Red Chillies Vfx fondly called RCVfx, is the place to be, for every aspiring film maker and VFX artist. RCVfx is the giant who has carved its way and settled itself right at the top through innovation, creativity and massive success over the years.
For me entering the RCVfx office was a dream come true. The place was bubbling with youthful energy and creative sparks. As I stepped into the artist floor and interacted with everybody, what struck me most was the immense friendliness I experienced.
The hospitality here took me by pleasant surprise. Without a hint of arrogance, they took me through the entire journey and left me with even more admiration for them.
As I settled down for my interview with Mr. Keitan Yadav, COO of Red Chillies VFX, I was excited as well as nervous about chatting with the biggest name in the VFX field in India. I was informed the entire team is busy working on their next movie, Jab Harry Met Sejal as well as preparing for their biggest Vfx challenge in which Shah Rukh Khan plays a dwarf.
Keitan instantly puts me at ease with his genuine passion towards his work and the company’s achievements, discussing excitedly about the National Award won for Ra.One, 4 Filmfares,4 FICCI BAF Awards won for VFX and 5 IIFA awards (recently won 2 awards for Best Vfx in FAN).
You have completed 11 years with Red Chillies and 21 years in the field of VFX. What do you feel has changed in the VFX scenario in all these years?
There has definitely been a huge change, from conceptualization to the execution of the project. Back in 2004-2005, there were very small and few players in this field and VFX were used mostly for TVC. The initial 10 to 12 years of my professional career was spent working on visual effects for advertisements. It slowly started seeping into the films. We had smaller teams, software weren’t as powerful or sophisticated as it is now and there was no streamlining/pipeline management. The same person would work on everything; right from the inception to the final finish and sometimes, even the client presentations.So basically,each artist was an all-rounder as they were exposed to every aspect of Vfx, unlike today where it’s based on specialization.
When I compare that to today, things are vastly different. It’s an era of specialization where the teams are bigger (including us): once the script is finalised, the VFX studio gets the script, and is then broken down into Vfx & Non-Vfx shots. The Vfx supervisor, along with the Director, tries to visualize where and how the shot will be captured. The VFX supervisor goes for recce with the DoP and the Director to understand the challenges of the location.
The Vfx supervisor gives his inputs as well as the client, his feedback. We have separate teams for modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing, rotoscopy and because of this specialization, the teams are bigger. When we started off, we were a 10-man team in 2006 and now we are around 350 members. Each artist has a specialized skill set and focus on specific tasks. Specialization brings in difference in quality definitely, which in turn fastens the output process. The process is similar to a conveyor belt, if one department stops in between, the entire process gets delayed.
What drove you to choose this field of animation and VFX? Did you have any struggle while choosing this field?
My family was into computerized embroidery business which gave me an exposure to CAD Design software and training in Singapore. I graduated in commerce, specializing in economics and then got caught up with the IT bug. That’s when I did my Masters in Software Engineering.
I remember watching the movie “The Abyss” by James Cameron on the first row at Sterling theater and being blown away. I thought to myself, “Wow this looks interesting, I should try it for myself”. So I enrolled in a short-term course affiliated with an US university as fun, but took a break and got back to my programming. At some point in time, it was destiny’s calling and it came back to me. I wanted to use my programming knowledge in the special effects field. Not many people in India were doing that. I called up a friend of mine who knew someone in the industry and I did an internship for 6 months and never looked back.
How is the animation and VFX learning infrastructure in India? Is it conducive to creating professionals on par with international standards?
Don’t get me wrong, the quality of education imparted in most training institutes is not up to the mark though there are some good schools now. We have to make the youth/interns who join us, unlearn and start the process all over again. The good part is that they have knowledge of the basic software. I personally believe the practical knowledge we gain when we work, is something that no Institute can teach.
As for the special effects software being used by us, they are standardized throughout the world. Artists working on Avatar are using the same software as us. I personally feel, apart from the private courses, the Government needs to take an initiative to impart it at the school level itself. If we can have art classes at a young age, why not animation/vfx too? We need to have University degree courses for animation and VFX.
We need to attract highly educated manpower like engineers, BTechs, Mtechs, science graduates to take this industry to new heights.
Red Chillies has an owner who is excited about new technology and not only getting it but also trying it out for its maximum capacity. But do you feel there is enough support in the industry, outside Red Chillies, to incorporate the ever expanding opportunities that VFX has to offer?
The demand for VFX artists is not only from Bollywood, but from the global players as well. Work gets outsourced not only from Hollywood, but from other countries.
Yes, SRK supports VFX as well as incorporates it successfully in his films and has always done it in his past films like Ra.One, FAN and currently untitled Dwarf. It wouldn’t have been possible without his belief in our abilities and his unconditional support.
As far as the industry is concerned, the frequency of films that use VFX has increased extensively. With the success of Baahubali, producers and production houses are picking up more VFX-centric scripts.Directors/Productions houses, who earlier would not have touched this genre, have started thinking about films which require extensive use of VFX.
Which has been the most challenging project so far for Red Chillies VFX?
In 2006, the reason we started this company was because SRK wanted to produce a Hollywood standard superhero Sci-Fi film. We spent almost 2 years of our lives trying to figure how we would execute this project. It was unheard of and never done before. We knew we were good and had the talent, but nothing of this scale had ever been done in India before. We were looking at over 3800 shots. So you can imagine the scale of the job apart from the complexity level.
Multiple studios, thousands of artists, International technicians got involved in managing and delivering Ra.One, which was our first mammoth project.
Fan,was also another exciting and challenging project.Once again, this kind of project had not been worked on or executed before (not only in India but throughout the world, which includes Hollywood) and, the biggest challenge on Fan was that we had to finish it in 11 months.
Though, I feel the most challenging is surely going to be the next untitled film- Dwarf; we have to show SRK as a dwarf. It’s not just the height, his features too. Once again, it’s first of its kind and we have no references or images to refer to anywhere in the world.
What are the exciting projects we can look forward to in terms of special effects?
Red Chillies is a boutique studio that works on Bollywood as well as International projects. We have newly opened this state of art facility here in Goregaon and additionally, two new verticals viz: International Vfx Department and Red Chillies.Color (a grading division). We just delivered soon to be released Hollywood documentary – ‘The Good Shepherd’ through our new International Vfx division along with other international projects. With our other Color Grading lab, Red Chillies Colour, we just finished Sachin- A billion dreams, Mani Ratnam’s Ok Kanmani, Hrudayantar and Jagga Jasoos
As for projects in the pipeline: Our primary focus is on SRK’s next film, Jab Harry Met Sejal releasing on August 4 and gearing up for our biggest challenge – the untitled Dwarf.
Any advice to the youth who want to pursue animation and VFX as a career option?
First, you need to be passionate about it. It is not a 9 to 5 bank job. There are challenges as every project is unique and the client continuously wants new things which are never ending, and with challenge comes stress as well as fun. Vfx is a unique amalgamation of technology and creativity so, if you have tremendous passion towards VFX, you won’t feel the burnout and will only enjoy it.
Continuous learning, updating of skill sets, keeping in touch with the advancement and evolving technology is important. Be willing to take up more responsibilities. Aspire to climb up the ladder, then you are unstoppable.
Education is also extremely important as it helps in communication, improves your ability to absorb and update the skill sets, manage situations in a more mature way, more focused and organized. Once you’re done with your studies, only then get into the field.
As I checked my watch, I realized it was time to take my leave. However, the conversation made it impossible to do so. This insight into the marvelous world where wildest imagination is made into a reality every single day, made it difficult for me to come back to the reality.
I hope the wonderful cognizance that Mr. Keitan Yadav gave about the VFX industry will inspire the youth to take up this field as a career.
Location Courtesy: Red Chillies VFX
Image Courtesy: Red Chillies VFX