Virtual Production Creating in India for the World

By Pickle  April 12, 2024
Virtual Production Creating in India for the World, Pickle Media

In a market hungry for high-efficiency and high-value solutions, India presents an ideal opportunity for the adoption of Virtual Production, a disruptive filmmaking workflow primed to revolutionize the industry. Leading the charge in embracing this cutting-edge technology is Whistling Woods International (WWI), By Chaitanya Chinchlikar, Chief Technology Officer, Whistling Woods International

India’s cinematic landscape is a tapestry woven with diverse narratives, vibrant visuals, and a billion-strong audience eagerly awaiting each new spectacle. In 2023 alone, over 5000 hours of original theatrical and OTT content, coupled with nearly 200,000 hours of original TV programming, captivated the screens of over 1 billion viewers across the nation. This monumental feat, achieved across 900 channels and a staggering 750 million screens, underscores India’s position as a cinematic powerhouse.

Yet, amidst this thriving industry lies a paradoxical reality. Despite being an emerging economy with a per-capita income under $3000, India boasts an incredibly price-sensitive market. With an average ticket price of $1.7 and the world’s lowest mobile data costs, the constraints of affordability shape production budgets. Even the most ambitious Indian film to date has not surpassed $50 million in production costs.

However, within this confluence of economic constraints and cultural richness lies an untapped wellspring of potential. India’s rich tapestry of cultural heritage, steeped in centuries of history and mythos, presents a canvas ripe for cinematic exploration. The epic scale and visual splendor of narratives from India’s past rival those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Lord of the Rings franchise. With a burgeoning community of imaginative filmmakers, this cultural wealth holds the promise of shaping the next century of global entertainment.

Virtual Production Creating in India for the World, Pickle Media

Enter Virtual Production, a transformative filmmaking workflow poised to revolutionize the industry. In a market hungry for high-efficiency and high-value solutions, India stands as a fertile ground for its adoption. . Amidst this backdrop, Whistling Woods International (WWI), a leading institution for film education, has emerged as a pioneer in embracing this cutting-edge technology

Whistling Woods International has supported its Virtual Production Program Lead and film engineer – Vivek Kandasamy and his company Film Engineers to develop groundbreaking technologies that are set to alter Virtual Production. Film Engineers has developed Portal Beam, Portal Tracker and camera, lens, treadmill and turntable encoders, based on Kandasamy’s expertise, at the Whistling Woods Emerging Media Lab. Portal Beam is a cutting-edge metadata transfer protocol, developed to improve the accuracy and latency of multiple constituents of the virtual production pipeline. Portal Tracker is a novel camera tracking technology that smoothly combines actual camera motions with the virtual camera. These products incorporate cutting-edge technologies including lens metadata encoders and motion capture capabilities, not to mention treadmill & turn-table encoders.

This collaboration resulted in not only unique advancements, but also a strong platform for filmmakers to improve their craft. With an emphasis on pushing technological boundaries and connecting academia and industry, these products offer a huge step forward in Virtual Production capabilities, putting India at the forefront of global innovation. Nestled within Mumbai’s sprawling Filmcity, WWI has cultivated a legacy of excellence since its inception 18 years ago. Founded by esteemed filmmaker Subhash Ghai, WWI stands as India’s premier institute for Film, Communication, and Creative Arts. With a steadfast belief in the transformative power of technology, WWI has forged strategic partnerships with global industry leaders, from Apple to Sony, to pioneer the integration of emerging media into its curriculum.

Virtual Production Creating in India for the World, Pickle Media

Whistling Woods Virtual Production Journey

Our journey into Virtual Production began earnestly in 2019, with a vision to propel WWI to the forefront of this revolution. Collaborating with organisations like SMPTE, WWI played a pivotal role in standardising Virtual Production practices globally. As a founding member of SMPTE’s On-Set Virtual Production Rapid Industry Solution, WWI aims to accelerate the spread of best practices in Virtual Production.

Our approach transcends mere technological adoption; it embodies a holistic understanding of the immersive industry’s evolution. Through a comprehensive curriculum, we empower students and industry professionals to navigate this new frontier.

Virtual Production Creating in India for the World, Pickle Media

Understanding the distinct Virtual Production workflows—from all-CG Virtual Production, on-set Virtual Production & in-camera VFX—is crucial. We break down these workflows into elements ranging from script breakdown, virtual Art department, lighting, colour & real-time world replacement, empowering individuals to grasp intricate processes.

We emphasise the interconnectedness of Virtual Production within the immersive ecosystem, reframing the process as ‘capturing data’ rather than ‘shooting video’. This conceptual shift facilitates deeper comprehension of the VP workflow.

Specialised courses and workshops equip aspiring filmmakers and industry professionals with practical insights, bridging the gap between theory and practice. Our goal is to cultivate a new generation proficient in Virtual Production, driving innovation in the Indian film industry.

Virtual Production Creating in India for the World, Pickle Media

However, we must navigate the potential pitfalls of overuse of Virtual Production. Filmmakers must make careful decisions, leveraging Virtual Production where appropriate, rather than as a one-sizefits-all solution.

To address this challenge, WWI has developed a decision-making support tool — a flowchart guiding filmmakers in selecting the appropriate workflow for each scene. This empowers informed choices, optimising efficiency and creativity while avoiding unnecessary complications.

As we usher in India’s inaugural cohort of Virtual Production-equipped filmmakers, we look ahead to a future where innovation and creativity propel our industry to new heights. Through education, collaboration, and strategic foresight, WWI aims to redefine the Indian film industry for the global stage.

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