Category: Interviews

Biren, you have taken over as the ABAI Chairman at an exciting time when there seems to be a momentum on the first Government-Industry Partnership for the AVGC Sector in India.

Was it difficult to convince the government to consider a separate policy not falling under the IT Sector? What are the key differentiators between these two industries according to you?

BG: Karnataka, thanks to Bangalore, has been an excellent example of growth in the AVGC sector and a great pedigree of international MNCs has chosen to set up and expand their studios here. We see this as just the beginning of a much larger ecosystem, which is still in its early maturity phase, and ABAI partnering with several stakeholders and industry would like to evolve this considerably with a strategic

Why an exclusive policy on Animation, VFX, Gaming & Comics?

BG: Increasingly the trend towards interconnectivity between economies, enterprises, societies and governments is giving rise to a new order of development. As new expectations of markets shift the measure of what they value – India and other emerging economies play an increasing role in fulfilling those needs. The AVG industry is facing a huge shift all over the globe.

The needs of the AVG sector are quite unique from those of its IT and IT enabled counterparts.

For starters the AVG industry started a few decades after the IT industry and hence the support and tax holidays etc that the IT world enjoyed in relatively less challenging times is not something the AVG sector has fully utilized.

AVG is a creatively lead production process powered by very high technology, which is rapidly changing, both in consumer preferences and in new technology paradigms, and studios have to keep up with new releases of technology products and solutions that are constantly being innovated. The time horizon to monetise investments on capital expenditure is very short and hence utilisation is a key to maximize returns.

This calls for a need for an ecosystem to have many elements simultaneously available at hand: talent; sales pipelines; training on new software and workflow tools; power; image processing infrastructure; storage; connectivity on an international scale [TPN’s] etc.

What kinds of benefits will the policy on Animation, VFX, Gaming & Comics?

Helps create a platform for BRAND BUILDING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT as India is not even 1% of the Global Business. Karnataka will benefit from being the 1st mover and attracting a huge pipeline of work if it moves now.

Help Streamline CREATIVE- LEAD INDUSTRY PROCESS involving Visualization, Film Direction, Design of Characters and the Story itself, Voice Recording/Dubbing, Music, Editing of Audio & Video apart from the actual production with the help of Software tools and infrastructure including data centers and Hardware.

Will provide a major boost to ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & SCIENCES DOMAIN wherein similar IT infrastructure is required but the focus of business is on various platforms across the media and entertainment Industry.

The policy will attract INVESTMENT FROM MAJOR PLAYERS. This requires major Indian companies to be attracted to it.

Helps in the research innovation and development of tools and technologies relevant to animation and filmmaking. Currently there is a huge license fee paid annually to international providers of such tools even where they have developed this in Asia/India. In high end production 30% of team is technical.

What is your view of Karnataka as an upcoming destination for AVGC sector? And what are the areas where you see potential and growth? 

BG: Karnataka currently has more than 20 training institutes imparting AVGC related training through more than 60 campuses across the state. We have been informed that currently more than 10,000 students are undergoing training (study done in 2010).

This figure is likely to increase to 25000 by the year 2012. More than 2000 professionals are employed in the education and animation production units in the state apart from web and content development. Karnataka AVG Industry has yet another advantage of having some of the major suppliers of software, tools and technologies to the Industry such as HP, AMD, NVIDIA, etc. located within Karnataka and more specifically Bengaluru.

ABAI has been active in Bangalore, Karnataka since 2005 and represents the AVGC community in taking the cause of AVGC related activities forward by holding regular state level events and expos through private partnerships.

Karnataka has a rich and diverse heritage of art and culture, and there is a great potential for the talent in the state to adapt to AVG sector. So far, science and technical streams were preferred avenues of the society for employment but the AVG sector will create better employment opportunities to arts stream.

Since there is a requirement of nearly 70% of creative and artistic employees in this industry, it will lead to the economic upliftment of large strata of economically backward sections of the society especially in the rural areas.

Why the AVG Summit on the 15th Sept’11?

BG: The purpose of the summit is to showcase Bangalore as the pioneer in collaboration and innovation between the government, industry players and academic institutes in the AVG segment. In fact the summit is meant to serve as an eye opener and be the catalyst in creating a “collaborative enterprise” between these various constituencies.

The program we have put together for the conference is intended to be a very unique mix of the past, present and future to enthuse new entrants and investors while leveraging on the strengths and resources of existing players and investors.
PWC has just confirmed that the AVG sector will continue its frenetic pace of growth and forecast 21.4% (CAGR) growth by 2015.

I see a significant growth opportunity in the confluence between traditional AVG formats and new media opportunities.  As a result of this opportunity some of this excitement is due to the roll out 3G, internet connectivity and the advent of devices such as the tablets, IPAD, low cost smart phones etc.

How has the industry responded to this initiative?

BG: While the initiative has been spearheaded by me and several members of ABAI, we have received great support and encouragement from all our industry partners including DreamWorks, R & H, Big Animation, DQ Entertainment, Crest, TATA Elxi, Dhruva, MPC, Xentrix, Aiga, and Manipal University among others and I also thank my colleagues from Technicolor for their support to this initiative.



What all will be taught in the new Houdini focused course that Frameboxx is launching?
Houdini follows a true procedural paradigm, which makes Houdini more suited for broadcast design and motion graphics. And when it comes to VFX, Houdini holds a prime and prestigious position in the industry all over the world. Main focus of our course curriculum would be particles and dynamics, also CHOPS or Channel operators a very powerful and under-utilized tool. But the Main aim of our course would be for a student to understand and embrace the procedural way of working.

What are the CG production areas where Houdini finds application in?
Houdini can be used anywhere in whole production pipeline. It is an excellent procedural modeler, an excellent character animation tool. But the Industry relies on the Houdini for most of their particles and dynamics related stuff.

Why did Frameboxx think of launching a Houdini focused course?
We foresee a major boast in applications of Visual Effect in our industry. In the near future we see a lot of production house incorporating Houdini in their pipeline. Frameboxx had been researching on Houdini for the past 3 yrs, and is working in close association with Side Effects. Houdini curriculum is the outcome of inputs taken from Side Effects, along with suggestions of Houdini users in the industry. We are confident that this curriculum would suffice the needs of Animation and VFX Industry.

What is the USP of Houdini according to you in comparison to other CG and VFX suites?
The USP of Houdini is its proceduralism. The entire application is built on the idea that you do not necessarily create things, but you create systems for creating things. Houdini is unlike other 3D packages in that the entire application is node-based. So, you can easily wire the output from one node into several other nodes to create complex systems. Houdini has fantastic dynamics and particles – probably the best in the industry. They are the most flexible.

You can literally deconstruct the solvers and build them back up again to change their functionality. You can even create your own solvers or implement 3rd party solvers with some technical know-how. Also, the dynamics are fully integrated. Cloth and rigid bodies can affect each other. Gasses and fluids can push particles and rigid bodies. As far as dynamics go, you have rigid bodies, cloth (softbodies), wires, fluids (SPH, FLIP, and Voxel), gasses, and particles.

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience working with Houdini?
I started my career in 1999 as a lead designer for a Delhi based web designing firm. Later I joined Pentamedia Graphics as a 3D Animator, where I worked on 3D animated films like Pandavas and Alibaba. In 2001, I joined a major animation training brand as a senior instructor. From there I moved on to motion graphics and design by joining TV Today Network in 2002. With four years of experience in broadcast design and channel packaging for Aaj Tak and Headlines today, I joined the TV18 Network now called Network 18.

My return to training and education was in 2007, when I started to create animation and visual effects curriculums. At Frameboxx, I bring over 10 years of Production and education experience and I am deeply involved with the curriculum, research and technical operations teams. I have been working on Houdini for the past 3yrs. The sheer technicality of the software is a kick in itself. Moreover I get to expand my knowledge about a lot of things which I normally would have overlooked.

While planning a project, how is the technical requirement planned and implemented to Crest?
Before the project began, the production process and team analysis project needs. The STG (Systems Technical Group) on the basis of project type, size and length of the calculation of storage (capacity and speed), backup, disaster recovery, Renderfarm power network , posts, a review of systems, security etc. Based on this we agree that all these elements may be used or shared with the resources available and what must be purchased. We then evaluate the load on the network and storage and to plan accordingly and to distribute it.

There is always a continuous interaction between creative and technical team. Where sharing of knowledge and inputs are shared visa versa, the creative team comes up with their needs or problems, then analyze and provide the necessary solutions. This could be the choice of configuration work, software, pluggins, storage, backup etc.

Importance of R & D dept in a studio and how does it Crest?
Crest has a full fledge R & D team who are involved in a lot of research. Before the project started the requirements of their studies and find the essential elements involved in the complex, and then try to modify it accordingly by finding an effective way. Some of the major R & D is made of fur, the crowd, shaders, etc. are some examples examine the “tree of animation production,” in which the tools are created for the custom animation corresponding to a specification expenses. Other works do not include many tools of production and management. As these budgets are dedicated specifically for R & D as the same team is involved in other development activities.

Can you name some of the best practices of technology adopted Crest?
We have always ensured that everything that is implemented in technology Crest is aligned with the needs. Continuous efforts are made to the research, design, implementation and optimization. Creating a quality product requires complex CGI resources as high-speed storage, high performance renderfarm and a strong background to support high data transfers. We designed a data storage used for the SO Windows workstations, Linux render farms, compositing mac machine, and all were authenticated by one server ldap. The advantage is the only way to access, no duplication of data, high availability, better analysis and reporting. This solution is designed with HP EVA8000 and files polyserve cluster gateway. Some of the main features of the service file cluster with load balancing and dynamic path of data in parallel, only the virtual name [Global Name Space] Performance and linear scalability.

To serve the needs of huge record that we had a configuration based renderfarm HPC. The network design allows the peak of clients (workstations, render nodes, etc.) to reach the storage or server ldap or one of the database application in a single direction. It is a non-blocking architecture, capable of managing network traffic on the loading operation. Based on the burden of interconnects are 10G/1G.

All workstations are CG Hi-end dual-processor work with Nvidia graphics cards, these jobs are different configuration based on the department or project requirement. This is to carry out operations smoothly to lower investment. To monitor all servers, we make node has established a opensource tool which is the availability, use, on resource use and also alerts on failures to take any further action.

How open source resources are used in your studio?
All the 450 to make the servers are on the open source Linux. This allows us to save significantly on license costs and to invest for other purposes. Apart from these Asset Management System, Web service, and most applications are developed internally opensource platform. This allows us to have more control over applications and allow the compiler and based on business needs.

Crest has a huge workforce in place, how do you address Digital Asset Management (DAM) in a transparent manner?
Crest with his years of experience in this area has used the knowledge and developed a management system (AMS) to streamline the process of creating CGI. DAM is one of its modules to maintain all assets library with its history, description and specifications. Other key features of AMS are case management, workflow management, the productivity of verification systems, libraries, referencing, file generation and creation; System based naming convention, even in the whole project. File versions, application versions, control files, reading versions, project tracking and monitoring

With your experience could you share some thoughts on

o Storage

The data are one of the most important asset and critical. For us, it is one of the most expensive. It must be well used and maintained. Some Dos and Donts for storage …

Designed for the good of the capacity and throughput requirement
The availability of data must be provided, keeping in mind all the factors of failure
Optimization of the use. Creating policies move files less accessible to less expensive disk.
Duplexing and data to data without being checked
Frequent analysis of data storage.
o Networking

Network is one of the easiest to control if they are designed and maintained effectively, otherwise it can be real pain. Some Dos and Don’ts for networking are

The design of the system to be based on workflow requirement, also make flexible scalability for the future.
To avoid the bottlenecks of performance, it should be blocking and non-HA
Documentation should be maintained for the design, layout, integration, cable management
Planning to be done and documented for possible failures
All unwanted protocols and vulnerability to be blocked.
OS and switch configuration backups regularly to be taken.

How did Avitel business in the animation?
Avitel operated between the different areas of the post for the last 35 years. In this way we have always been in the animation in the various aspects that are necessary for VFX. Thus, this space is not new for us, as we have been for 15-20 years. But yes a feature film production is one thing that we had now.

The reason for this is that in India that the budgets that are allocated for films that are too low are not sufficient to make a good movie. When it comes to sub-contracted work, we did not want to do production services for international companies. Avitel wanted to work on animation projects to be developed entirely by us, including pre-production.

Many people around the world believe that India is not a good destination for the design and the pre-production, they believe that the production is the only thing we specialize in. We want to change this perception. For the same work, we spent a year and a half and developed concepts and scripts and producers internationally. Finally we managed to break an agreement with Purple Passion Productions, UK.

So how is Avitel courses on setting up a pipeline feature?
As I said, we’ve been in this space for a long time and we have experience that the industry requires. My son and Siddharth Rishabh who are the promoters of the company are trained to Level 3 Hollywood VFX professionals. Thus, while working on animated feature films is something new for us, we have all the skills it needs.

Is the only feature film to focus now?
Yes today we focus primarily on feature films for cinemas. But we are open to ideas. As we plan to work on short films. When you have a company with so many people, you should be receptive to everything that makes the financial situation of work.

What about the Indian animation market?
We are not looking at an Indian market in all courses. Because even if we make a film for the market here time and money spent by us on this would be the same, but revenue, we would be far from what we can do an international project.

More work with international partners brings something to the table that I will honestly admit that we lack, and that is the mark on the market and our characters. And marketing is a huge thing when it comes to animation, where you do not have Amitabh to sell your product.

In the agreement we have with Purple Passion Productions, we will not hold all rights to the film, but we will be its developer in respect of loans and the characters still belong to us. So, we seek to build characters and franchises that are known by those who may have n number of films made about them. For example, our first film, ie the final target, deals with football, now based on the characters in this film, there can be films that deal with different types of sports.

So what is the strategy Avitel animation for 2009-10?
We are a very frank. Basically Avitel DAC approach involves the fusion of creativity and business units that collectively, research and work on a film project to pre-calculate and correct the error basis to transform the company profitable one. Since we are on the target 100% of all enterprises that can be learned from this scene, we expect to see a significant increase in our profit margins for the next fiscal year. Also we have big orders, covering the next three years, we seek to increase our workforce and installation are also to set up a new division in Mumbai in the next two months, mainly in the south of Mumbai. Our workforce animation in place is 79 and we plan to extend it to 300. Our focus is mainly going to be about how to make good films. We have a great team, which is really hard work is what we know.

I would say we are group of technicians and we want to focus on things only. India has achieved a very good reputation as a service destination, it is now time to show that we are able to design concepts.

Are you having difficulty obtaining the right kind of manpower?
I feel if you are not skilled enough then you only have trouble finding skilled labor. This is what works best for Avitel that the promoters of the company belong to this trade and know inside and outside.

I think the animation education in India is very good. Students of animation are very well trained in the tools that are necessary for this industry, and after the exhibition is something they need, the institute cannot provide. This is something that companies like us can give, for the finesse and polish their work. Whether an industry or even a normal home, we must always train people to install them in the rhythm and the requirement of the work that you need.

What are the latest developments on the front VFX?
Avitel executed a large number of projects in feature films and commercials. Some of these include cash, the company, C-Kompany, EMI, Dor, SuperStar I see you, Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Mp3, Nanhai Jaiselmer, Tom Dick & Harry, just to name a few – uns. Currently we are engaged in carrying out the tasks VFX for 26 new projects including a large part of big-ticket Hindi films.

And …
When TV arrived, everyone says it will be a source of education, but as we all know, it does not appear to be that way. The same with animation. As with the final goal, we will focus on teaching the techniques of playing football well and we have consulted experts from football to get the nuances right.

We want to make films that are educational and fun at the same time, because we believe that the best way for teaching.