Digital Domain: Leading Hollywood VFX Company visits AISFM!

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Digital Domain, is known for VFX on about 200 blockbuster Hollywood movies like “Titanic”, “Maleficent”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Iron Man 3”, “TRON: Legacy”, “Furious 7”, “Pixels”, “2012” and many more. Providing an exciting new future in storytelling and content creation technology, from Digital Domain; Austin Armus, Director – Business Services Integration, Lala Gavgavian – Vice President, Human Resources/Recruiting/Training, and Sudhir Reddy – Head of Digital Studio (India) were at the campus addressing the students along side Bala Raj (Dean, Academics) and Amala Akkineni (Hon. Director, AISFM).

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The Master Class included the representatives of Digital Domain showing us their work reels as an introduction to display their creative techniques and talking about the content that they have been making. The session then commenced from being an introduction to turning into a informative Q/A between the representatives and the students.

As VFX is one of the most indulged courses at the institute, art/animation enthusiasts were present amongst the students and faculty members. During the Q/A, the concerned representatives, according to their expertise, answered questions put up by the students in depth. With a vast number of movies in their roaster, they have worked with the best of the directors in the industry including Steven Spielberg.

Talking about the rapid pace at which the technology is evolving, Digital Domain mentioned that they fully utilised the potential of the advancement in their equipment, over the years. With High Definition viewing, HD has also paved it’s way for VFX and animated content to be seen by the audiences in HD.

As they plan to expand to India, working alongside the offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver they want to diversify in terms of creativity by having a presence in different countries. Austin also spoke about the scale of planning and collaboration with the director that goes into the pre/post production stage before they start on a film project.

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As technology is advancing day-to-day, Digital Domain tries to keep up with the best technical resources to get the desired output for their films/commercials. As high definition viewing has become necessary for the quality of the product, Digital Domain has expanded to areas of Virtual Reality, and are currently working on movies made especially for VR.

Founded in 1993, Digital Domain is one of the largest and most influential visual effects studios in the world. The company and its artists have produced industry-leading work for movies, commercials, video games, music videos, concerts, and virtual reality projects. The company has been at the forefront of innovation for over two decades and pioneered the creation of internationally famous Digital Performers including Virtual 2Pac (the “Coachella Hologram”) and Teresa Teng. Digital Domain was also a co-producer on the feature film “Ender’s Game”.

During that time, its artists have earned multiple Academy Awards in the Visual Effects and Technical Award categories. Digital Domain has evolved in its artistry to hundreds of commercials, video games, and music videos, from “Become Legend” game trailers, to Nike’s virtual reality “The Neymar Jr. Effect”, to the ground-breaking Ronda Rousey fight trailer “Revolution” for the UFC.

From setups in California and Vancouver, including its own state-of-the-art performance capture studio, Digital Domain continues a tradition of creating extraordinary imagery and productions for entertainment and advertising purposes.

“India will be among the top content creators”

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Established in the year 1999, Toonz Animation India Pvt. Ltd is the state-of-the-art animation production facility of Toonz group. The 18,000 sq feet facility is nestled in Technopark, India’s largest IT Park located in the South Indian state of Kerala, one of the must see destinations of a lifetime as described by National Geographic Traveller. From the creation of India’s first 2D animated TV series & 2D feature film, to India’s first 3D stereoscopic theatrical, the studio boasts of an envious pedigree that saw many successful coproduction partnerships with the likes of Walt Disney, Turner, Nickelodeon, Sony, Universal, BBC, Paramount, Marvel and Hallmark.

Today, the studio has emerged as the leader in the Indian animation industry with a host of successful productions for the domestic market and one of the most admired studios in South East Asia. The studio has been heralded by Animation Magazine as ‘one of the top ten studios to watch’ and also been chosen as one among India’s top ten ‘cool’ companies to work for.

Toonz Animation is now our placement and intern partner.  Mr. Jaya Kumar, CEO shared his thoughts on the animation industry.  Read on to find out what he has to say about the right recipe for a successful profession in the world of animation, what wins when it comes to content or technology and much more.

What do you think is the proper recipe for being a successful professional in the animation industry?
Lots of passion, lots of practice, constant learning, always updated and last but not least, an entrepreneurial attitude.

Regardless of an ocean of creative minds working in the Indian Animation Industry, why do you think our industry is not booming (Intellectual Property creation as compared to Outsourcing) in the international market and what can be done to bring us to spotlight?
This is not entirely true. First of all we need to understand that Indian Animation Industry is in a transitionary stage from a destination for outsourcing because of cheap labour to a participatory creative activity since people abroad have started believing in the creative power of India. While India is not fully recognized as a resource for successful IPs originating from India, the fact is that we have already started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. India is emerging to be the largest young population with lot of appetite for animated entertainment content in various platforms. Some of the new concepts getting developed are able to travel across the world. India is at the threshold of crossing over to quality content from quantity. Quantity at a lower cost, even at the cost of quality was a need during the last decade. It was more on the Indian content that could connect with the Indian kids. There are ample examples of successes for that. Now it is slowly turning to quantity AND quality. We will be seeing a flood of quality Indian content from India for India in the immediate future essentially due to better money and the better appetite for Indian kids for quality.

Now coming to bringing India to the spotlight in the international market, we believe, the world has changed and so did we. Now we are looked at as a destination not only for getting the work done at a better cost but India is also looked at as a very strong partner both creatively as well as production-wise.

As far as Toonz is concerned our playground has already become more global. Another important matter in today’s market is the overall demand for content for digital platforms. And that is not local. It is international. The boundaries have started to blur big time. It is the innovation, technology and the creative power that is going to rule the immediate future. Henceforth there will not be the concept of specific region or country when it comes to Digital Platform. The content will still rule even in the regionalism. We need to come up with localised content and spread across the world. And there is no escape from this if one wants to remain in this industry.

Where do we stand in the Animation Industry in CGI/Visual Effects and where do we find ourselves ten years from now?
Technically and creatively, we are quite there in comparison to international arena. Feature films like Kung Fu Panda 3, are examples for this. A look at the credit list will prove that. So it is not the question of talent or skill. It is the question of opportunity and that is fast opening up in India. As far as VFX is concerned, there have been only a handful of films that demanded heavy VFX. And the use of VFX to tell the story or to enhance the visuals has already arrived and it is here to stay.

Talking about ten years from now, it is too difficult to predict as the technology and the appetite are fast changing by months. One clear thing that is emerging is that people have started believing in VFX for feature films. When it comes to animated features, it is a little different. Indian population is not yet tuned to see a story told with animate characters. Chances of success have been less due to the expense vs. the potential revenue. But by nature, Indians are way too smart to find ways to reduce the production cost and still tell a story effectively. This is proved multiple times with live-action feature films. Even if we have to really predict, in ten years from now, the technology and the viewing experience is going to change drastically and as it has proved in the last few years, India has caught up with the international technology pretty swiftly and we will be among the top content creators and consumers in the entertainment field, for sure.

Content versus Technology, what should be given relevance and why? Please share your views.
Content is the King and will be the King always. While technology can keep changing, if the focus on content is not strong enough, there is a huge waste of time and money by over-using technology. Yes, technology can hugely change the viewing experience. But content is always going to be a challenge to quench the appetite of the people in all ages.

What advice you would like to offer to aspiring creative people.
Hold on to your passion and find novel ways of telling stories to keep the world entertained. Never allow your passion to die due to the environment. Exploit the best technologies available at that time to make the viewing experience special. Never compromise the content for technology. Technology will follow your passion.