Home / Industry / Media /  Filmmakers turn to VFX to lure crowds back to cinema halls
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NEW DELHI : Filmmakers are increasing investments in visual effects as they try to bring audiences back to cinemas with larger-than-life spectacles. Upcoming films such as Karan Johar’s Brahmastra, which cost 300 crore to make, and T-Series’ Adipurush with a budget of 400 crore, are among several titles that are known to have spent 50-75 crore on special effects.

Film experts said the need for bigger investments in visual effects arises as Indian audiences seek more from their movies as they are now exposed to the big spectacles produced by Hollywood and have discovered world-class content on OTT.

“Since the start of the pandemic, viewers have been consuming more content than ever before, which is a positive development for our sector. To meet the rising demand from moviegoers for visually appealing content with high production values, studios are increasingly incorporating more visual effects and animation into their projects," said Merzin Tavaria, president, global production and operations, DNEG, a British-Indian visual effects and animation studio that is also co-producing Brahmastra.

“Filmmakers in India are recognizing the significance of visual effects in the success of their films, resulting in bigger budget allocations for VFX. So, nowadays, VFX starts almost in sync with script writing and is an integral part of the entire storytelling process," he said.

Writers and directors are more open to embracing VFX as a way to achieve storytelling ambitions, especially in times when travel to locations is difficult or not possible, Tavaria said. However, he sees increased adoption of virtual production techniques and technologies even when restrictions are eased across the world.

Visual effects currently account for 10-15% of the budget for an Indian movie, but this will rise to 30-35% in the coming years, Tavaria said. Additionally, filmmakers have increased the number of VFX shots they use in their movies from a few hundred to somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 for big-budget films.

Anushka Shah, founder, Civic Studios, a production house, said India has been a strong hub for VFX and animation for international movies, and that trend is slowly starting to change with a greater application and investment of the same towards Indian content. The rise of OTTs and the pandemic have further catalyzed this trend.

“The share (of VFX in the overall production budget) used to be below 10% but that has started to increase now. There is always fear of comparison, but Indian storytelling has its own quality and DNA, and the market will only continue to get more sophisticated and varied in the type of VFX and animation," Shah said.

Owing to safety measures necessitated by the pandemic, the way films are produced has evolved, with a growing reliance on visual effects to fill the void, said Praveen Raj Jayachandran, co-founder of Holocraft, a Chennai-based virtual production and real-time animation company that recently worked on period drama Radhe Shyam. Film producers spend a lot more time visualizing things on devices in order to have entire scenes envisioned in advance so that they have to spend as little time on set as possible.

“In India, the investment in filmmaking has gone up as directors aim to use visual effects since it allows them to include unique and innovative shots that would otherwise be impossible to include due to safety concerns," said Jayachandran.However, he added that most filmmakers are blindly trying to replicate 3D movies like that in Hollywood without the right guidance, resulting in very few titles finding box office success. “The major distinction between Hollywood and Bollywood films is in pre-production. Pre-production in Hollywood is very strong but with the right process and skill sets in place, Indian cinema has the talent to achieve similar results," Jayachandran said.

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