Architect of AMAZEMENT

admin   October 15, 2020

In the last two decades of its existence, Technicolor India has grown from a relatively small outfit with a few hundred people to a veritable giant in CG animation production having over 6,000 artists and technicians driving the world’s largest standalone studio. Bringing scale and consistency to the animation business on the back of innovative new approaches drawing strength from ideas challenging the status quo, Technicolor today has the world’s premier portfolio of visual effects brands, services, and creative innovations. Pickle chats with Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India

Spending 10 years at the helm of Technicolor India, Biren Ghose, who joined the company when it was still a small outfit known as Paprikaas Animation, has played an instrumental role in its transformation into the bellwether for the animation visual effects gaming and image-making industry that it is today. A leader, who considers himself “a naturally creative individual”, Ghose firmly believes in “creative thinkers” rather than “good workers”—an approach that has helped Technicolor India scale new heights on the back of cutting-edge technologies that are fast transforming the movie making landscape in India.

Biren Ghose & Nathan Wappet, COO – Production Services – celebrating the 100 glorious years of Technicolor

A keen participant in Technicolor’s transformation process to emerge as the most trusted and most efficient and reliable partner in creative business, what better brain to pick than Biren Ghose to get further insights into the CG industry. So, we decided recently to catch up with him to know about his views and perspectives on Technicolor’s journey so far, contribution it made in the M&E sector and where the company is heading. Here are the excerpts:

As someone who has been at the helm of Technicolor India for the past one decade, tell us about your journey so far?
BG: The 10 years at the helm of Technicolor India seem to have just flown by in a delightful collage of sounds, sights and celebrations. I joined the company when it was the joint venture, Paprikaas Animation, majority owned by the Technicolor Group, which was later bought out to make it a 100% Technicolor company.

The India Shared Services provides stellar support allowing production and creative to focus. This team has grown only 2x while the studio grew 10x

Technicolor India was the group’s first foray into CG animation in India. At the time, DreamWorks animation already had a dedicated feature film unit. The TV team was working with clients like Nickelodeon on high end TV series. This along with the work for EA for their iconic FIFA game became the ‘kernel of an idea’ that would over time help build this into the world’s premier studio for episodic TV animation. The goal was always to make India a robust hub for Technicolor in the computer graphics animation arena.

MPC was already the London HQ brand that Technicolor had owned for some years and one of my first tasks after joining the company was to create India’s 1st global VFX studio to advance their global ambition. I joined Technicolor as I shared the belief of our CEO, Fred Rose and President, Tim Sarnoff that we could make something extraordinary by combining India’s talent with Technicolor and MPC’s world class tools and technologies.

Technicolor India has grown into the world’s largest standalone studio and that our games business serves the world’s most sought after publishers for their AAA titles

The company was back then a relatively small outfit with a few hundred people. Fast forward to today! Technicolor is a veritable giant in the production of episodic CG TV animation and holds an advantageous prime position when any of the biggest and most technologically advanced shows are being considered by any of the Hollywood majors.

Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India

What’s more astounding is that we have grown into the world’s largest standalone studio and that our games business serves the world’s most sought after publishers for their AAA titles.

Technicolor has helped bring scale and consistency to this business and India has been a key ingredient in this formula helping the group and its clients to achieve this scale

What enabled this transformation is too long a list to spell out in one interview but at a high level, the following are some of the attributes that made the success we see today:

• Focus on Creativity and Artist Development – artists want to work on the best shows and hone their skills to greater heights.

• Clients find the multi-location – the workflow and communication make them believe it is THE ROOM NEXT DOOR!

• Extending World-Class Pipelines, Workflows & Methodologies to India – connecting it to group locations in LA, London, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Chicago and Shanghai increase the “real time” shared production paradigm.

• Creating the Cultural Alignment – Between Technicolor’s family of brands and its highly pedigreed roster of clients

• Scale and Intensity of High-end Projects – clients prefer to work with a partner that can operate at a scale without any decrease in quality or productivity depended on the Technicolor pedigree to take this chance in a new locale

• Financial and data security are a key consideration in ensuring global productions guard against completion risks.

What are the major contributions made by Technicolor India in terms of impacting the global CG industry?
BG: Technicolor’s contribution to this industry is both qualitative and quantitative. Technicolor has helped bring scale and consistency to this business and India has been a key ingredient in this formula helping the group and its clients to achieve this scale. For all of the group’s studios in the US, Canada, Europe and China, Technicolor India is the engine under the hood!

Technicolor is home to the world’s premier portfolio of visual effects brands, services, and creative innovations. With locations that span the globe and service offerings tailored to the specific creative and storytelling needs of each project, we power premium content. Our diverse family of VFX brands includes: MPC, The Mill, MR. X, Mikros MPC Advertising, and Technicolor VFX. Each studio has their own unique approach to help storytellers create out of this world experiences.

What is the secret behind Technicolor India managing to achieve this huge scale?
BG: Strategy is an organic rather than a mechanical process. Indians tend to think with our hearts (as well as our heads) and so it’s easier to understand this phenomenon! We don’t plan in the traditional linear manner paying attention just to the excel sheets. We do not follow the traditional way in which other local studios are set up and run. Like in all changing businesses the historical expertise and age-old templates are being rapidly devalued in our growth story. Discovery is key and our mantra of continuous evolution is possible as we go beyond the traditional ‘expertise’ to new idea-rich artists and technicians who challenge the status quo and innovate with new tools, technologies and ideas.

For an example, Technicolor’s Genesis is our new Virtual Production platform. This enables filmmakers to make better creative choices much earlier in the production process leading to high-quality outcomes. Using a game engine platform to emulate live-action film production in a VR space, Genesis helps to conceptualize each frame even before the shoot or CG shots are executed. This will substantially increase the potential to scale up locations like India as the iterations are reduced through a far more specific pre-visualization of the shot.

Our intellectual property, as a services business, is our best practices and production technology even more spectacular and artist-friendly. We do not have a singular way as the only way to produce the imagery expected of us. We are anti-dogma. We rise to the complexities of each project. We not only rise to it, but rise with it.

Biren’s vision: “make visual communications & the arts an instrument of change in India’s economic & community development”.

The way Technicolor has successfully achieved scale in creating innovative employees is really commendable. What is your thinking behind talent acquisition?
BG: Over the years in the VFX and animation business, we know that there exists a significant and unsolved challenge of getting the best out of our artistic talent. I believe this is because of the way we have been managing the industry for over a 100 years that creates ‘good workers’ rather than ‘creative thinkers’.

We have achieved scale at Technicolor India by constantly building our leadership team that is encouraged to innovate and try new approaches, in turn, they must encourage those within their teams. As this simplification takes place at the front-end of production, it allows businesses in India to build up greater scale of production.

Our clients and partner studios see the way we think, act and celebrate our spirit of constant renewal and attempts to be increasingly brilliant. This is what makes us amazing. When I joined, one of our key clients told me: “It’s perfect – please don’t change anything”. In hindsight I realize what he meant was, don’t change our dynamics, our winning ways, our culture of synchronous teamwork, but let those values and that culture create the change together.

It has been famously said that in the production services of animation, visual effects and games “our business is talent”. There are hundreds of thousands of folks in India that graduate in what is loosely called animation. These “schools” cannot produce production-ready talent.

Our success is to make India continuously productive and competitive within our group through the right mix of investments and innovation and to invent new paradigms in software and workflows for our art form. India is a partner in all aspects of this evolution

Notwithstanding this, Technicolor India has grown to a team of about 6000 artists and technicians. Additionally, we work with a preferred network of vendors which amounts to several hundred additional artists almost throughout the year.

Students with restless minds and bodies, far from being encouraged and leveraged for their curiosity and their youthful energy are ignored and there is a stigma attached to those who do not follow cookie-cutter methods! The dogmas of this past method of educating people and developing their skill sets is totally inadequate in an age of rapid change. We have to think and act anew in the business of creativity where ideas, visualization and initiatives are of paramount importance. These senses have to be rejuvenated and encouraged to experiment and grow. We need each artist to work to a level of confidence and to sell their own ideas and creativity and hone it in the process.

Biren keeping up with Sean Mullen, Creative Director – Animation & Games) at ‘Housefull’ – the legendary annual day!

I believe that over time we have become really savvy in identifying potential. When we interview an artist we look at their abilities based on some of the work they have previously done and determine how quickly they might be able to upskill their levels to become productive within our world-class team. This process has matured across all the disciplines that it takes to produce every single frame of film that we create.

Modelling, texturing, rigging, lighting, compositing, FX are all crucial skills that need a very different intrinsic ability from a generation of artists trained at the workplace. When I joined Technicolor, we decided to hire people into our company’s academy and make them production-ready internally. While this adds hugely to the cost and complexity, we believe it’s less of a distraction than having to set up and run a school on our own. Besides the workforce in-house, today there are almost 4,000 amazing artists that we have trained in our studio that have gone on to help grow the industry in our country and beyond.

India is eminently placed to be the no. 1 global service provider when it comes to VFX and animation and CG disciplines

We are proud of the contribution we have made to this sector and believe that as we capitalize on our past learnings we will be able to take our proprietary training methodologies to even greater excellence.

Biren is a regular and active participant and speaker at both CICAF and domestic industry events. He is seen here at the international and at the Game Developer Conference

Work-life balance is the key to rejuvenation of the creative professional. Our HR in each of our services, plan and execute employee engagement programs that are second to none.

As an example, Housefull, which is Technicolor India’s annual party, has become legendary as an institution. It demonstrates to clients as well as to global management, the passion and excitement with which Technicolor India plays as hard as it works! It is a celebration of the year’s work and is evidence of the youthful passion and creativity through the choreography, music, attire and dancing like you couldn’t imagine.

The opportunity to be a co-founder with Ronnie Screwala and UTV (now Walt Disney India) and launch broadband streaming platforms (in 1999) in local Indian languages was my baptism by fire in this industry

What drew you to the media and entertainment sector? What keeps you going even after serving the sector for two decades?
BG:
I consider myself a naturally creative individual and have been involved in innovative projects from the beginning of my career. Having been given the chance to create a consumer durable startup at the age of 26, I have invariably been involved in the journey of taking the spark of an idea from blank pages, to insights, to execution. As a marketer, this has always entailed understanding the consumer and finding those moments of serendipity that would help win the battle for their minds and hearts.
In my projects with USHA fans and sewing machines; working at Kingfisher and McDowell’s, etc I was always involved in media from the other side of the table. As someone commissioning and approving the creative, I have always actively partnered in the storytelling for our consumer brands.

Biren the diplomat & ambassador for Technicolor and a champion of the digital arts sector needs to do a lot of serious stuff. Yet he never misses an opportunity to have some fun!

I crossed the floor into the media business in 1999 when I sought to come back to India at the giddy heights of the dot com wave. The opportunity to be a co-founder with Ronnie Screwala and UTV (now Walt Disney India) and launch broadband streaming platforms in local Indian languages was my baptism by fire in this industry.

I believe that it’s not where you work but who you work with that is a key driver for me in my professional pursuits. The thought leadership that Ronnie provides in Indian media, and then working with global stalwarts like Kishore Lulla of Eros and later with the likes of Tim Sarnoff at Technicolor; Mark Benson and Christian Roberton at MPC have helped me to continuously frame and reframe my professional context with their passion, guidance and intellectual honesty.

The level of maturity among Indian companies in the media and entertainment industry is rapidly improving to the point where the players can now appreciate when to compete and when to collaborate.

With government trying to boost the growth of M&E sector, what is your take on India emerging as a digital and M&E hub?
BG:
India is eminently placed to be the no. 1 global service provider when it comes to VFX and animation and CG disciplines. We are well-placed to enable the world’s content creation and serve producers and studios with digital imagery. We have fully demonstrated our prowess in the contemporary disciplines and are working with emerging technologies like immersive media that need even more firepower!

Given the current growth rate of the animation & VFX industry what I would like to see is that while the media industry grows from Rs. 1.9 trillion to Rs. 2.35 trillion in the next 2 years & the animation services sector is slated to grow from 8% of the total to 11% of the total in its current trajectory per the published reports, this does not reflect the true potential of what the country can achieve.

Given the recent boost to the digital audiovisual industry by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and its identification as a champion sector, there is an immense opportunity to boost exports exponentially. I see that with the right impetus and incentives for this sector and animation and VFX services alone can be a Rs 1 trillion sector by 2025.

As a leader, what are the different kinds of opportunities do you see emerging in the Indian M&E space?
BG:
The tools to create stories are exploding. I see this as a paradigm shift, because we are in the age of immersion—the age when people are their own heroes & participate in their own adventures.

The digital world has transformed the 100 years of making movies with a camera. The innovation has taken the magic from the front of the camera to extraordinary heights of what goes on inside and behind it! This is where we at Technicolor India are blazing new trails at scale.

Today’s world is about taking something you love and turning it into a billion-dollar idea! We have taken a media start-up in India from its humble beginnings and are focusing on being a company that has rapidly scaled to Rs. 10 billion. In the process, we have become the bellwether for the animation visual effects gaming and image-making industry.

The thought leadership that Ronnie provides in Indian media, and then working with global stalwarts like Kishore Lulla of Eros and later with the likes of Tim Sarnoff at Technicolor; Mark Benson and Christian Roberton at MPC have helped me to continuously frame and reframe my professional context with their passion, guidance and intellectual honesty

Women at Technicolor India and “balance” is a huge initiative.
The Overseas Women’s Club of Bangalore visited.

Scale vectors at Technicolor India

Talent finding the appropriate dynamic for internal upskilling of Indian talent to bring them to world-class artistic levels. Proprietary methods and content Technicolor Academy (internal only).

Technology – no company as heavily in animation & VFX in India to set up high-end technology infrastructure to levels of investment and sophistication so that their clients and artists have the best.

Production savvy – how do you manage resources and juggle between multiple projects in different phases of execution? India had acquired a dodgy reputation for on-time delivery. We made sure this was the gold standard to enable scale.

Culture – we remain rooted and grounded through all of the business acceleration we see across the business units. It’s not what we say about who we are or our way of doing business but how we practice it on a daily basis. This unique feature makes the team pull together as one.

WOW FACTS – TECHNICOLOR INDIA 2018-19

Film & TV Snapshots

  • MPC has over 21 Movies in progress at a time
  • MPC Worked on over 25000 shots + 1250 builds + 10 movies
  • 75% of the global compositing is done in India
  • Internal Academy for film VFX produced
  • 311 graduates over 41 batches almost 100% absorbed!.
  • World’s biggest Compositing & Assets team of 735 artists
  • Mr.X VFX working on 28 shows – 14 Features + 14 Series
  • Mr.X currently working on movies like Franklin, Hellboy, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Pet Sematary and series including Vikings – S6, American Gods S2, Knightfall -S2.
  • Film and TV VFX has over 2000+ world-class artists in India

Animation & Games [Annual snapshot]

  • Delivered 2745 minutes of animation
  • Created 3911 assets
  • Working on shows for Walt Disney
  • Animation; DreamworksAnimation TV;
  • Nickelodeon; and others
  • Alvin & the Chipmunks season 4 is the longest running show
  • Delivered 1623 minutes of Games animation
  • Created 9772 Games assets
  • Working with EA on FIFA for the past 10 years
  • Clients include Ubisoft; Sony; Activision; Rockstar; Gameloft; & many others.

Advertising VFX

  • Billed over 40000+ man-days
  • Team of approx 400 artists [India’s largest]
  • Work across 10 disciplines (modelling, composting, etc)
  • 600+ projects completed
  • Comp. Supervisor won most prestigious VES Award
  • Won 4 awards for the acclaimed VR project, Last Goodbye -)
  • Worked on 26 Superbowl commercials
  • Won a Cannes Lion, ADC Gold, Creative Circle, British Arrows and many other awards.

The world is continuously stunned by the enormity and complexity that goes into a single 90minute VFX driven animated movies such as Disney’s TheLionKing. Technicolor’s MPCfilm which has a huge team in Bangalore besides LA, London and Vancouver created the entire VFX with Director Jon Favreau and the Disney team.

Hold your breath as we give you only the highlights. Making this movie entailed: Capturing 240,000 photos, 1490 final shots, executing the highest ever photoshoot mission, producing 66 Sets covering 150 Sq. km [that’s an area bigger than South Korea or Greece!], 921 Various Species of flora and trees, 42+ hours of reference footage, 17 heroes, 63 unique species of fauna, 847,013 Dailies, 7975 Animation Submissions, 6182 Final Comp Submission, 18,000kms travelled, 676,578 Bugs [insects not glitches!],100 Billion blades of grass and all this was done by just 1250 people. You will agree that this is a breath-taking labour of love!

This enormous “canvas” has been made possible because we at Technicolor continue to pioneer new methods to reimagine storytelling.

Creativity needs Technology and the India team, working with our global ecosystem of studios and within their pipelines, can deploy the right mix of training and excellence in multiple disciplines. Accordingly, we have grown to become the world’s largest team for film VFX in disciplines such as Roto-animation; Tracking; Assets & Compositing. Additionally, our teams in Rotoscopy and Paint where India is now overall is gaining huge momentum.

Our success is to make India continuously productive and competitive within our group through the right mix of investments and innovation and to invent new paradigms in software and workflows for our artform. India is a partner in all aspects of this evolution.

Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India, Behind the scenes

Rapid Fire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
BG: A balanced life

What is your greatest fear?
BG
: Economic forces that disrupt what I have helped create professionally and personally

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
BG: Impatience

What is the trait you most deplore in others? BG: Lethargy

Which living person do you most admire?
BG: Bill Gates

What is your greatest extravagance?
BG: Buying music

What is your current state of mind?
BG: Pivoting towards the next 10 years

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
BG: Blind obedience to any cause

On what occasion do you lie?
BG: When I buy more wine and the fridge is already full!

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
BG: Waistline!

Which living person do you most despise?
BG: Varies from time to time

What is the quality you most like in a man?
BG: Humility

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
BG: Assurance

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
BG: Amazing; Yes; Let’s do it; Wow!;

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
BG: My wife & daughters – my parents, sister and my wife’s family.

When and where were you happiest?
BG: It depends when you ask me – as of today it is today!

Which talent would you most like to have?
BG: Formula 1 driver

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
BG: My weight!

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?  BG: Having mentored a generation of amazing managers and inspired a generation of young professionals.

Where would you most like to live?
BG: New York

What is your most treasured possession?
BG: Family.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
BG: Losing a child, spouse or parent

What is your favorite occupation?
BG: Music.

What is your most marked characteristic?
BG: Humor & Energy

What do you most value in your friends?
BG: Accepting each other as they are. Those you can pick up from where you left off without regard to what life has done to each of us in the interim. Sincerity. Forgiveness.

Who are your favorite writers?
BG: Shakespeare [his diversity of genres & appeal to the common man!]

Who is your hero of fiction?
BG: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
BG: Leonardo da Vinci

Who are your heroes in real life?
BG: Eric Clapton – for the way he renewed himself artistically & through personal rehabilitation

What are your favorite names?
BG: Ragini, Radhika & Deepika

What is it that you most dislike?
BG: The status quo. [Standing still is sliding backward!]

What is your greatest regret?
BG: That I was not born in 1995

What is your motto?
BG: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”


Featured Post

Animation in the Age of Art & Tech

admin   July 20, 2020

Managing Paperboat in COVID-19 environment. Interview with Soutmitra Ranade, Co-Founder and Chairman Paperboat Design Studios

How did Paperboat adapt in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

This is a huge humanitarian crisis. Millions of people all over the world are going through perhaps the worst times of their lives. The element of fear also plays a terrifying role – how long will this last? Am I or my family safe? Are our jobs secure? Will there be a cut in our salaries?

These of course are the immediate fears. Then there are of course the larger fears– Where is this world heading to? What have we done with it? Is it destroyed beyond repair? Will our children always have to wear masks all their lives? Are we losing control over our lives?

But right now, very honestly, my priority is the 250 people who work with us in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. They and their families. So about 1500 people. We are responsible for them and have to ensure that at least these 1500 people have a comparatively easier life. Then each one also has dependents. They have their maids and their vegetable vendors etc. So it’s extremely important that we run our studio efficiently even in these terrible times, because it impacts so many people.

And since we don’t know yet when this is going to end, we must take a deep breath and take the calamity on the chin. Two days before the first lockdown was announced in March, we anticipated it and shifted all the equipment to people’s homes so that they could work from there. All the employees have co-operated with us. Believe me it’s been a big challenge but we have done well for the first four months. And I am sure we will get through these tough times.

Just before COVID-19 struck, Paperboat had planned to set up studio in Canada, Toronto…

Yes. Our Canada plans got delayed due to the pandemic but I feel that is nothing as compared to what so many had to suffer. I mean, we have to be realistic. This is a world crisis and honestly it doesn’t really matter if a studio gets delayed in some place. We have to see things in the larger context. There are more urgent matters that the world needs to concentrate upon right now. The delay has been disappointing but we are sure our Canadian studio will take off as soon as the pandemic is behind us.

What are the focus areas of Paperboat Studios in Canada?

Our Canadian studio is called UtSide Inc. and focuses on creating a synergy between art and technology and we want to develop ideas in various medias such as animated films, apps, VR/AI, physical interactive experiences etc. Our vision is to empower individuals in their formative years. We aspire to create worldwide communities that bridge geographical, linguistic, sociocultural gaps and strive for a world that is inclusive, compassionate and joyous. We have identified many projects and the work on them would begin hopefully by the end of the year.

Now that you have set up studio in Toronto, do you look at co-production opportunities? Canada has signed the largest number of co-production Treaties in the world. How do you see collaboration in this time of crisis?

It’s always a crisis that either brings people together or tears them apart. We as a world community need to take a decision which way we want to go. For us, these co-production treaties are not just documents or agreements between two governments. It is a partnership between two people, two cultures, two languages, two world views. And this union can be very exciting.

In a co-production project it’s the artists from one country working with artists from another country. I am very keen that my next project – an animated feature film based on Tagore’s Kabuliwala is not just an Indo-Canadian co-production. But we would like to work with artists from all over the sub-continent. Imagine a situation where the musicians are from Afghanistan, artists, designers, animators, voice actors from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Tagore after all belonged to the entire subcontinent. A collaborative film of this kind on Kabuliwala would be a true salute to the great man’s vision.

How do you plan to scale up Paperboat studios?

It’s very easy for us to go from 250 to 500. But that’s not the kind of scaling we want to achieve. For us the primary scale up would not be in numbers but in a constant pursuit of quality. With the three films that we have done recently we have shown to the world that we can do it in India. We want to break this perception about Indian animation being shoddy and low standard. If we concentrate on quality, and keep delivering path-breaking animation year after year, the scaling up will happen automatically. Afterall, everyone wants an artistic and efficient animation studio, even people from Europe and North America. We want them to come to us with great stories and we can create the animated world for them.

What are the current moves you are making for Paperboat’s journey to future?

Up until now, me, Aashish and Mayank have brought Paperboat to this stage without a single rupee of outside investment. We have put systems in place, have a very good client base, and are working for the top TV channels. As we now start work on our own IPs, we need investments. Big dreams need big investments and these investments may not always be counted in monetary terms. We are also looking for collaborations, partnerships and joint-ventures.

How has been the client response during the period? Do you see surge in pipeline?

Our clients are well aware of the situation and although they have their own pressures, which may or may not be in sync with our pressures but they all have reacted most positively to all our problems. We are talking to each one of them very regularly and updating them of the immense pressure that our team is going through. Many employees have shifted to their villages since the cities are not very safe. There are different challenges there. Internet speeds are ridiculous at most places. It takes hours to upload/download a simple file. But all the clients have been extremely understanding, and supportive. Actually it’s also got to do with intent. If we start using this pandemic as an excuse for our inefficiency then they will obviously see that. If the problems are real and if we keep updating them regularly then there need not be any friction.

Do you see acceleration for animation, VFX, gaming business going forward as there are challenges in live shoots and these verticals can help in storytelling?

I feel traditionally, the Indian mindset has always been a bit fearful of technology. We don’t invest enough in it. Even big stars and producers tell us proudly that for such and such film they have got the experts from Hollywood: for prosthetics, for VFX, for CGI and so on. I think they should actually be ashamed of themselves to even say this. Why can’t they invest in creating the talent here in India? They have the resources, they have the money.

Our films have primarily been driven by the star system. When you have a big star in your film, you don’t even need a script, forget about VFX and animation! That’s the mind-set that we have. But the star system is dead now. Infact it’s been dead for a while but they have somehow kept it alive through PR which won’t last for too long anyways.

Then they will have to turn to VFX and animation to get the eye balls. So primarily we will have two kinds of films: the ones with great, hard hitting content and then big spectacles with huge amount of VFX and animation. As far as gaming goes, I honestly think that we still have a long way to go.

What are the opportunities you see during this period for the AVGC (Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects, Comics) sector in India? Also challenges?

I do think that the AVGC sector cannot be seen separately. The internet speeds that we have in India right now, the accessibility to technology, proper training institutes, and many other factors define our AVGC sector. It’s the entire ecosystem that matters. The government must recognise that this sector is a huge job creator. We must look at the taxation laws if we want to encourage this sector. I feel we have a huge opportunity. We have a vast young population that is willing to move towards this area as the traditional sectors like medicine and engineering etc., are beyond the reach of most people. Also, this is a very exciting world and the youth would naturally feel attracted towards it. We must make this movement easier for them.

You had expressed keenness in starting training and studio in Jammu & Kashmir?

Over the past many years we have had extremely talented youngsters from the valley, working with us at our studio in Mumbai. Unfortunately they had all done their animation courses from other parts of the country and it pained me that there is not a single good animation institute in the valley. It was a dream to start something there so that the locals don’t have to leave their wonderful environs to come and study and work in our rotten cities.

Animation is not just a medium of art, expression and entertainment but it also offers job opportunities in large numbers. With our institute in Kashmir, we also hope to start a branch of our studio, which will employ the artists graduating from the institute. The ultimate aim ofcourse is to produce animation films written, designed and directed by Kashmiri artists!

As a teenager in Kabul, I was witness to some of the most horrific armed struggles that the world has ever seen. In the following decades a most compassionate and loving people have been crushed to pulp and we don’t want Kashmir to go that way. I am sure art can heal.


Featured Post

Infusing Life With Dubbing AT VR Films & Studios

admin   February 15, 2020

India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd, . Meet them at the American Film Market 2019 for all your localisation needs

Manish Dutt along with his brother Krishi Dutt runs India’s biggest dubbing company, managing over 900 artistes who lend their voices in several languages to keep his pipeline engaged. Even after clocking 50,000+ hours of dubbing and witnessing 80 percent year-on-year growth, Manish’s VR Films is hungry for more.

“India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish, Managing Director, VR Films. “We are positioning ourselves to be a one-stop shop for all dubbing and sub-titling requirements. Our dubbing company is making Hollywood in India.” VR Films is a “Limited” company now…with shares listed on BSE SME Platform- first dubbing company in India and second in the world to achieve this.

What is your major objective and focus at American Film Market 2019?

This AFM we have strategized to be very specific for new Titles provided they are different in terms of content and from what we already have in our basket. We have a string of new Titles which are in production and slated for 2020/21 delivery. Markets in India Sub Continent have been quite lukewarm where Theatrical and TV platforms for foreign content are concerned and this contributes towards being more cautious for future acquisitions.

However we will be very aggressive for our Dubbing business and have meets lined up with leading Hollywood Film Studios and OTT platforms as there is a big demand for Indian Localisation of International Content.

Post listing of VR Films & Studio in the BSE and NSE SMEs platform, how has been response from clients and investors?

We started on a very promising note…with our IPO getting oversubscribed 1.7 times. Our share price has more than doubled from INR 61 (listing price) to INR 130 (current price)….more than double in 6 months of listing with Dividend payout @10%.

For Oct 2019 – March 2020 we expect to do 4 times more YOY.

Tell us about your film “The Courier” to be released in India this November? What are your acquisitions and co-production plans?

“The Courier” is an Action Thriller starring Gary Oldman, Olga Kurylenko and Dermot Mulroney. It’s a fast paced movie which we shall exploit Theatrically and Digitally in 9 Indian languages apart from English…namely Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bangla, Marathi, Urdu and Bhojpuri.

We are in talks for a co-production too with European makers…and shall take it forward during this AFM. We also intend to get into producing Hindi Films and have been exploring opportunities.

Streaming platforms are hot now… How has VR Films benefited from OTT from dubbing perspective?

They form a major chunk of our dubbing business…almost 60-65%. We have been dubbing for streaming platforms since 2018…for one major we dubbed their series and features…nearly 2000 hours in just 3 months in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Bangla.
We are in talks with more OTT platforms and shall soon have them onboard….including the major one. Content localisation for OTT is a huge business opportunity which will grow in leaps in times ahead.

What are your thoughts on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative and how do you think companies like VR Films are embracing it?

Our PM is a visionary. Where VR Films is concerned we have been dubbing for leading International Film Studios and TV Platforms since 2000. We started with no Dubbing Studio and today we have more than 65 Dubbing Studios across India…localising Foreign Content in Hindi and regional Indian languages. At times we run double shifts to keep up with the demand. VR Films Studios are known for quality and exemplary service. We deliver much before time. Our clients have been with us since years and we keep adding new ones. OTT platforms have contributed majorly in our recent growth and VR Films will surely do India proud where “Dubbing in India” is concerned.

Do you see slowdown in the market — especially in your services business?

Fortunately not. Dubbing will grow in times ahead. It makes business sense to dub existing successful content in various languages and monetise. India is a growing market…it’s vast and has huge requirements. Each region has its specific language and the platforms will woo audiences by proving content in their specific languages. Apart from entertainment content there is educational/health related content which will be exploited in times ahead. Recently a platform approached us to dub Literature/Novels in various languages. Opportunities are huge and we at VR Films have always kept our eyes and ears open to grab


Featured Post

Sailing well in Animation Waters

admin   February 13, 2020

India has a pool of trained artistes. They are computer literate and proficient in English. Also, we can offer rates that very few in the world can offer,” says Soumitra Ranade, Founder and Creative Director of Paperboat Design Studios Pvt. Ltd

We are excited to see Bombay Rose, directed by Gitanjali Rao, (premiered in Venice and screened at other prestigious events) was made at Paperboat Studios. What went into the making journey of Bombay Rose?
Bombay Rose has a very unique style, which is Gitanjali’s personal style. She had made her short film True Love Story in a similar style mostly on her own with only a few artistes. However when it comes to a feature film the dynamics are entirely different. The project has to get into a studio mode even while it remains personal expression. That was our main challenge – to maintain the integrity of the image even as production happens in a conveyer belt like situation. We couldn’t allow any leakages anywhere. The final image, even after having gone under the hands of numerous artistes, had to be exactly as Gitanjali had envisaged.

But we have a very simple solution for this, which we had tried in our earlier animation film Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa and had succeed. With Bombay Rose too we trained about 30 artistes for a period of three to four months. They were trained under Gitanjali and our design team. Obviously there were many hiccups in the early days. It takes time for artistes to unlearn what they have been doing for years. But we got through that phase eventually and only when we were all on the same page, did we start the production. After that it went quite smoothly since each and every artiste knew exactly what Gitanjali had in mind. I think what we have achieved is truly phenomenal.

About 200,000 frames were hand-painted individually – each with multiple characters in about 18 months.

How difficult is to manage an animation service ecosystem run by creative leaders? It is very ironic…
Honestly I think this is the only way to do it! Besides being a writer-director, I have also been the executive producer on all my films. So I did have certain management skills. Running a studio is slightly different and we did have some issues initially. But we worked around that, hired professional managers and created a system that is driven by the creative and run by the managers rather than it being the other way round.

Indian animation service industry is 25 years now. Can we confidently say, we can make in India to show the world?
As artistes we could always do it. What we didn’t have then was an animation ecosystem. It is not enough to have designers and animators alone. We need to have animation producers, writers, animation thinkers really and most importantly animation viewers. Only then can the animation industry thrive.

In the absence of all these, the big foreign studios came and gobbled us up! They trained our artistes to suit their styles and India ended up as a backend sweatshop destination. Sure, it gives jobs to thousands and that’s very important but I don’t think that helps the animation aesthetic in the country.

I think it is important for us to build our own animation industry rather than being dependent on the big studios to offload their work on to us.

India is one of the global clusters for animation service. Where do we go from now? What advantages do you see in India in providing offshore animation production services? Where do we excel in this space?
The advantages are many. Firstly India has a pool of trained artistes. They are computer literate and proficient in English. Also, we can offer rates that very few in the world can offer.

I do think that the government can play a big role here since it tick marks one of its main agendas; to create jobs. It should give tax cuts and other benefits so that this part of the animation industry enlarges exponentially.

Bombay Rose, directed by Gitanjali Rao

What’s the idea behind the creation of Paperboat Studios?
Before Paperboat, there were only two kinds of animation studios in India. One, those large studios that did all the backend work for big foreign studios or then there were the others, which were mostly doing advertising or TV serials.

We wanted to create a space where creativity and innovation is respected. Where directors can come and make their feature films in whatever style they envision. And because Paperboat is headed by artistes, the directors trust us. They know that their most precious child will be looked after well at Paperboat.

They know that their films will not be treated as just another job. They know that this is as big a passion for us as it is for them.

You have created some of the feature films and finest animation IPs from India. What goes on your mind when you create product for others?
Honestly, this word ‘others’ doesn’t exist for us. It is ‘us’. We are all in it together.

Shilpa Ranade made her film Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiyaa with us. Then it was Anamika Haksar with her Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon (partly animated) and now Bombay Rose. All three films have gone international in a big way. GGBB was the first Indian animation feature that was premiered at TIFF. Ghode Ko was selected for Sundance. BR was the first Indian animation film opening the Critics Week at Venice. All three have gone to many other festivals and won numerous awards.

This gives us great happiness because these are all our films! It also makes us happy that Indian animation is finally being recognized worldwide and Paperboat has played a small part in this.

Paperboats’s core ideology “is to serve simplicity with sophistication”. What are the services rendered at your studio?
From the very conceptualization of an idea till the final screening copy is what we do at Paperboat. Ownership is very important for us. From story to screenplay and dialogues, from character design to all other pre-production, from animation to compositing and then the BG music and sound postproduction, we take care of all these at Paperboat.

Of course, all clients don’t get all this done from us. For feature films especially the directors come with their own screenplays although for GGBB I have written the screenplay as well.

Animation and IT sector evolved simultaneously in India. Indian IT has gone global, but animation/animation services hasn’t seen the same success. Do you think animation will have it glory in India in the coming years?
I had made a film called Jajantaram Mamantaram in 2003. For the first time in an Indian feature we had 65 minutes of animation and VFX. Inspite of its huge commercial success it has taken India another 12 years to make a Bahubali in 2015!

I have always thought we Indians were very sluggish when it came to technology. Our generation was never really exposed to animation as a result of which, it was essentially a star driven generation. We preferred to see Bollywood stars rather than animated images. I think the current generations have crossed that bridge. I do see exciting days ahead.

How do you see new space and a media ecosystem opening up for animation in platforms like Netflix, Apple, Amazon Prime, YouTube…
As I said earlier, our generation was never really exposed to animation. In my childhood I used to see perhaps one Disney film in two years. And then there were those wonderful Films Division shorts made by Bhimsain and Ram Mohan. Besides this, we had zilch exposure to animation.

But since the late nineties after private satellite channels exploded on the scene, kids are growing up watching animation. It has now become a norm. In fact it is now a preferred medium. Other mediums like the memes, GIFs etc are adding to this whole new visual culture. Animation also lends itself easily to dubbing and hence crosses geographical/linguistic barriers easier than live-action. It is edgier, funnier, faster and more exciting.

There is a hungry audience out there waiting for animation content and the platforms are already moving more and more towards that space.

As we march to a new decade in a couple of months, what is your wish list to accomplish in the new decade beginning 2020?
Oh this is the most exciting period in our lives! We have started work on our next feature Kabuliwala, which is based on Tagore’s classic short story. We have some very exciting ongoing television projects with Discovery Kids and Sony Yay! We have started a new division called Occult where we will focus only on cutting edge VFX work. We are talking to prestigious universities in India to develop animation education across India. We have also started UtSide Inc. a design innovation company based out of Toronto.

So quite a lot of exciting stuff is happening but the closest to our heart is our proposal of an animation school attached to a studio in Kashmir. We are very keen on this and we hope things work out very soon.


Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India, Behind the scenes

admin   October 13, 2019

Rapid Fire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
BG: A balanced life

What is your greatest fear?
BG
: Economic forces that disrupt what I have helped create professionally and personally

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
BG: Impatience

What is the trait you most deplore in others? BG: Lethargy

Which living person do you most admire?
BG: Bill Gates

What is your greatest extravagance?
BG: Buying music

What is your current state of mind?
BG: Pivoting towards the next 10 years

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
BG: Blind obedience to any cause

On what occasion do you lie?
BG: When I buy more wine and the fridge is already full!

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
BG: Waistline!

Which living person do you most despise?
BG: Varies from time to time

What is the quality you most like in a man?
BG: Humility

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
BG: Assurance

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
BG: Amazing; Yes; Let’s do it; Wow!;

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
BG: My wife & daughters – my parents, sister and my wife’s family.

When and where were you happiest?
BG: It depends when you ask me – as of today it is today!

Which talent would you most like to have?
BG: Formula 1 driver

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
BG: My weight!

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
BG: Having mentored a generation of amazing managers and inspired a generation of young professionals.

Where would you most like to live?
BG: New York

What is your most treasured possession?
BG: Family.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
BG: Losing a child, spouse or parent

What is your favorite occupation?
BG: Music.

What is your most marked characteristic?
BG: Humor & Energy

What do you most value in your friends?
BG: Accepting each other as they are. Those you can pick up from where you left off without regard to what life has done to each of us in the interim. Sincerity. Forgiveness.

Who are your favorite writers?
BG: Shakespeare [his diversity of genres & appeal to the common man!]

Who is your hero of fiction?
BG: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
BG: Leonardo da Vinci

Who are your heroes in real life?
BG: Eric Clapton – for the way he renewed himself artistically & through personal rehabilitation

What are your favorite names?
BG: Ragini, Radhika & Deepika

What is it that you most dislike?
BG: The status quo. [Standing still is sliding backward!]

What is your greatest regret?
BG: That I was not born in 1995

What is your motto?
BG: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”


GES: Get, set, go

admin   August 31, 2019

The main objective of Global Exhibition on Services is to position India as a leader in the Service sector to the rest of the world, to tap potential for services’ exports and to draw further investment into India in the services sector.

India is set to host the fifth Global Exhibition on Services (GES) in Palace Ground, Bangalore from 26 to 28 November 2019.

Spearheaded by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, the expo is organised in association with the Confederation of India Industry (CII) and SEPC.

GES will bring the Indian M&E service providers under one platform to the expo. Content buyers, technology service providers, production and location executives will benefit.

The GES will enable delegates to explore M&E service solutions in the new emerging digital world.

GES will offer a one-stop-shop for meetings, networking and collaboration in the entertainment space.

The GES exhibition would be a meeting place for countries, for global service sector players to forge new business relationships and enhance international trade in services.

GES is the place to explore film shooting destinations across India.

It is a perfect launch pad for your products and services.

Interaction among international services sector players, day long seminars on M&E and dedicated B2B meetings to strike useful partnerships will be organised under the event. You can meet cost-effective post-production studios and service companies.

At GES, you have access to creative and business minds from all media and entertainment verticals/

Exhibit and engage with Indian M&E industry under one umbrella.

Check for more details in www.gesdelhi.in
email: pratik.mukherjee@cii.in


Commerce Ministry-CII-SEPC to Host 5th Global Exhibition on Services in Bangalore

admin   August 1, 2019

The Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) will be jointly organizing the 5th edition of the Global Exhibition on Services from 26-28 November 2019 at the Palace Grounds, Bangalore.

“Shaping the Future of India & World” will be the theme of GES 2019.

In the global context, the importance of the services sector cannot be emphasized more. It contributes more to global output and employs more people than any other sector. Globally, services contribute almost one-third of world gross value added, half of world employment, one-fifth of global trade and more than half of the world foreign direct investment flows. The services sector has thus emerged as the most dynamic sector of the world economy,

GES is fast emerging as a definitive platform for the Services Sector worldwide.

The first Global Exhibition on Services (GES) was inaugurated by Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi in 2015 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. At the inaugural session he emphasized that GES will bring India onto the world stage and urged the sector to become the key growth driver of India’s economic trajectory.

The second and third GES in 2016 and 2017 was inaugurated by Hon. President of India in Greater Noida, National Capital Region, India and President’s Estate respectively. Focus sectors at the event included IT & Telecom, Tourism, Media and Entertainment, Healthcare, Logistics, Professional Services, Education, R&D, Space and SME in Services.

As a part of GES, a large number of seminars / knowledge sessions are organized on diverse topics where expert industry leaders and government representatives deliberates on the various issues facing the services sectors. Many of these explored opportunities in specific geographies like Africa, Gulf region, Australia, and SAARC. Others focused on specific service sectors like Tourism and Culture, Exhibitions & Event Services, Banking & Financial Services, Media & Entertainment, Health & Medical Value Travel, MSMEs in services and on Education and Skills connecting India to the world. The GES in subsequent years scaled new heights in taking our services to the global market place and in showcasing the India Opportunity. As a dynamic player in the global services sector, India has the potential to build its own brand for services exports where it can be a dominant player and GES furthers the cause of:

Showcasing India’s prowess across services sectors before a global audience
Position India globally in more services sub-sectors Generate concrete business outcomes Create employment through leveraging services exports


Production Services, VFX, Animation In India

admin   July 29, 2019

Many Indian companies have created top end studio facilities in India that serve as a single window to fulfil the needs of overseas filmmakers

India’s contribution to Hollywood movies is well known – the last two Harry Potter films, Pirates of the Caribbean, Percy Jackson, Life of Pi, Skyfall, Prometheus, The Jungle Book, Blade Runner have all used India talent. This has been enabled as larger studios have extended their pipelines and proprietary tool sets and software to India.

The Media and Entertainment (M&E) Industry is one of the most dynamic industries in India with modern technologies acting as a key enabler for providing world-class services to overseas clients/companies. The industry is increasingly witnessing the convergence of media, entertainment and technology creating efficiencies in workflow, revenue streams and unique business models.

Indian media, entertainment and technology services are growing at an accelerated pace on the back of growing offshore services domain, especially in animation, VFX, gaming, AR/VR, film production, location and new media, among others. The Indian animation and VFX services have gained a lot of traction among the international producers and production houses.