Hollywood VFX Expert Phaneendra Gullapalli at AISFM

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AISFM had a Master Class with Mr. Phaneendra Gullapalli, a Hollywood VFX expert, and a member of the team that won an Oscar for the Hollywood film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for visual effects. Phaneendra  has also worked on visual effects for movies like 2012, Mummy-III, Transformers-II, Tron: Legacy, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and many more. Students enjoyed the interactive and engaging session with the expert greatly.

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Speaking about his journey from Vijayawada to Hollywood, he recounted how he fell in love with animation & visual effects early on in his life. He kept pursuing his passion inspite of being rejected four times for internships at famous Hollywood studios. The secret to his sustenance and success? He says “One third of your life is spent at your workplace and I didn’t want to pursue something that I was not happy with. I wanted to pursue my passion, so I took up animation. Some people give up after a setback. I didn’t because there is a thin line between winning and losing.”

What level of artistic instincts and capabilities, and how much technical skills should a person have, asked a student to which he said that “it is good to have both backgrounds if possible; artists and technologists together is a good combination.”

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Speaking about the process of visual effects in a typical film, he gave a walkthrough of his role of expertise in the process of filmmaking. He demonstrated how with Halon virtual camera, wherein you shoot your film before you shoot your film live. This method was used on projects like Bahubali, where by this previsualizataion, lot of production cost can be saved as the director can pre-emptively make changes to his visualization, rather than trying out his ideas on expensive sets.

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‘When do you come into the picture?’ was another question posed. “VFX and post production are collaborators right from Stage 1 and on a daily basis,” he said and cited an example of Bahubali, “We would shoot 10 to 12 shots for the scene and Director Rajamouli would pick one for the final scene.”

Talking about the role of a VFX supervisor, he said that he ensures that each scene is shot as per the requirement. “In Mummy III, the green screen was blue instead of green, so it is the supervisor’s job to ensure such things don’t happen.”

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Phaneendra also shared tips and tricks used in the industry and said that to tackle the challenges of lighting conditions, a chrome ball can be used and software like Nuke, Maya or Houdini. Talking about the work culture in Hollywood, he said “the culture is a lot different in Hollywood and there is no hierarchy per se but it is more about the role/job description of each individual on the team.”

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What happens towards the end of a shoot, how does an editor receive the scenes? To this, he said that actors have reference points and so do the VFX artists. “For example in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we wanted to show an old man’s body and Brad Pitt’s face, so we shot two different portions of the same scene and Brad’s face was superimposed on it.” He went on to add that directing actors is also a fundamental requirement for VFX artists and said “In Mummy III, there is a scene where the demon is holding a sword, to make it more powerful, we made the hand holding the sword shake, which was the improvisation of the VFX artist.”

Sharing his thoughts on the current entertainment industry in India, which is growing at a rapid pace, he said, “These are certainly exciting times as the industry is evolving with new platforms for storytellers like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Example: Mr Rajamouli embraced virtual reality on his last feature film Bahubali2 and you can check it out here http://baahubali.com/vr/

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Content vs Technology, your take on the right balance required to succeed?  To this, he said, “Working on various tent-pole Hollywood feature films I have learnt that story is paramount. Every Hollywood director that I worked with used technology as a tool to create visual experiences that stand out which I believe is striking the right balance.”

What is your favorite movie in terms of animation/VFX and in the ones that he has worked? For this, he shared, “I’ve spend almost two years of my life working on Tron Legacy which is no doubt my favorite feature film till date that I worked on.”

Sharing his thoughts about AISFM and its facilities, Phaneendra said, “I’m impressed with AISFM’s facilities during my tour and believe AISFM is second to none. AISFM is in good hands with Mr. Bala Raj steering the ship with his phenomenal Hollywood industry & academic experience. I hope students will leverage the AISFM’s facilities, resources and personnel.”

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His advice to aspiring professionals in this field, “Focusing on foundations and fundamentals will enable students to adapt to the ever evolving industry and help them be at the forefront at any given time. For example: Virtual Production never existed prior to feature films like Avatar and today it’s pretty much the standard and integral part of film-making process.”

Closing the master class, Phaneendra gave some words of advice, “Job opportunities in other areas like virtual reality and augmented reality are now there to connect to the consumers. If you are up to speed with these latest technologies, then you have more chances. There are lot of applications in diverse areas – like Apple X has IR tech etc. The gaming industry is also garnering a lot of interest, and training in these areas is a good idea.” He further added, “Networking and working hard is very important and of course there is no stopping to your learning curve.”

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AISFM launches Corporate Role Play workshops

AISFM_Fiirefly_38AISFM faculty Nitin Mane, MFA (USA) & Bala Rajasekharuni, MFA (USA), who is also the Dean conducted a workshop of Corporate Role Play at Firefly Creative Studios, Hyderabad.AISFM_Fiirefly_32Bala and Nitin blended various actor training methods to bring out the hidden talent of the team members, accommodating a variety of personalities and their own unique modes of expression. AISFM_Fiirefly_26Every creative exercise concluded with a briefing on how those techniques can be applicable effective tools for self development and team building in any setting, be it home or the work place. AISFM_Fiirefly_16Using humor as a medium to engage the group, the instructors walked the participants through a process of profound learning, yet, making it fun to spend their Saturday morning for. AISFM_Fiirefly_13The workshop is one of the recent initiatives of AISFM outreach programs, which has started with a summer intensive teaching methodology workshop in collaboration with Critical Education Academy, Los Angeles.AISFM_Fiirefly_8AISFM believes in creating an ongoing synergy between its in-house academic expertise and various societal settings in the outside world.AISFM_Fiirefly_18

Children explore AISFM & Annapurna Studios!

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AISFM has opened doors for outreach programs in a big way. Starting with the recent International Teacher Training Workshop for the local schools, Annapurna Studios & AISFM are playing an active role in the local culture & education system, bridging the gap between the society & film industry. AISFM & Annapurna Studios was vibrant with little voices and smiles of excitement as 40 children from across India visited their premises on a day-long trip.

AISFM took this initiative being an Academic Partner in the International Children’s Film Festival of India (ICFFI) 2017, organised by Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) and the Telangana Government. As a partner of this film festival, popularly known as, ‘The Golden Elephant’, Annapurna International School of Film and Media (AISFM), hosted dinners for delegates, CFSI board meetings, and sent their experts as panel members to support the festival.

The cheerful little students came from various places, including Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Goa etc.

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Then it was time for a quick, short and crisp learning session for the students. Divided into two groups, one group learnt about the finer nuances of animation and the other group learnt the art of acting. The Animation Group had a small six-scene storyboard to follow, wherein the children created live models of each scene in the story with play dough which was then shot on a camera; when replayed was a mini-animation movie in itself! The Acting Group learnt what goes on behind the camera in acting and how to act and express oneself.

While all the children unanimously said that they loved the whole experience, they all wished to have a full fledged longer workshop.

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Mohd. Nadeem, a Grade 9 student from Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kupwara, Jammu & Kashmir, who was attending the film festival and coming to Hyderabad for the first time, loved the ambience and said “the ambience, cleanliness, people and facilities are very nice and I loved the movies shown too.” J Abhilash, Grade 9 student from Government School, Narsampet said, “I want to learn acting and know more. This workshop was very nice and it will help me in concentrating too.” Aivya, Grade 8th student from Ryewood International School, Lonavala found the workshop very interactive and interesting and Kabir from Sharda Mandir, Goa felt that the workshop was an eye-opener into the field of film and media.

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G Venkateshwarlu, teacher from Government School, Narsampet, lauded the AISFM facilities and said, “The workshop was really nice and was a way of expression for the students; more such workshops should happen.” R Saraswati, teacher from ZPHS, Hayathnagar said “the children’s wish is not fulfilled in one day; they want to join it and want to come back for more.” Shweta Pardesai from Ryewood International School, Lonavala said “both the workshops were very good and they will really help the children in eye-hand coordination, concentration and in studies. What I really liked was that all the children in each workshop were given an opportunity to showcase their talent.” Veena Kumari, teacher from Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kupwara, Jammu & Kashmir said, “It has been a great experience for the children to see the studios, campus and workshop and also the movies at the festival; and we would definitely want to come again.”

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Children need to understand the value of visual media and film and that it is a very powerful medium which should be included in all curriculums. This event was very helpful for the students to learn more and gave them great exposure and a concrete idea on how things work in the film industry, be it animation, lights, sounds, music etc., according to the need of the movie. These skills are something that the children can use in their classrooms too.

Annapurna Studios and AISFM are proud to be a part of the CFSI activities and glad to open its arms wide for the imaginative young audiences & future citizens of India.

AISFM students graduate with flying colors

On 17 September 2017, our students graduated amidst glam and glitz in Shilpakala Vedika. The stage was set for the legendary director, S.S. Rajamouli, to confer our bright students with their hard-earned degrees.

The event started with a tribute to S.S. Rajamouli Garu through a dance performance choreographed by Vijay. This was followed by a motivating welcome address by our director, Mrs. Amala Akkineni Garu, which lit up the entire hall.

Shortly afterward, the dean, Mr. Bala Raja declared the graduation ceremony open and Chairman, Mr. Akkineni Naragajuna Garu delivered a heartfelt speech about our founding father, Akkineni Nageswar Rao Garu’s vision. The audience sat rapt with attention as they heard how AISFM came to be and how ANR Garu gave life to his dream of helping media & entertainment enthusiasts with a world-class education.

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S.S. Rajamouli Garu took the stage next and remembered the contributions and willpower of ANR Garu. We all know that ANR Garu braved a couple of heart strokes through his lifetime but it is worthy to note that nothing – not even dire ailments – stopped him from achieving the goals he set for himself. AISFM is a testimony to this. After this, the graduates were awarded their degree certificates.

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Besides the moving speech by S.S. Rajamouli Garu, the convocation ceremony this year was special for another reason as well. ANR gold medals were awarded to exceptional students who scored more than 85% in their boards. The first gold medalist winners were Shashank Velpucharla and Ashwin Sanjay Bharde.

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The ceremony concluded with vote of thanks by the dean, the National Anthem, and group photographs with the dignitaries. It was nothing short of delightful to see our students graduate with flying colors.

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Shri Venkaiah Naidu speaks highly of ANR at the ANR Award Ceremony

The 11th ANR awards were held on the 17th September at Shilpakala Vedika, Hyderabad. The esteemed guest of honor was Shri Venkaiah Naidu, who expressed that felicitation of a few should come as an inspiration to many. The recipient of the ANR award this year was S.S. Rajamouli, and Shri Naidu showered him with well-deserved high praise. Shri Naidu also remarked that the legacy of Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) would live on year after year through this award, that was given to the current prodigies of Indian cinema. In his speech, Shri Naidu spoke fondly about ANR, explaining how this spectacular actor raised the bar for acting and producing films in India. ANR lived his life with discipline (which helped in bringing him success) and dedicated every living moment to Indian cinema, turning him into an inspiration for many aspiring professionals.

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The growth of the Indian film industry can be seen clearly from the first Indian film in 1913- directed by Dadasaheb Phalke to Baahubali, the latest film that has taken the nation by storm. Such exponential growth could only be possible due to pioneers like ANR and Rajamouli. The revenue generated by the Indian film industry is roughly 20,000 crores, with 2,00,000+ employed professionals giving their best to create a stunning new cinema in all languages. Shri Naidu also urged the audience to learn their mother tongue. He compared one’s mother tongue to eyes and other languages to spectacles and remarked- if the eyes didn’t work, the spectacles were of no use.

Indian film has grown to a point where 30 big companies associated with the film industry are registered and performing business in the Indian Stock Exchange. But Indian films do more than just create revenue- they evoke so many emotions in people and also send a positive message to the public. They are a powerful source of communication in today’s world because they have the power to change the thought process. Every film created should have meaning, a unique message directed to the public in such a way that it generates positive impact among the audience.

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Nagarjuna also gave a short speech, thanking Shri Naidu and CM, Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao, mentioning various schemes introduced by him that brought on the welfare of Telangana. He signed off with the quote saying- since the inception of the silver screen, its purpose was to screen Bahubali.

The awards ceremony also had a few live performances of classical songs and dances from Bahubali, an address by Bala Raj, the dean of AISFM. It ended with the National Anthem playing in the theatre, leaving everyone heartfelt.

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Rajamouli to receive the ANR National Award for 2017

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Celebrated director SS Rajamouli has been announced as the recipient of the Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) National Award for 2017. This year, the annual awards instituted by the Akkineni International Foundation, will coincide with the convocation of the students of Annapurna International School of Film & Media (AISFM). The grand event will take place on September 17th, 2017 at Shilpa Kala Vedika, with the award being given away by the Hon’ble Vice President, M. Venkaiah Naidu, and Telangana Chief Minister, K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

The announcement was made by Akkineni Nagarjuna, in the presence of Amala Akkineni and Dr. T Subbarami Reddy at a press meet at Prasad Labs, on September 8th. It was recalled at the event that in 2004, when ANR received the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award, he decided to set up an award of his own to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of all those who have shaped the face of Indian cinema. While the first recipient of the ANR Award was actor Dev Anand in 2005, other awardees include cinema legends like Shabana Azmi, Vyjayantimala Bali, Lata Mangeshkar, K. Balachander, Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan among others.

Celebrating the achievements of Rajamouli, Nagarjuna said that they are thrilled to be honouring the filmmaker who has made Telugu cinema proud with his path-breaking Bahubali franchise, that was received with much applause across the country and even the world.

Talking about the convocation ceremony of the students of AISFM that will be held at the same event, Nagarjuna said that the success of this institute is a tribute to ANR’s vision of setting up the finest film and media education in India.

Sony lends 2 latest cams to AISFM

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Sony has proven itself to be a leader all kinds of cameras, especially in interchangeable lens cameras.  So, it was nothing short of an elated feeling when they came to the AISFM Campus.

Mr. Indraganti Naveen, Sony Alpha Regional Head formally handed over two of their latest cameras campus to Ranjit Sinha, Faculty of Photography. The best part – one of them is not yet released in India!

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The two models are Sony A7 mk2 with a 70-200 G Star lens (not yet released in India) and is Full Frame 35mm camera with great low light capabilities. The lens is a top of the line, G Star lens which is manufactured (badge engineered) by Carl Zeiss! The other cam is Sony Alpha 6300, a APS-C format, uber capable low light, ultra fast focusing camera with a 16-50 lens; and both the cameras shoot 4k video, as well.

The photography students could not resist their eagerness and started shooting with them right away! Goes on to prove that AISFM is the place to be, to learn and be the first to learn with the best!

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Manfrotto honors AISFM faculty

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Good teachers are the reason why ordinary students dream to do extraordinary things and the best teachers are the ones who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see. Teaching, the profession that creates all other professions!

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day; Manfrotto, one of the best companies in the photography field that designs, manufactures a wide range of camera and lighting equipment honored the top photography teachers in the country with the message, “Thank you for guiding us every day. Happy Teacher’s Day to all the inspiring photographers,” and they added, “They help us see the path on our journey. Happy Teacher’s Day to all the teachers that keep inspiring us.”

Ranjit Sinha, AISFM photography faculty was one of the few honored teachers along the likes of Shantanu Sheorey, Rohinton Mehta and others. Ranjit’s carrier spans over 26 years of professional photography out of which about 20 years has been in teaching! He started his teaching career with NIFT Kolkata, where he taught for eight years and since then he has travelled to many design colleges until he joined AISFM.

It is a proud moment for us at AISFM!

Congratulations Ranjit Sinha!

AISFM Students Explore TV Production House

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Apart from classroom learning, enriching field trips contribute to the exposure of students to the real world and the industry.

Our MMBA 3rd Semester students visited TV 5 office, along with MMBA Faculty MNVVK Chaitanya recently and gained valuable insights. Summarizing the experience, faculty Chaitanya said, “The session started with orientation about the organisational structure (TV5 group), departmental functioning/affairs and their description, details about equipment (cameras and lighting setups, in addition to chroma keying, functioning of PCR and MCR, interface between marketing and editorial teams, interfaces between input and output desks, importance of select HR policies and procedures (related to TV production), comparison between national TV networks and regional TV networks, select programming/content strategies for USA markets and branding partnerships that TV5 had entered into. There was an entire tour of all departments across all floors, ending with a Q&A session/doubt clarifications.”

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Students cherished this visit to a working TV Production house and felt it was the important facets of their learning during the semester. Sanjeev Nair felt that it helped him internalize the theory taught to him so far in news production; Sanskrity Patra said she gained insights into the actual industry dynamics and increased her adaptability skills, to specifically tune to the industry requirements.

Chaitanya opined that this sort of an industry integration and industry interface opens up new vistas and horizons in the broader areas of curriculum development and academic readiness to launch new modules in news production/broadcasting, in addition to knowing the skill gaps from industry practitioners.

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Dinesh Akula, Editor, TV 5, and a visiting faculty to AISFM said that it was a positive and significant learning experience for students. Elaborating about the session he said, “TV production, broadcast rules and theory, audience meter and analytics related to BARC and ratings, how to produce news/TV programmes from scratch to going on air, media business and production business, industry career and in-depth analysis with students on what they have in mind and how can they be placed. We also took a studio tour learning how it all works online/offline from the conception of an idea to telecast.”

Mr. Akula also felt students of AISFM were enthusiastic, eager to learn and very articulate in expressing their thoughts, hence gained a lot of insights during this visit.

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Evade Subrahmanyam fame Nag Ashwin at AISFM

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One of his first short films headed straight to the Cannes, no less! Then his first directorial debut was not just a hit film but was also critically acclaimed. Nag Ashwin, young and upcoming writer/director, had an interactive session with our students.

In 2013 his short film titled Yaadon Ki Baraat was selected for the Cannes Short Film Corner.

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Before his directorial debut Yevade Subramanyam, Ashwin had worked on a few films as an assistant director including on Sekhar Kammula’s Leader and Life Is Beautiful.

He’s currently busy in pre-production of his pioneering bio pic Mahanati in Telugu/Tamil/Malayalam on the life of the late legendary southern actress Savitri.

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Talking about his journey in films, he spoke at length about the hard lessons he learnt shooting in the most unfavorable circumstances in Himalayas with absolutely no vehicles at their disposal. He had to keep the crew & cast morale amidst snow, subzero temperatures, and virtually no oxygen in some places. He shared with students that his passion & only passion for his story & characters could keep him going. Nothing else.

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Our Dean of Academics and Faculty, Direction & Screenwriting, Bala Rajasekharuni, addressing the students said, “Ashwin is a good role model to the upcoming filmmakers, since he’s from a film school and he stuck to his passion while choosing his film subjects. Evade Subramanyamis a classic example of how one can write from their heart and at the same time honor the commercial realities of the industry. A delicate balance, which Ashwin achieved with his debut, which is remarkable. This balance is what we try to teach at AISFM all the time.”