors you commit to set would be minimal!
What is Previs? | The OceanMaker - YouTube
The beginning of visual storyboards can be traced back to 1982 when director Francis Ford Coppola came up with ‘One from the Heart’. Termed as ‘Electronic Cinema’, in this musical feature actors carried out radio style voice recording of the complete script. Then, the storyboard artists developed 1800 individual frames and these sketches were then recorded to analog video disks and were edited to match voice recordings. During production, footage from video tap of 35 mm camera was used to replace storyboard sketches and it gave the director a better understanding of the film’s progress. Interestingly enough, Coppola did not work with actors on set and instead, he directed the team from an Airstream trailer equipped with the latest editing tools. Footage from five sets at Hollywood General Studios was given to the trailer and the trailer also featured an offline editing system, Ultimate keyers, switcher and disk-based still store. The structure allowed Coppola to composite live and recorded scenes with full size and miniature settings.
One of the earliest motion pictures to make use of computer software to pre visualize a scene was the fifth installment of Star Trek Film Franchise. Producer Ralph Winter decided to use the technique after it was suggested to him by a couple of visual effect supervisors. Self-taught animator Lynda Susan Weinman was then hired to create a 3D motion of Starship Enterprise for ‘Final Frontier’ which was released in 1989. Taking inputs from director William Shatner and Ralph Winter, Lynda made use of Swivel 3D software to accomplish this task. Though the film received heavy initial collection, its box office performance severely sloped down as the critic reception was poor. The animator Lynda, however, went on to create a website in 1995 which offered numerous courses in software, business, and creative skills. In April 2015, this website was acquired by Linkedin!
In 1989, there was another film which made use of previsualization. Talk about the best use of any potential technology in films, this filmmaker’s name will be there. That has been his portfolio. James Cameron, this time around, made use of gaming technology to previsualize ‘The Abyss’. David Smith, the creator of the first 3D game ‘Colony’ was brought in by Cameron for his film realizing the similarity of the environment in ‘Colony’ with the underwater lab in ‘Abyss’. The idea was to use real-time gaming technology to pre-visualize camera movements and staging. The technology yielded only limited results back then but it helped David Smith to develop his Pre visualization software ‘Virtus Walkthrough’. Virtus Walkthrough then became a norm of pre visualization in the 90s.
The major breakthrough in computer previsualization came in 1993 through the film ‘Clear and Present Danger’. Directed by Phillip Noyce, this was the first fully produced use of computer pre-visualization for a director outside VFX department and exclusively for analyzing the dramatic impact and shot flow of a scene. The crew decided to make use of this technique when the location in Mexico became unavailable. The 3D sets and properties were completely textured to match the blueprints of production designers and storyboard artists. Every shot in the scene, including dialogues, sound effects, and background score were included in the digital pre-viz sequence. Strikingly, this accurately depicted the composition attained by actual camera lenses and even shadow positions for the time of the shoot! This marked the beginning of pre-viz as an important tool in filmmaking.
By mid-1990s, digital previsualization became a requisite in major feature films. Remember the adrenaline pumping final chase sequence in the first installment of ‘Mission Impossible’? Director Brian De Palma sought the help of pre-visualization artist David Dozoretz for this sequence and he achieved it by scanning in action figures to create digital animatics. Impressed by this work, producer Rick McCallum hired David to create them for the pod race in ‘Star Wars – Phantom Menace’. The pre-visualization became so helpful that David ended up creating around four to six animatics for every effect shot in the film!
The use of digital previsualization became readily affordable since the 2000s and filmmakers using their own laptop can today create 3D animated sequences which accurately predicts what will appear on the screen. Lord of the Rings, Life of Pi, Avatar, Gravity, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Thor, World War Z are some of the best examples of 21st-century pre visualization. Today, the term pre-visualization is used by Hollywood filmmakers to describe the technology that helps them improve the efficiency of shot creation during the process of filmmaking.
Though visual effects companies can cater to previsualization services, big productions normally opt for companies solely dedicated to previsualization facilities. One of the most popular previsualization software is the Emmy Award-winning ‘FrameForge 3D Studio’. iClone is another real-time 3D animation and rendering software that is easy to use. Similar to iClone there is Poser, DAZ Studio, Movietone, Vue, and Real3D. Toon Boom Storyboard Pro manages 2D objects permits drawing and exporting in storyboard format.
The application of previsualization is not limited to motion picture industry alone. One other prominent field that makes the best use of pre-visualization is of course Advertising. It is obvious that advertisements will also encounter most of the challenges faced by movies. Most often, the entire advertisement will consist of just one scene and thus without previsualization, most major commercials would not even start! Architecture is the other main industry where pre-visualization proves helpful. The 3D model of apartments and surroundings can be easily animated and used as a guideline for construction. Gaming is another area where pre visualization is handy. In short, pre-visualizing your complicated task well in advance helps you achieve that supreme quality. Clarity!
Imagine if man never set out to tell stories. All you have got in your life and there is no one to tell you another story. Nothing except the plain reality in front of you. How dull will that be? It is tough to even stand the thought of it, isn’t it? To enjoy life to its fullest, we need an occasional shift to an imaginary world. Look around you. No one on Earth can experience it except Humans! How blessed we are! Our Grandmothers were not just putting us to sleep through bedtime stories. Knowingly or unknowingly, they instilled in us one unique quality that we could cherish forever! The power to tell or enjoy stories.Thank You Grandma!
Like many things, storytelling has also evolved over the years. Literature, paintings, and stage play elevated storytelling to another level but a major breakthrough came during the late 19th century. The MOTION PICTURE or CINEMA! When Eadweard Muybridge set off to answer the much-debated question – “Are all four of a horse’s hoof ever off at the same time of the ground while galloping” he would have never imagined the impact it would have in the years to come. Eadweard arranged multiple cameras to go off at an exact moment and then assembled the individual pictures into a single motion picture and the world stood wonderstruck. The horse literally raced into history! And then, in 1895, the Lumiere Brothers designed a handheld motion picture device called the Cinematographe that can project images onto a large screen. Four days before the new year of 1896, at the Salon Indien of the Grand Cafe in Paris, Lumieres effectively opened the first cinema box office, charging the public to see 10 short films they had filmed earlier that year. The rest is history. Some breakthroughs are like that. The moment it sets off there is no looking back. The influence Cinema has in this twenty-first century, speaks for its own ability. Today, to enjoy leisure time with your friends or family one of your first options will be the movie screen nearby. That is the strength of the cinema. Its roots are deep inside the common most men.
Talk about common men, where will you find them more than in India! It is no surprise that India has been one of the most influenced by Cinema and it is even here that most numbers of films are made in a year. Films are made in more than 15 languages in this country! Checkmate everyone!
Following its growing popularity in Europe, Cinema also started to make waves in India during the early twentieth century. By July 1896, Lumiere Films had been in the show in Bombay. On 18th May 1912, ‘Shree Pundalik’, a Marathi silent film by Dadasaheb Torne was released in ‘Coronation Cinematograph’ Bombay. But many argued that it didn’t deserve the honour of first Indian film as it was a photographic recording of a Marathi play and because the cameraman was a British named Johnson. The film was also processed in London. But the same ‘Coronation Cinematograph’ witnessed and staged history the very next year as it screened the first Indian full-length motion picture produced and directed by Dadasaheb Phalke. The film was titled ‘Raja Harischandra’ and it was a silent film too. Interestingly, the female characters in this film were played by male actors. In the silent era, the west continued making expressionist cinemas while most Indian films were related to Mythology and History. As cinema continued to expand its popularity, it was absolutely necessary that the audience get a real feel of the characters talking. As always, necessity is the Mother and Father of innovations and talking films emerged. The first talking film ‘Jazz Singer’ was released in America in 1927. India joined the party four years later with the Hindi Urdu Film Alam Ara by Ardeshir Irani. And from then, Cinema grew through various transitions to become the most sought-after medium of the nation. Filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen took Indian Cinema to a global stage. Slowly, the actors who played those characters dear to us became our dear ones too and the nation saw the birth of many Actor Superstars. Be there in theatre for the release day of a Superstar Movie and you might wonder if you are at Anfield watching a Liverpool match!
Nobody can live ignoring technology. Health, Education, Communication, Governance… Nothing will work well if they are not updated. The same is the case for Cinema. In fact, Cinema is one of the fields that make use of technology the most. From the shooting device to the editing software to adding sound and music, Cinema is technology top to bottom. And for a medium to exist more than a century, there is no way other than to keep updating itself. Cinema has done that quite successfully indeed. One technology that took Cinema to a dream-like level is Visual Effects. Imagine if the movie world hadn’t offered you a Star Wars? A Terminator? A Jurassic Park? A Titanic? Harry Potter? Lord of Rings? Avatar?… If not for movies like this, Cinema would have long lost its strength and freshness.
So what are Visual Effects? Quite simply, it is any imagery created, altered or enhanced for a film or other moving media that cannot be accomplished during live action shooting. It involves integrating live action footage and generated imagery to create environments that look realistic but will be risky, costly or even impossible to capture in a film. For example, your film is all about aliens invading Earth. You cannot wait until an Alien knocks at your door and says ‘Hello’! So you go out and create them! The implication of Visual Effects is enormous. Imagine those animals in Jumanji. They do exist in real world, but it is very dangerous to film them. Worry not, for Visual Effect is for you. Today, most of the Hollywood films make use of Visual Effects. Hardly any film goes by without using it at least to a minor extent.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle VFX by Iloura - YouTube
But what about India? What has been the technological progress in Indian Films and where do Visual Effects stand?
As the saying goes in the Academy Award-winning film ‘Secret in Their Eyes’, no matter what one changes in his life, he can never change his passion. Late Indian Director K. Asif was a clear example of that because working 16 years to see a film come alive requires nothing short of craving passion! ‘Mughal e Azam’, an Epic Historical Drama that released in 1960 was one of the pioneers of Indian technical advancements. The film was mostly shot in studios, designed to represent the interior of a Mughal Palace and some of the extravagant sets took more than two years to build! Some of the sequences in the film were shot up to with 14 cameras and at times it took around 8 hours to light up a single shot! For the epic war scene, 2000 camels, 4000 horses, and 8000 troops were used. The development of the project began in 1944 but was delayed due to several political, financial and manpower issues. When it ultimately released in 1960, the film got the widest release for any Indian film until then and went on to become the highest grossing Indian film, a record they kept for fifteen years! Though Asif planned an entire reshoot in Technicolor, the distributors of the film were not ready to grant him any further delays and thus he had to release the film partly colored. However, in 2004, a color version of the film was released and that too became a commercial success. Unfortunately, Asif was not around to witness it.
Though Hindi was the biggest industry for films in India, regional films were not to be left behind. In 1978, Telugu director B. Vittalacharya came up with Jaganmohini, a horror film that had one of the best special effects according to Indian standards that time. Vittalacharya went on to create numerous other films that were high on effects. His ghost characters were quite unique as they made a sport of chasing down villagers and used their legs as firewood whenever they wanted to. No surprise that he later became known as ‘Mayajaala Mannan’ or in other words, a man who gave a face to the horror.
It was in another small regional film that India saw one of its major technical progress. After getting inspired from an article in ‘American Cinematographer’, Jijo Punnoose, an actor, and filmmaker from Kerala went on to make the first 3d film in India, titled ‘My Dear Kuttichathan’ in 1984. The film was dubbed into almost all the major languages in India and it reaped success everywhere. An optical illusion of a room as the characters walked through the wall was one visual that left everyone amazed. The film got a re-release in 1997 and even after a decade continued its success story.
“Mogambo Khush Hua” is still one of the favorite one-liners for Movie lovers in India. “Mogambo” the gruesome villain and the film ‘Mr.India’ still maintains an iconic profile in the history of Indian Cinema. ‘Mr. India’ was one of the first science fiction films in the nation and it had Anil Kapoor in the lead role who gets to possess a special device that could make him invisible. Shekhar Kapur, the director of the film, recently said in an interview that ‘Mr. India’ was a product of fearlessness. Due to limited technology, they were not able to add the visual effects during post-production and they had to shoot everything on the camera itself. However, Shekhar Kapur says the visual effects were fundamentally sold by the performance of his actors and the characters in the film created the awe factor of visual effects.
If discussion about Indian movies is going on anywhere, it will be impossible to conclude that without mentioning the name Kamal Hassan. He is one of the prominent and innovative hands in the industry who always strive to introduce new aspects in filmmaking. In 1989, came a movie that had one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. Directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, ‘Apoorva Sagodharargal’ had Kamal portraying three different roles, one of them, a dwarf. Director Singeetam recently shed a light on how they went on to create the dwarf. He said a pair of special shoes were prepared to be attached to the folded knees of Kamal during straight angle shots. For the side angle shots, a trench was dug up to cover the Kamal’s legs till knees.
These are mainly examples of innovative artistic brilliance. But since when did computer generated imageries begin to merge with live action images?
Remember Prabhu Deva’s skeleton dancing to A.R Rahman’s beat in the super hit ‘Mukkala Mukkabula’ song? The very mention of that song will take you along the path of nostalgia. For most of India’s youth today, this song was part of their childhood. Probably for the first time, you were treated to some wondrous visuals out of the ordinary. As the skeleton danced, it brought a smile to everyone’s face. The chuckle of kids in the cinema hall for the song was the second best thing to hear after Rahman’s beats! Though just in song, ‘Kadhalan’, Tamil Film released in 1994 and directed by Shankar, was a fresh experience to Indian viewers.
Priyadarshan is a director known for his splendor visuals. His Malayalam Film Kaalapani, released in 1995, showed the sufferings of Indian prisoners in the cellular jail during the period of British Raj. For the film, the pre-world war one ports were recreated on the Andaman Islands and huge sets were build in Chennai for the Jail.
Judgment Day, the sequel to Terminator was one film the world stood flabbergasted too. But how did it also help Indian Cinema? Because it was the film that inspired Shyam Prasad Reddy, a Telugu Producer to make Ammoru, a film rich in visual effects. Mainly a devotional film, it was directed by Kodi Ramakrishna and released in the year 1995… The computer-generated visuals of the Goddess was a pleasant experience to the Telugu audience. Ammoru was a film that was shot twice because Shyam Prasad Reddy was not happy with the final outcome from the director that was initially supposed to complete the film. The project then went on to Kodi Ramakrishna and he said that he had to read books related to visual effects to improve his knowledge before he began filming.
Director Shankar continued to make use of visual effects for songs in movies like Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, and Boys but in 2005 he shifted his gear with the film ‘Anniyan’. It’s plot revolved around a law-abiding innocent lawyer who gets frustrated about public negligence and irresponsibility. This ultimately leads him to split personality and he tries to correct the system. In the film, the central character visits a website that replicates how punishment for sinners look like in hell. There is no such existing website and the visual effects team of ‘Anniyan’ conceptualized and designed a hell with the help of ancient scriptures. There is another scene where the camera zooms from beyond the clouds to the streets of Chennai City. No real camera can achieve this. Aerial views and paintings were stitched together along with computer-generated images to create the long one-piece zoom. The scene where ‘Anniyan’ addresses a packed crowd inside a stadium was filmed space empty and the crowd was created through Visual Effects and similarly, the scene where many buffaloes chase down a car owner to an abandoned sand quarry was accomplished using just one buffalo!
The success of Anniyan ensured Shankar is climbing the ladder up. It was just a matter of time before he came out with an all-out visual effects movie and it happened in 2010 through ‘Yendhiran’ aka ‘Robot’ starring none other than superstar Rajnikanth. The film was all about a scientist’s struggle to control his creation, an android named ‘Chitti’. The premise itself makes it obvious that the spine of the film will be in its visual effects. Yendhiran was the costliest Indian film until then and it also emerged as the biggest Indian blockbuster of 2010. Filled with awe-inspiring visuals, the film was well received by fans and critics. Even the great filmmaker K.Balachander wrote a personal letter to Shankar following the film’s release calling him India’s James Cameron!
Roman Polanski once said, “I never made a film which fully satisfied me”. Real Professionals always look for rooms to improve. They consider their next work to be the best. And so, Shankar, being a real professional, did not stop at Yendhiran and five years later went on to make another film enriched with visual effects. The film titled ‘I’ with Vikram in the lead role was released in 2015 and it said the story of a bodybuilder turned supermodel who gets deformed and seeks revenge on those responsible for his predicament. The music album of the film was launched by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger! The performance and technical aspects of the film were well received but the writing of the film was severely criticised. However, Shankar remains as one of the frontrunners of Visual Effects in India and he is gearing up for the second part of ‘Yendhiran’! The film is supposed to come out in 2017.
During this period, there were some Hindi movies that explored the advantages of visual effects too. One of them was Koi Mil Gaya by director Rakesh Roshan. The film was in science fiction genre, a rarity in Indian cinema and it dealt with the life of a mentally unstable young man who befriends an Alien. The film also spawned two sequels, Krrish and Krrish 3. For Krrish, Rakesh Roshan hired special effect experts who had earlier worked on Hollywood films like Independence Day and Godzilla. There were almost 1200 VFX shots accounting for almost 90 minutes of running time. Krrish 3 too had a giant grandeur and a fourth part is expected to hit the screens by 2018.
History has a peculiar way of repeating itself. In the film industry, history is often created by historical films! Just like how ‘Mughal e Azam’ started the initial wave of technological progress in India, several years down the lane, in 2008, a prequel of sorts came into life through ‘Jodha Akbar’. The film focused on Akbar’s life from the start of teenage to 28. The historical romance film was another well made visual effects filled Indian Film.
You might have heard that struggling story of the young boy who came to Mumbai with the dream of making it big in movies. Fans affectionately call him ‘King Khan’ now and he is not one to ignore the growth potentials of Cinema. His Production Company, Red Chillies Entertainment came up with science fiction superhero film Ra.one in 2011. Directed by Anubhav Sinha, this film had around 1200 artists who worked for 2 and half years to complete the visual effect works of the film. The shot of glass breaking and splinters flying in slow motion appears for merely 4-5 seconds in the film but it took to about 40000 hours to finish this shot!
Ra.One - The glass shot - YouTube
Another historical film that created waves was ‘Magadheera’, a Telugu film that released in 2009. Directed by Rajamouli, It is based on the theme of reincarnation and it follows a shift across the modern age and a 400-year-old kingdom period. Effects were used for about 1 hour and 40 minutes of the total 2 hours and 35 minutes of the film! In the scenes of Udayghad City, only 15% of the frames were actually shot with a camera! Others were extensions.
From Historical Fantasy, Rajamouli stepped into the shoes of children for his next VFX filled ‘Eega’ which got released in 2012. The film’s narrative itself is in the form of a bedtime story by a Father to his Daughter. We have seen actors showing off their heroism. For Rajamouli this might have been a little too mainstream and thus it was a ‘Fly’ who adorned the hero here! Because the fly’s eyes in the film comprise 80% of his face, Rajamouli thought he could make it expressive. However, the initial output was unsatisfactory and Rajamouli reworked the fly’s detailing. The team made photoshoots of unconscious flies in a bottle stored in a refrigerator and after enlarging the details Rajamouli made cosmic changes to its face so that it looks appalling on screen. A new team then designed the fly in two months. Since some effects could not be designed in India, they engaged consultants in countries like China, Russia, U.S, and U.K.
In 2015, came Rajamouli gained wide recognition and accolades for his magnum opus – Bahubali. The film was another historical fantasy. There were almost 2500 VFX Shots in the movie. To bring the 1500 feet mystical water to life, the team had to work for two long years as it involved several technical complications such as Fluid Dynamics. Each frame involving the waterfall was treated as creating a new set and employed different sets of methodology. Bahubali went on to become the highest grossing Indian Film in India. Its sequel is due to release April 2017. With Shankar and Rajamouli, two giants of Visual Effects in India, coming back with sequels of their magnum opus..
Nobody needs to be told the importance of preparation than a filmmaker. Interestingly, the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock himself once said that if he were to run a film school, he will not allow the students to go near a camera for the first two years! Now, that speaks volumes about the kind of knowledge and preparations a filmmaker needs to have. It is no surprise that smart modern day filmmakers who dwell in complex visuals and scenarios invest a lot of time and effort into pre-production. And one such pre-production technique that helps you keep a firm grip on complicated sequences is nothing but pre-visualization.
Pre-visualization serves a wide variety of purposes. For one, it helps you analyze the shots you have planned and ensure whether they would actually work. It is also a flawless option to communicate your idea to the entire team. And when your idea is clear and everyone knows what is expected, it goes a long way in saving time and money. Filmmakers would know!
So on that note, let us take a look at some of the finest pre-visualization works in Hollywood movies.
Take a look at this pre-visualized sequences of Avatar. How closely does it resemble the final version we got to see? That’s how perfect previs can be! As one can expect, the role of pre-visualization artists was quite dynamic and challenging for the dream venture of James Cameron. Asset creation and manipulation, MotionBuilder scene building, video facemask generation, scene troubleshooting, animation fixes and environment tweaks were all part of their daily schedule. No wonder there is so much detail in pre-visualization itself!
Remember the castaway story of the young Indian boy who finds an unlikely ally in the ferocious Bengal Tiger? Film goers were treated to an absolute visual delight when ‘Life of Pi’ came out in 2012. Here is some of the previsualization work of the film. Take a look at how complicated some of the shots are. Imagine going to film them without an idea of how the end product would look like. Yeah, that’s what hell would look like if you are Ang Lee! But, luckily, there is pre-visualization.
There are professions and professionals. Some people are known for their profession while some professions are known for its professionals! One such profession is performance capture that none other than Andy Serkis mastered. No-one can ever forget his iconic role of Gollum aka Smeagol. After Gollum, his other awe inspiring performance came in the form of Caesar the Ape, in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ Series. Here is a look at some of the pre-visualized shots of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. More than 1500 shots were pre-visualized for the film with the help of 50+ artists. The degree of work ranged from overall shot beats to scenarios with rigid technical information such as camera lens and set size. One can imagine the magnitude of the work as some shots had more than 150 apes on screen!
There is no better testimony than from the masters of the craft. Hear it from George Lucas and his team how previsualization helped them bring ‘Star Wars – Episode II’ alive. Even though previsualization is a recently new arrival that garnered strength in the digital era, you would know it from George Lucas that there have always been efforts since long back to have a visual clarity before going into production. And when George Lucas takes us on that trip of evolution with examples from ‘Star Wars’… Well, you might have to try hard not to be amazed!
Superhero films are not complete without jaw-dropping action sequences and breathtaking visual effects. Well, you don’t need another reason to guess why previsualization is quintessential for such films. Who are your top 5 superheroes? It is guaranteed that this cocky guy would make it to the list – The Iron Man. So would you like to see how Jon Favreau and team pre-visualized the film before it went into production. Have a look at it here.
Have you ever dodged and told yourself that you are Keanu Reeves from Matrix. Yeah, that’s how popular those moves were! The entire Matrix series was filled with complicated camera movements and stunts. No prize in guessing what helped the crew before they neared the camera. Here are some of the pre-visualized shots of ‘Matrix Reloaded’.
The Matrix Reloaded : previs - YouTube
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion” said the renowned writer Stephen King. Horror is one of the most challenging genres to place your hands on. Such films call for a lot of groundwork when it comes to visual detailing. The devil is truly in the details. Scare can be unintentionally comical if the visuals are not properly in sync. Yeah, we can quote plenty of films as examples but let’s not be anyone’s foe here. The challenge is doubled when what you have to deal with is zombies. What’s the additional challenge? Because one zombie can make a normal person a zombie with a single bite and thus, before you know it, you may have a house full of zombies. Wait, what if the world is full of zombies? Ask director Marc Forster for he explored a similar theme with ‘World War Z’. Want to see how the crew managed to pre-visualize some of the shots? Have a look at it here.
It must have been a challenge for director Francis Lawrence’s to adapt the famous novel ‘Water for Elephants’ into the silver screen. No surprise he sought for pre-visualization prior to filming some of the iconic moments in the film. Stampede is chaos and chaos is unmanageable. But not when you are a filmmaker with previsualization! Have a taste of it here –
Fan of automobile racing? Then you must have enjoyed ‘Speed Racer’ that came out in 2008. Adrenaline chases, spine-chilling stunts, and breathtaking visuals…Yeah, that’s somewhat the package of such films, isn’t it? How difficult are they to shoot? Ask anyone who has ever picked up a camera! Take a look at how directors Lana and Lily Wachowski’s made use of pre-visualization for filming one such movie – Speed Racer.
THE IMPACT OF PREVISUALIZATION IN HOLLYWOOD FILM INDUSTRY - YouTube
Have you ever watched disaster films and wondered how on Earth did they do they create disaster sequences that are as threatening as in real life. Well… pre-visualization indeed is one key factor that helps it get right! If you need an example to have a look at this pre-visualized sequence of tsunami disaster for the film ‘The Impossible’. That’s how director J. A Bayona achieved the impossible!
Talk about action and you can’t keep this guy away – James Bond! So much so that the challenge may start right from the title sequence itself! Yup, and here is how the amazing title sequence of ‘Skyfall’ was pre-visualized.
Fantasy is another genre that tests the visual storyteller in you. And here is how J.A Bayona made use of pre-visualization to bring his fantasy tale ‘When a Monster Calls’ alive. If you enjoyed the cafeteria scene in the movie, you will have fun watching how it was foreseen.
Of course, the list doesn’t end here. For an industry that marvels in visual excellence, previs is something that can never be kept apart. In one form or the other, they have always been part of the industry. Just that in every era, it took the shape of the best possible method. Fast forward to the 21st century where the digital uprising has presented itself with a lot of opportunities, previs has also elevated to a grand new splendor.