Question: What connects Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2, X-Men: First Class, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sherlock Holmes 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Robin Hood, Sucker Punch, Watchmen, Prometheus, Skyfall and Life of Pi (other than the fact that they’re all incredibly entertaining Hollywood productions)?
Yes, Bangalore indeed! We’re not kidding. It took us quite the spoonful of sugar to get this loaded piece of information down and digested, but it is the truth.
“Nobody ever believes us when we tell them that a lot of the visual effects (VFX) in a lot of these films is done right here in Bangalore. We’ve actually been at it for quite a few years. Our team has grown and we’re now working on the best of films including the soon-to-be-released Man of Steel and several other interesting projects, most of which I cannot even talk about,” opens Akhauri P Sinha as we sit down with him for a light-hearted conversation.
MPC (The Moving Picture Company) is an international visual effects (VFX) giant that employs several Indian artists, VFX engineers and designers in their studio/office at ITPL, Bangalore, ably headed by Akhauri Sinha, the managing director. But MPC isn’t the only player in this industry. Bangalore’s soon becoming the preferred destination for a lot of the back-end processes in filmmaking and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that almost 60% of all films made in Hollywood today have a Bangalore connect.
From the most-obvious VFX jobs, rendered at places like MPC, to hardcore animation by studios like Dreamworks or post-release and pre-release editing and supplementary work like quality control (cleaning up non-digital prints), translation, dubbing and subtitling by firms like Digicaptions (a subsidiary of Deluxe) — Bangalore has it all. “Yes, there has been a boom in the last few years. But I don’t think there’s any other player in the VFX industry for Hollywood in India, barring another firm in Mumbai,” adds Akhauri.
But what does a job like this entail? To quench our curiosity, Akhauri takes us through the work floor for an on-hand experience of how MPC makes these Hollywood dreams come true. “We’re involved in almost all levels of production these days, especially when it comes to VFX. Increasingly, that means getting involved at every stage of the creative process, from collaborating on the initial concept art to delivering the final compositing. Recently we have also started offering advice on stereo 3D workflow,” explains Akhauri.
Watching scenes shot with chroma key backgrounds transform into surreal larger than life, bigger than real scenes is more than magical and a quick view at their showreel for 2012 just shows you teasers of what this workforce at this company is capable of creating.
“It’s a fun job, especially when you get to see what you’ve worked on when the film finally releases. We always organise special screenings at a multiplex when a film we have worked on releases in India and it’s one long two-hour party. Designers and artists scream out when their work appears on screen as they’re applauded by everyone around them — we really love watching our hard work materialise and it’s extremely humbling to watch your names mentioned at the credit-roll, which we obviously stick around for,” enthuses Akhauri.
MPC, however, is a global company and most of the scenes that it can take credit for are worked on together between their offices in London’s Soho; Santa Monica in California; New York City, NY; Yaletown in Vancouver and Bangalore in India.
“We’re extremely excited this year as two of the films that we worked on, Life of Pi and Prometheus, have made it to the list of the five films shortlisted in the Outstanding Visual Effects category. The ceremony will take place on February 24 and we hope we win an award this time. This isn’t the first time we’ve been nominated though. Two of the Harry Potter films we worked on earlier, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2 were nominated for the Oscars under the same category in 2011 and 2012, and Part 2 went on to win the BAFTA for Special Visual Effects in 2012. So with one BAFTA won, we hope we win an Oscar this year,” shares Akhauri adding, “working on Life of Pi was an amazing experience for the whole team, thanks to the Indian connection and some of the sequences like the first and the last storm sequence required almost two whole months of nonstop work. The end result is something that has been much appreciated and so we’re really hopeful.”
While we tour round the studio and the work floor we notice a lot of framed posters — nothing that looks familiar to the Hollywood movie-acclimatised eye, but extremely interesting. Curiosity gets the better of us and we beg Akhauri to tell us what these posters are... “Well, we’re also involved in the ad business and do a lot of VFX work for clients. Firms abroad don’t mind spending the extra dollar on great VFX, but here in India, the same can’t be said. We hope this changes and we’re able to make a foray into Indian advertising soon. Till then, advertisement-buffs can always take a look at the 2012 ad showreel on our site and you’ll know what we’re talking about,” concludes Akhauri.
We did take a look at the advertising showreel and the film showreel on the site (www.moving-picture.com). Their expertise in the field is remarkable and we’ll proudly say — MPC, you make Bangalore proud!