BOT VFX was conceived and launched to make outsourcing of Rotoscopy, Paint, Prep, Tracking and other arduous tasks an entirely seamless part of production pipelines of post facilities globally. BOT VFX understands that the uncertainties and inefficiencies inherent in creative process outsourcing often overshadow the benefits.
In early March, the VFX and animation industry in India was abuzz with anticipation as the FICCI BAF Awards approached. With a wealth of amazing work recently completed by BOT and its partners, the company submitted work for awards consideration in two categories: Best Shot of the Year (International) and Best VFX in a Film (International). BOT submitted work it had performed with Quebec-based partner Hybride on Solo: A Star Wars Story, and was thrilled to learn that the joint submissions were nominated in both categories.
But an even bigger thrill came during the star-studded FICCI BAF Awards 2019 ceremony itself, held in Mumbai on March 13, 2019. When the BOT / Hybride entry was announced as the winner for the Best VFX Shot of the Year – International category, a jubilant BOT team came up to the stage to accept the statue, with smiles plastered on their faces. Several key BOT team members graciously accepted the award on behalf of the larger team and Hybride, who could not be at the event. This is the second BAF Award win for BOT VFX, with numerous nominations over the years.
The BOT team was already vicariously basking in the afterglow following the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, 2019, where they were thrilled to have contributed VFX work towards 4 of the 5 films nominated for the Visual Effects Oscar: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, Ready Player One, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Another Oscar-nominated film the company had the pleasure to work on was Mary Poppins Returns. They reveled in the successes of Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Green Book, amazing films nominated for Best Picture of 2019, also films BOT has contributed work to.
“While bagging awards is always great, just being a part of the creation process for any amazing content is the ultimate reward,” says Zameer Hussain, BOT’s Creative Head.
The Best Animated Frames [BAF] Awards was started in 2004 by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FICCI] to recognize and honor students and professionals in the field of Animation. This first-ever Animation Awards in India grew over the years to encompass awards not only in Animation, but also in the VFX and Gaming fields. The contest now receives top-notch entries from across the globe. In fact, the last BAF Awards held in March 2018 received around 400 entries from across 12 countries.
Congratulations on the BOT TEAMWORK that led to winning the FICCI BAF Award!
BOT once again participated as a client presenter at this year’s Foundry Global Roadshow in Chennai on March 7, 2019. The team at BOT showcased their use of Foundry’s bespoke software, particularly Nuke, to an audience of 300+ artists.
This is the 4th year in a row that BOT VFX has been asked to be a presenter. The BOT team garnered accolades from fellow presenters and the audience for the innovative way in which they delivered the presentation, using a comic strip like approach that was both insightful and entertaining.
Foundry caught everyone up on the latest updates and new features of Nuke and their stable of industry-standard products. BOT VFX has a long-standing and productive relationship with Foundry, including a recent studio meet-up in November 2018 where the bots heard Foundry’s incredible story of perseverance as told by Simon Robinson, its founder.
BOT VFX hosts meet-up with Foundry leaders in Chennai, November 2018
As a visual effects facility, it’s no surprise that creative talent is plentiful at BOT. However, what is inspiring about the BOT community is how many of the talented VFX artists are equally adept at other art forms and mediums outside of pixels and frames. Thus was born the idea of DRISHYA: The BOT Book of Art, to convey the boundless creative talent of the bots to the outside world. BOT VFX published this limited-edition non-commercial book as a way to showcase the personal artworks of many talented bots, and to connect artists of BOT with the company’s community of friends, family and supporters across the globe.
The Hindi word “drishya”, loosely translated, means “visually striking performance or display”. DRISHYA is striking in its rich variety of styles and mediums, and in the self-directed creative energy that is captured in its pages.
The official launch of DRISHYA: The BOT Book of Art took place on July 7, 2018, at the gala tenth anniversary event celebrating the first decade of BOT VFX. The Honorable Consul General Robert Burgess, head of the United States Consulate in Chennai, was on hand to launch the book.
A grateful client said this of the book after receiving a copy of DRISHYA:
“THANK YOU for the gorgeous book you sent! It’s [a] brilliant way to personalize your company. Especially when a company is overseas, it’s easy for people to forget that there are artists and technicians with unique talents sitting at their desks, working on our shots. I love the idea of connecting the personalities in those pages to the eyes and hands working with us.”
Supporters, friends, and clients of BOT interested in the book can receive a free copy by contacting a BOT team member.
BOT VFX celebrated its 10th anniversary milestone with a glittering gala event on July 7, 2018 in Chennai, India. The event, dubbed BOT Xpressions, was hosted by company co-founders Hitesh Shah, Deepak Bohra, and Sreyans Bardia, and lived up to the upbeat and quirky personality BOT is already known for in the visual effects industry.
The evening’s program included visionaries and dignitaries inspiring the team with their thought leadership, and the launch of an art book featuring the personal artwork of BOT artists.
Also lighting up the night were energizing dance performances including one by BOT’s own dance team, a “mannequin challenge” video paying homage to the veteran torchbearers at BOT, live fusion music, and of course, dinner and dancing.
04: BOT Xpressions: The Recognitions - YouTube
The speakers and Guests of Honor included ILM Vice President Gretchen Libby, world-renowned consultant and professor Dr. Jagdish Sheth, U.S. Consul General Robert Burgess, and Chennai entrepreneur Abhayakumar Jain. Nearly 400 elegantly dressed guests including the current BOT crew and Alumni, industry greats, as well as friends and families of BOT, attended the celebration.
Thought Leaders Shed Light
ILM’s Gretchen Libby
Gretchen Libby took an ecstatic audience of VFX enthusiasts through the epic history of Industrial Light & Magic as it not only created ground-breaking work on classic films, but also along the way, built an industry that did not previously exist.
She emphasized the pivotal role that the company’s culture and values played throughout ILM’s existence, and gave the audience goose-bumps when she acknowledged BOT’s own strong and vibrant culture. The crescendo came when she ended her talk with ILM’s showreel, reminding every BOT in the audience why they are so much in love with visual effects.
Dr. Jagdish Sheth
Dr. Jagdish Sheth, a global consultant to everyone from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to top corporate brass in the United States, India, and throughout the world, was on hand to deliver a riveting speech that was less about business and economics, and more about a topic close to our hearts: the unbounded impact of human potential. He shared inspirational insights on the need to look at the role of an individual’s passion and motivation as the ultimate lever to deliver the greatest value creation for society as a whole.
Opening the program with their typical flair, BOT’s three co-founders Hitesh, Deepak, and Sreyans surprised the audience with some hip-swaying, hand-gyrating dance moves right at the start of the festivities – aptly setting the high-energy tone for the evening.
A live music performance by professional fusion group IndoSoul left everyone awestruck, especially when the band played melodies from beloved movies like Star Wars and the Game of Thrones series.
Selene’s Dance Troupe choreographed several stylistic and colorful dance performances, including the one by BOT’s own crew. The fusion dance performed by the BOTs involved elements of Indian dance creatively woven into popular western music and dance styles.
A masterfully choreographed performance by the Illuminati group mesmerized the audience with their LED Tron dance.
BOT Art Book Launched
The Honorable Consul General Robert Burgess, head of the United States Consulate in Chennai, was on hand to launch Drishya: The BOT Book of Art, an inspiring book showcasing the personal artworks of BOT employees. As a studio made up of hundreds of artists, fostering creativity has always been a priority for BOT, regardless of whether it is inside or outside the office; these efforts have culminated with this launch. The limitless creativity of BOT’s artists has now found lasting expression through this book.
06: BOT Xpressions: 'Drishya' The BOT Book of Art Launch - YouTube
The Grand After-Party
And if the formal part of the evening’s program was a smashing success, the after-party elevated it to a whole new level. The entire audience got on stage and danced as the DJ cranked out the hits. The energy that had started off the evening with the program on-stage had contagiously spread and consumed everyone in the audience by the end of the night – the ultimate hallmark of a successful celebration.
Zam in the bot: No, this is not any deep homage to Ghost in the Machine. Zam is Zameer Hussain, the compositor extraordinaire who has worked on some amazing shows, and is well regarded as an active mentor to many. bot is, of course, bot vfx. Zameer joined the bot clan in late July as its Creative Head and, more informally, as its creative evangelist.
Zameer brings both the creative depth that comes with personally delivering shots on countless shows, and nuanced leadership from managing ever-growing legions of artists on the perpetual march towards show deliveries and deadlines. “Zameer has a reputation of having a strong command of his craft and of being a selfless mentor to artists – regardless of where they work or come from. This combination is somewhat rare, so we were eager to have him among our ranks,” says Hitesh Shah, Head bot.
His command of the craft is witnessed not only by the kinds of shows he’s worked on, like The Dark Tower, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and X-Men: Apocalypse (among countless others), but also by the highly regarded VFX companies he’s been affiliated with, including ILM, Iloura, Double Negative, and MPC.
Zameer’s leadership approach challenges staid old stereotypes that define creative supervision to be a left-brain-dominated activity. His methodical dissection of problems and his bias towards structure and processes demonstrate that effective creative leadership is a Zen-like art of applying both halves of the mind in symphony.
“When we announced internally about Zameer joining us, we were delighted to find that many of our team members were as enthusiastic as we were because they either personally knew him or know someone else who does,” noted Deepak Bohra, Head of Business Affairs. “This reaffirmed our goal of bringing him on the team to help us drive further bot‘s core vision and mission – the continued development of our artists and innovation in our pipeline.”
BOT’s continual efforts to nurture existing client relations and build new ones face to face took Studio Co-Founder Sreyans Bardia and Senior Producer Frederick Lissau all the way to Europe’s VFX centre – er…center – London, in the month of June.
While in Germany it was all about planes, trains and automobiles; BOT’s latest travel was through London’s famous Tube.
“From Hammersmith and City to Bakerloo to Central to Victoria to Piccadilly to Jubilee and District & Circle – I think we rode through them all during our week long stay!” mused Frederick, who is very familiar with the city, having spent some years (2006 -2008) in London while doing a film for Universal.
Reflecting on the trip, Frederick further added that, “The industry here is just in a state of continuous growth as films, TV series and commercials continue to use London as a hub for their biggest and most complex works.” As they continue to expand and build relationships with clients in the UK, BOTs feel immensely excited about the immense possibilities London has in store for them. Frederick continued, “The breadth of talent in this city is simply staggering. We were very grateful that many clients and friends took time out of their hectic schedules to meet with us and exchange ideas!”
“It is always a pleasure to meet up with our old and existing clients & partners and engage with new ones. There’s always something new to learn from them on what works, what doesn’t and what we need to do to make it work, which is always great!”, gushed Sreyans, who spent his sabbatical in London in 2008, and has subsequently often visited the city as a part of BOT over the past few years.
The wise words of good old Paddington Bear come to mind – “In London, everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in”. Well, BOTs have already carved a little space for themselves in this city! Thanks to all the love the client’s shower on them.
The responsibility of saving the world from a resurgent alien threat is thrust upon five teenage outcasts with an attitude. Together they must fulfill their destiny under the guidance of a mysterious alien mentor. Sounds familiar? Yep. It’s the Power Rangers in a brand new contemporary makeover! Directed by Dean Israelite, the film boasts a stellar cast, with Elizabeth Banks taking on the role of Rita Repulsa, Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Bill Hader as Alpha 5.
Multiple Academy Awards winner Digital Domain roped in BOT VFX to help with look enhancement, replacing the green suit stunt doubles with CG characters and prosthetic cleanup on characters.
The Power Rangers’ suits come equipped with wiring called Energy Lines. BOT’s Roto team’s main task was to provide Rotoscopy for all of those lines which were then used to generate glowing and pulsing energy that flowed through each suit. They used 3D tracks to stabilize the camera movement. They then used 2D tracking and frame by frame manual roto in both Silhouette and Nuke on the more complex shots. With some of the shots being as long as 2000 frames, this was a particularly challenging project. Production Coordinator Anand Ramesh explains, “It seems simple in theory, but most of the shots were complicated by heavy action, what with the characters constantly running, flying, flipping and performing crazy acrobatics.”
Things were equally grueling for the Paint team as well. The major task was to paint out the stunt doubles from the original plates of some of the highest-octane shots. They would later be replaced with CG characters. The work was not straightforward Anand explains, “We had to work on slow motion shots and recreate the background with very limited source to go on.” However, armed with clean plates for objects in different depths, the 3D camera track and set geometry from Digital Domain, the team set out to do what it does best. 2D Supervisor Srikanth Srinivasan elaborates, “Some of the trickier shots included those of the characters Zordon and Rita. Since the actors wore prosthetic suits, the main challenge before the team was to fix the obvious wrinkles and cracks that made the prosthetic makeup look artificial.” This called for meticulous paint work, which wasn’t exactly a straightforward job due to subtle muscle and skin movements. Digging into Nuke’s expansive toolset the team was able to track the subtle movements at pixel level, which helped achieve the desired results.
Finally, three whirlwind months later, BOTs delivered over a hundred shots.
“The kind of work this project entailed, it needed the Roto and Paint teams to work in super-efficient tandem. We wouldn’t have made half the progress we did, if it wasn’t for everyone’s proactive and meticulous planning. That is what made this project a truly rewarding experience”, smiles Srikanth.
If there’s anything that gets the BOT team going with superhuman efficiency, it’s projects like these that bring out the collaborative spirit in everyone. As the Red Ranger would say, “It’s morphin’ time!”
Saban’s Power Rangers will be out on Digital HD June 13th and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on June 27th.
When you think of traveling to Europe, you have grand thoughts of enjoying quiet afternoons sipping a latte at a street-side cafe table, strolling lush gardens, visiting museums, or having a plate of a thousand different types of cheeses – what you don’t expect is a whirlwind of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
BOT founder and CEO Hitesh Shah and Senior Producer Frederick Lissau set out on BOT’s annual sojourn to Germany the first week in May with the goal of visiting BOT’s many Clients there – in addition to taking part in the yearly FMX Conference. FMX – www.fmx.de – brings together thousands of professionals from VFX, Animation, VR and Games from across the EU to Stuttgart, Germany.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge to see everyone, but we made it a point to see all of our Clients, no matter which city they were in,” affirmed Shah.
This inspired the team to do some sophisticated logistics planning to navigate to clients in Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Stuttgart.
“It was great having the chance to see everyone face to face and have some truly in-depth conversations. We made some really great human level connections that you simply can’t manage through calls, Skype sessions, emails and texts,” Lissau recalled about the trip. “The warm reception by our clients and the brief immersion into German culture more than made up for the absence of quiet street-side cafe moments.”
BOT VFX added a dash of their digital magic to the extreme skydiving, jetskiing, fistfighting action in xXx: Return of Xander Cage through their work on over 80 visual effects shots. Third in the xXx series, xXx: Return of Xander Cage follows (obviously) Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), in his adventures as a criminal turned government secret agent. Cage in this outing gathers a team of equally badass cohorts in order to rescue a stolen government super weapon, from villain Xiang (Donnie Yen).
Working with Academy Award winning VFX shop PIXOMONDO, BOT VFX assisted in two challenging sequences. The first was a fight sequence inside a cargo plane and the following sequence where Cage plummets to the earth sans parachute.
In the fight sequence BOT’s artists were tasked with removing the rigs and stunt harnesses attached to each actor using digital paint, in order to make the characters appear to be in freefall inside the plane. While painting out the rigs, the artists ran into obstacles in matching the grain. To overcome this BOT developed an in-house tool in Nuke to match the grain with the plate, which was essential for delivering on time. Adding to the complexity was the clothing itself. Maintaining the intricate camouflage patterns of soldiers and Cage’s jacket was a difficult and time consuming experience.
In the following sequence Cage jumps out of the jet holding a crate containing a parachute, BOT had the challenge of matching greenscreen shots with stunt worked filmed thousands of feet above. BOT artists successfully overcame this challenge as they meticulously painted out the stunt rigs and harnesses in each frame and applied rotoscopy on Cage himself extracting him from the greenscreen.
The team solely used the Foundry’s Nuke for Rotoscopy, using it to match motion blurs and defocus edges on the mattes. Photoshop was used in digital paint shots that required frame by frame attention while Nuke and Mocha Pro were used on more procedural tracking shots.
Department Head, Saravanan Sala, stated that “while facing challenges with matching perspective and parallax for the show; our creative team gained confidence handling the large amount of shots recreating the actors amongst all their rigging.”
BOT VFX is proud of their part in helping to create the world of Xander Cage in his latest frenetic action adventure film and is looking forward to another sequel.