Ayalaan VFX Unveiled- Anish Sreedhar – PhantomFX

Ayalaan VFX Unveiled- Anish Sreedhar – PhantomFX

Ayalaan Unveiled: Anish Sreedhar Discusses the Challenges and Triumphs in VFX Creation

In this exclusive interview with Anish Sreedhar, the Head of CG at PhantomFX, we delve into the intricate world of visual effects for the film “Ayalaan.” With over seven years of experience at PhantomFX, Anish has been instrumental in driving CG innovation and mastering the full spectrum of visual effects production. He shares the primary challenges his team faced, particularly the time constraints and the complexity of creating fully CG environments and characters. Anish also provides a detailed breakdown of key VFX sequences, highlighting the techniques and software used, and discusses the close collaboration with the film’s director and other departments. Additionally, he reveals the groundbreaking technologies employed by PhantomFX and the meticulous process of integrating CG elements seamlessly into live-action footage. Join us as we explore the visual marvels of “Ayalaan” through the lens of a CG expert.

I have been with PhantomFX for over seven years. Through the years I’ve been cultivating an eye for CG innovation and an intellectual link to CG technology, so when I entered the world of computer graphics, I came with a strong overview of the full-spectrum visual effects production, from concept to delivery, which helps me translate high-level concepts into reality via in-scene visual results.

The biggest challenge for “Ayalaan” was managing time! Although the movie began production 5-6 years ago, most sequences were completed in the final three months. We had to employ unconventional methods to accommodate everything within a concise timeframe. There were numerous full CG environments including an alien world and CGI characters too in it which in a way is a challenge as we have not done something of that kind before. The greatest challenge for “Ayalaan” was managing time. Despite starting production 5-6 years ago, most sequences were completed in the final three months. To achieve this, we had to use unconventional methods to meet the tight deadlines. The project included numerous fully CG environments, such as the alien world, and CGI characters, which presented a unique challenge as it was our first time tackling such complex tasks. Another challenging sequence was the pre-climax destruction, where we had to create a massive collapse of the mine using laser beams. This involved intricate effects and extensive coordination to achieve a dramatic impact.

The interaction scene between the aliens in the human house at the top of the water tank was definitely my favorite visualization of the movie: the inspiration for our facial capture in this sequence was Andy Serkis’ performance of Gollum. In fact, the performance capture on almost all the interaction scenes heavily relied on the Xsens and Faceware Systems tech. We did take measurements from a different mocap suit on the set, but that didn’t quite work as planned, and ended up having our animators re-mocap all the shots with the body/face mocap suit. Lots of data were gathered on location from the grey ball and mirror ball measurements to HDRIs, which would really help matchmove and lighting process on the respective elements in post, with the aforementioned master light rig library for shots in the same areas. Another element in the process is the color pipeline.

One of the greatest advantages of this film was the director’s technical expertise and understanding of VFX. At least one person from the direction team was always present in the studio to assist and creatively guide us. They all recognized the importance of our involvement, even during the planning stages of the shoot

The extensive use of Blender for environment creation was a key aspect of our work on Ayalaan. All the full CG environments in the alien world were entirely made using Blender. We formed a dedicated environment team, grooming them as generalists so they could handle everything from dense forests to barren deserts, and even galaxies made of nebulas.

The process began with pre-visualization, where our team collaborated with the director to create the entire film in previz. During the shoot, our on-set supervisors collected crucial data, such as HDRIs and color charts. We ensured that the color pipeline was strictly followed, which streamlined our integration process. We established clear protocols and procedures for Matchmove and layouts to align with international standards. Animation played a crucial role; as mentioned before, we extensively used motion capture data, refining it later for more detail and believability. We created master lighting rigs for similar shots and implemented a unique pipeline process and review system that allowed our lighting to blend seamlessly with the background. Last but not least, our compositors made final adjustments and blended everything together seamlessly, resulting in spectacular end results.

Thank you so much, Anish, for sharing your valuable insights and taking us behind the scenes of your incredible work on “Ayalaan.”

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