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"Pankaj Khandpur" a man behind the VFX Shoot of "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag"
Posted on Aug 09, 2013 at 07:42 pm IST
A team of 50 artists delivered over 150 VFX shots covering three important races of Rome, Tokyo and Commonwealth within a time span of 2 months.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has extensively leveraged VCL's VFX expertise. Given Rakeysh's penchant for 100% accuracy in his depiction of a scene, VCL played a vital role in transforming the director's vision into historic moments on the big screen.
One of our reporter interviewed Mr. Pankaj Khandpur, Creative Director, Tata Elxsi - Visual Computing Labs. Here is excerpt from the interview:
1. Please you tell us about yourself and what made you first become interested in Creative Industry?
I started my career in the 1980s with an advertising agency. Given my fascination for computers at that time, I made a conscious effort to learn programming and invested majority of my time in learning various graphic languages. Soon after, I was offered to work on a children’s TV show called “The Mathemagic Show”, a math quiz. Although the project demanded simple graphics, the challenge here was to deliver the work using 8-bit computers which only had 8 colors; excluding black and white, we were left with only 6 colors. Later, I also worked on the Hindi version of the quiz show.
Having spent 6 years in advertising, I had learnt enough about visual communication to dovetail my experience and hobby. I later invested efforts in helping a post-production studio called Western Outdoor to create a computer graphic set-up. This went on to become the first computer graphics house in India which was set up in 1988. They made adequate investments in software to create the first computer system that could generate 3D graphics. I ran the studio independently and gradually it began to grow. We soon diversified to make a mark in the feature film space and DilwaleDulhania Le Jayenge was the first project we delivered in the year 1994. Working on feature films was a very different experience than making ad films as the story-telling aspect had to be given prime importance while working on the former.
In 2002, we set-up Visual Computing Labs, as the VFX and animation arm of Tata Elxsi and there has been no looking back ever since. VCL has won many awards and accolades both in India and abroad for some of the exceptional work we have delivered for leading production houses not only in the feature films space but also in advertisements, animation etc.
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4. Can you please tell us about the VFX in Bhag Milka Bhag and challenges you faced during the production
Again, BhagMilkhaBhag is a film that is very close to our hearts as it demanded complex VFX technologies as there was a need to create high octane race sequences that also looked realistic.
Given the dynamic camera movement the film required, the team decided to create CGI crowds in CGI stadiums to allow complete freedom to the director and DOP to use their camera at their own will. VCL used its expertise in creating realistic crowds using the state of the art crowd generating software, Massive. Subtle but important details like the correct costumes and attires had to be studied. Unlike today’s matches the crowd reactions in the stadiums in the 1960’s Olympics was somewhat restrained and the animators had to keep reviewing stock footage to correctly factor in the appropriate gestures for cheering, applauding etc.
Given Rakhyesh’s penchant for 100% accuracy in his depiction of a scene, it became obvious that the Astroturf on the racing track would not cut it for authenticity. We had to change the track to cinder, the markings to chalk every scene for 150 shots. This was a huge task as all the people on the tracks had to be `lifted off’ or rotoscoped out and then put back on the new cinder tracks. VCL now came up with a process called cinderization. We had a pipeline devised where matte painters created huge cider tracks with hand detailed chalk lines. The CG department then put these into the shot and the effects team created dust puff and dirt clods for every foot to ground interaction. This was a long process!
5. Would you like to share the journey of making this film in three stages of production i.e Pre Production, Production and Post Production?
We were involved with the project from the very beginning. About three years back we started discussing the VFX involved and started the brainstorming for the same with the Director and the DOP .
6. How much time it took for your team from planning to the Execution of Bhag Milkha Bhag?
A team of 50 artists delivered over 150 VFX shots covering three important races of Rome, Tokyo and Commonwealth within a time span of 2 months. To deliver this scale of work in a short period of time we also created a very efficient pipeline enabling minimal retakes and overheads.
7.What is the vision of Tata Elxsi studio?
It is our constant endeavor to produce and offer a unique package of high-end animation and VFX content to domestic as well as global entertainment houses.
2. Tell us about your work experience and your journey inside Tata Elxsi?
It has definitely been a very enriching experience as we have not only witnessed but also contributed to the evolution of the Indian VFX and animation landscape. Today we are successfully delivering solutions that one could not have thought of twenty years ago. For instance, Ek Tha Tiger demanded a lot of VFX for the various sequences like the tram sequence shot in Dublin, the fight sequence in Mardin, and the end action finale.
So I would say that the evolution has been fast paced and the learning has been incremental and is growing upon the previous experience.
3. What kind of research and references has been undertaken for BhagMilkaBhag?
The decision was to rebuild stadiums over the existing grounds shot and to populate with crowds. Other than old archival footage and some images there wasn’t much reference material for building the stadiums. We also had to take into consideration the peripheral line of the stands meeting the track and build around that so that everything within the track remained part of the live action and everything beyond was rebuilt in CGI.
In the meantime after sourcing the costumes that suited the period, our modelers prepped the massive agents, to clothe them in the correct attire for the Rome Olympics and Commonwealth. For the Tokyo races we had to build a large number of Asian agents and again clothe them appropriately. Unlike today’s matches the crowd reactions in the stadiums in the 1960’s Olympics was somewhat restrained and the animators had to keep reviewing footage to correctly factor in the appropriate gestures for cheering, applauding etc. A Massive pipeline was developed to sequence in the correct action, shot by shot so the agents or crowd would cheer when required, stand up at the finish line, clap while some randomly kept moving around the aisles, everything had to interact accurately with the race in question.
The flashbacks to the nightmare sequence were another key talking point of the film as it formed an important part of the narrative. This sequence relied on a different creative look which was developed over various discussions and iterations between the director and VCL’s creative team.