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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Award Winning Sound Designer at AISFM

‘Sound design’ is a specialized aesthetic technique that only international filmmakers appreciate & understand. Very few Indian filmmakers apply this to their films – and they readily stand out from the crowd. With the recent Oscar Award for Sound for Resul Pookutty, majority of Indian filmmakers woke up to the idea of ‘sound design.’ But, AISFM Sound Design Department visionaries have always aspired to bring in awareness of the importance of sound design to their students.

As a part of this mission, AISFM brought in four-time National Award winner Anup Mukhopadhyay for an intense workshop for its students. The weeklong workshop started on October 11th in AISFM’s state-of-the art preview theater, recently named, ‘SHIVA.’

Mr. Mukhopadhyay has more than 600 movies to his credit, some of which are simply of international standards. He generously shared his experiences, technique & artistic philosophy with AISFM students in an intense hands on workshop.

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Taking us through the journey of his career, he spoke about the future of the field and how students can make a strong career in sound design. Here are snippets of the very interesting workshop and subsequent interview:

An insight into sound design:

It all started in the year 1927, Mr. Anup said, and right from then the philosophy of sound design has been to connect with people’s emotions. Sound is something that must be felt. “70% of a movie constitutes the sound,” he emphasized. It is through sound design that cacophony is converted into symphony and that makes all the difference in a movie.

Initially, different sound tracks were clubbed together for the final outcome but sound design makes the entire process seamless, he said, underscoring its importance once again. When asked about his favorite movie in terms of sound design, he answered, Once Upon A Time In the West, adding that it had “fantastically designed sound.”

How did it all begin for Mr. Anup?

It was the year 1971, he reflected. There was a lot of turbulence in Bengal and times were pretty tough. He accidentally stumbled upon the FTII brochure for admissions and decided to give it a shot.

Mr. Anup was one among the 10 students selected to study at the then elite college, FTII. He beat thousands of applicants to secure a seat and that’s where his journey started. There was no looking back for him after that.

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His thoughts on AISFM &advice for the students

“What a person would generally take 15 years to learn in the industry, a film school like AISFM teaches in two”, he said, highlighting that our students had a great opportunity to learn and make a successful career in sound design. Furthermore, he was impressed by how attentive all our students were and how everyone was warm and welcoming.

If you are focused, patient, and have a sound mind with a zest to closely listen to a number of movies, you have what it takes to be the next star in sound design. Along with that word of encouragement, he smiled and said “don’t bunk classes!”

Our students were enthralled through the workshop, and why not? It was a very educational and extremely valuable session that could change their future.

Oscars Nominations for 2017

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Come January and the entire entertainment fraternity, of course with fans included, around the world eagerly await the Academy Awards. Interest levels are high and it reaches a crescendo up to its telecast in February, when millions of movie lovers worldwide tune in to watch the glamorous ceremony.

Considered the highest form of recognition, The Academy Awards or ‘Oscars’, recognizes excellence in cinematic achievements. Did you know that the awards ceremony was first broadcast to radio in 1930 and televised for the first time in 1953 making it the oldest entertainment awards ceremony in the world.

The much-awaited and coveted list of nominees for the Oscars 2017 is finally out! La La Land is the leading contender for the 89th Academy Awards with a record-equalling 14 nominations. This includes nominations in each of the big four categories: Best Picture, Best Director for Damian Chazelle, Best Actress for Emma Stone and Best Actor for Ryan Gosling. Only All About Eve and Titanic have been nominated as many times in the past.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles on February 22. Check out the list of nominations in the popular categories below. Who do you think will win?

Best Picture

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Best Director

Denis Villenueve – Arrival
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Damian Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Kenneth Lonegan – Manchester By The Sea

Best Actor

Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor  

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell Or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By The Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea

Original Screenplay

Hell Or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester By The Sea
20th Century Women

Original Score

Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Animated Feature

Kubo
Moana
My Life As A Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film

Land Of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann