Powering Bollywood's Sci-Fi Sensation
SM: New in India, but not in Hollywood. We used animatronics. Out of the 62 scenes, we pre-visualized 40 scenes. Every scene of Endhiran has vfx work. Twenty-two scenes were done using animatronics done Legacy Effects, formerly Stan Winston Studio. For capturing the facial emotions and texture, we used the Dome Light Stage, a patented technique by Mr. Paul Debevec, also used on Avatar, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the Spider-Man franchise. This Light Stage scanning helped in capturing high-resolution CG faces with tremendous details. Since the humanoid face had special makeup and shine, Paul Debevec did the scanning himself.
MN: What was the nature of the animation and vfx sequences?
SM: It's a mix. Some sequences like the climax, with the fire/burning robot and dancing robot were done in 3D. Some sequences like dual role (Scientist Vasi and Robot Chitti) were done using compositing and some sequences were a blend of 3D, animatronics and compositing.
MN: How many companies were involved in the vfx work of Endhiran?
SM: The majority of work was done in my studio, Indian Artists Computer Graphics Pvt. Ltd. Animatronics and special makeup were done by Legacy Effects from LA. Frankie Chung of Kinomotive studios Hong Kong and Eddy Wong of Menfond Electronics Arts & Computer Design of Hong Kong were also involved in the vfx supervision. There were also some freelancers from London, Canada, Iran, Germany, France and Hong Kong. Other Indian companies involved were Pixion Chennai, Vensat, Firefly Creative Studios, EFX Prasad Studios, Oysterr and Ocher Studios.
SM: Mostly off-the-shelf tools: Maya, Digital Fusion and After Effects. From the scanning, we got 3D face mesh images in high-dynamic range format. To utilize those images, we developed a proprietary skin shade plug-in. The code is available as open source at https://code.google.com/p/jupiterskin/.
MN: What kind of R& D did you do?
SM: I travelled and visited many studios: ILM, Tippett, Café FX and Zoic -- the major vfx studios were willing to do the work. Because of the global recession the production company involved couldn't continue. And we had to change plans. The Sun Picture Production company took the work. Heavy rework was required. I had kept the base level technology work under my supervision. So, I did the rework. We never deviated from the concept or the script of the story. I maintained that.
If the full shot had been given to other production houses, the cost of movie would have risen to more than $ 140 million. I continued working in the low budget.
MN: How did you coordinate the work?