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A Technical Peak into Delhi Safari with Anand Bhanushali, Technical Director
As Promised, CGTantra is back with
its magnifying lens to give you a sneak-peak into the technical process
that was involved during the making of the soon-to-be released 3D Stereo
Feature, Delhi Safari. Releasing on 19th october, Anand Bhanushali,
Technical Director of the movie and Krayon Pictures gives us a peep into
what goes behind making such a high quality content and his experience
of working on a movie which was technically and creatively challenging.
1. Well the question remains the same.. :) How has been your experience Working on Delhi Safari ?
Its been 5 years since we started working on Delhi
Safari, though technically its 3.5 years that went into production of
Delhi Safari. But yes, its been the most amazing journey so far. I
really don't have words to describe the entire experience, its just
overwhelming. Most importantly Delhi Safari was a vision, which few of
us dared and challenged to go out and make. Working in production for 13
years and having worked on a lot of national and international projects
before Delhi Safari came in, i wanted to be a part of a story, right
from being involved in writing to designing characters and backgrounds,
dubbing the actors to releasing the film. In short, the entire process
of film making. And crayon pictures gave me that opportunity with Delhi
Safari. Its been an immense learning and a fun experience.
2. Provided that an extensive
research was done at pre-production stage for the various creative
aspects of the movie.. What kind of preparations and research that you
and your team had to do to ensure a streamlined production of the movie?
We started Delhi Safari with 8 artist
including me and a small management team. So we had to build the entire
studio, lay down the pipeline and parallely start pre-production,
recruit a team, and train them. It was the most challenging task i had
ever done, my approach was simple, i was very clear right from the start
that the way pre production, characters, backgrounds were being
designed with lot of detail and vast extensive sets, there had to be a
pipeline which artist could very quickly adapt to and not worry about
So we formed a small research and
development team , basically MEL and Python programmers and we started
brain storming, bouncing ideas, discussion about what was the most
disliked part in our jobs earlier, and since we all came from various
departments like fur, animation, lighting etc., atlas most of us knew
what we didn't want in the workflow. We spent almost a year making a
simple workflow for every department. Basically 'clean in and clean out'
, it means whatever comes in the department needs to be a clean file
and whatever goes out needs to be a clean file, so every department
needs to optimize file and remove unwanted data.
Besides that, we made a list of all the
candy stuff that Delhi Safari required like Fur, Foliage, Jungles,
Water FX, Wet Fur, Sworm of bees, lots and lots of Cars, City etc.
While the pre production was happening, we coded our own
Furshader for Renderman complaint renderer called 'AIR', wet fur shader
& foliage workflow called the 'Umbrella' workflow, leaf shader,
examples of smoke, waterfalls, trees, bee particles, crowd and showed it
to our creative director as well as art director and we were ready to
implement that into production on mass level.
3. Delhi Safari is about the
journey of animals to stop deforestation and that means , a lot animal
characters that would have to be carefully crafted. Incorporating so
many animal characters in the movie would have sounded like a tough task
to handle technically.. Did the technical know-how influence the
creative decision making as well at the character design stage ?
I believe in one thing very strongly,
technology has to wrap around the creatives and not vice-versa. So, at
no point did we try to tell our creatives that all the amazing stuff
they were creating on the paper could not be achieved in production. So
we gave them a free hand, just go mad with what you can visualize and
create and we will figure out how to get it in the movie :) Me and my
team knowledge and experience of working on a lot of animation feature
film definitely helped the creatives. We would explain them what would
be very expensive, what would require tons of simulation time, etc and
that was not to stop them or limit them in the creatives, but to make a
smart production in the available time and budget.
For e.g.. all of the main characters have been designed
with no or negligible fur on their palms and feet, otherwise we would
have to simulate tons of fur where the characters walked or if they
touched an object but our art team came up with amazing character
sketches, very smartly hiding the fact that we had avoided the fur on
palms and feet.
4. Can you elaborate on the
much talked about PUPPETS the proprietary asset management solution of
Krayons.. How did it serve as a boon in terms of Delhi Safari ?
PUPPET... i have to tell this... its
funny because till sometime a lot of Krayon artists thought that this
tool was to make them work like puppets. Basically it means -
"Production Utilities and Project Pipeline Enhancement Tool". Yes i know
its a long name, lot of times i goof up the entire name myself :)
Thanks to one of our R&D Leads, 'Mr Sachin Shreshta' for his amazing
contribution to the puppet pipeline and yes, the meaning of the name
puppet - is given by him. Of-course the due credit goes to Krayons and
the entire contribution of the R&D team for this amazing, efficient
pipeline. As i said, puppet follows a very simple rule for all the
different departments in an animation studio, 'Clean in & clean out'
E.g - a modeler cannot send or publish
his model ahead in the work flow to other departments like surfacing,
rigging, CFX till it goes through a technical approval. PUPPET wont let
him do it, till he cleans, names everything to the naming conventions,
removes unnecessary mesh data, garbage nodes etc.. In-fact now Puppet
even cleans and names the entire file by itself and does not bother the
artist to correct it. Again very simple goal, an artist should invest
all his time in creatives rather than, file and technical management. So
yes, PUPPET , immensely helped us in making Delhi Safari production,
smooth, efficient and most important of all, get rid of human errors.
It had become such an integral part of our pipeline
that, at one point , we had some technical bug in PUPPET and animators
refused to work without it. The entire production was stopped till we
5. The Characters of Delhi
Safari have generated rave reviews for their extensive detailing . What
do you have to say on the same? Also how did you manage to create the
Hair and Fur look that they have today?
Thank you so much for the appreciation.
Right from the start every artist working on Delhi Safari , technical
or creative , had one thing very clear and that is to create a benchmark
in the way animation movies were being made in india, to take it to a
level of quality which india had never seen. I think we have done a very
good job to prove that. Having worked as a CFX lead for a couple of big
animation features, that experience definitely helped in creating the
fur that you see in Delhi Safari. We coded our own fur shader for
Renderman compliant pipeline. It took us 5 months to do that after a lot
of failed attempts, we went through tons of SIGGRAPH papers on fur
shaders, lot of articles on the net. The technical team did an
outstanding job , as the same shader with some coding and tweaking was
used for the leaves as well , so all the jungle had the same shader on
We also developed the entire fur creation to simulation
workflow from scratch. Worked on it , made it efficient and render
friendly as fur can really bump up your render times per frame, and the
data size can be in tera bytes if not looked into.
6. What kind of software and
hardware requirements did you have to cater to, for a movie as great a
scale as Delhi Safari ? And how does that affect the overall budget of
the movie ?
Softwares and hardware are definitely
important and form the core of the studio pipeline. You have to be
extremely careful and have all the statistics, data , research ready
before you choose any software and hardware as its going to be with you
for quite sometime. If you do a mistake, then its a very expensive
mistake, and can take the studio and the project down. Stability,
flexibility and support form the basis of choosing softwares and
hardware for a studio. We knew with the kind of quality, we are aiming
with Delhi Safari, we would need robust hardware, definitely a huge
Renderfarm of our own. Mr Parag Patil - our technology director , all
the credit goes to him as he is the brains behind all the hardware in
Krayon. Parag and me along with the IT and R&D team worked non stop
for 4 months, sketching, workflow diagrams, network diagrams,
configuration of workstations, to servers.. Everything.. We partnered
with IBM and took their expertise and they did the set up of the entire
backend infrastructure of our studio.
Softwares- as i said - For stability,
flexibility and support, i think Autodesk Maya is the answer . Autodesk
understands that studios need much more than the softwares. We need ears
who we can give feedback to, who listens and tries to solve our
everyday production problems, makes tools based on our feedback. Being
worked on Autodesk Maya for more than a decade now, am really
comfortable with it and so are the artist at Krayon. Most important
thing- softwares are tools, its immaterial to what animation package you
use, its up-to the artist how to exploit the tools.
7. Delhi Safari is scheduled
for a worldwide release and that explains the moving being released in
3D Stereoscopic... How different it is to work on a 3D Stereoscopic
Feature as everything looks more intensified than the normal.
Personally, i enjoy watching regular
movies than 3d stereoscopy because, with the extra depth and dimension
in stereo, your eyes and focus keeps shifting everywhere rather than the
story. 3d stereoscopy has to be thought of right from the start in pre
production, only then, can you use it wisely and enhance the
storytelling, and make it look good.
If used too much can be rather distracting to the
audience. Delhi Safari had a unique process and a challenge in making it
3d Stereoscopic, as the movie had been already rendered and finished.
We took around 5.5 months in which, we ran through the entire movie to
identify shots which would be important and had the potential, and
reworked on the staging, back grounds, camera. The other important thing
we did for stereo is automated the stereo camera rig, since the entire
movie was already rendered once , we inserted a second camera for the
right eye, animators worked on the depth and rendered the entire movie
in true stereo, not conversion. Of-course there are certain shots, and a
sequence where we had to do conversion as it was just not possible to
render a second camera due to Matte's.
8. Delhi Safari carries with
itself a quantum heap of expectations by the fraternity. Did that put
pressure on your mind to achieve a Quality that is at par with the
Features from the west. ? Tell us about the Technical pipeline
enhancements that you had to make to achieve the look of a high quality
When we started Delhi Safari, no one
knew about Krayon and Delhi Safari. Right from the start we were very
clear to set the highest benchmark for animation in india. So i don't
think we actually thought about any expectations as far as the
fraternity goes. In-fact i really had a lot of fun working on Delhi
Safari. There were tons of challenges as everyday would be a �new day,
different problem and solution towards that. So work was never boring
and thanks to the amazing environment we have at krayon, everyone works
as a team towards with only one goal, and that is 'Quality'. There were
tons of technical enhancements we did , i think i have mentioned a lot
in your earlier questions. Just to add a few, since we knew that we had
vast sets, jungles and city to build. For the foliage we build a central
library, and our creatives could build the set by using lego technique,
where you rearrange the objects in a certain way , and you would have a
new set, extend the set if the layouts required, etc. We also developed
more than 300 scripts, for artist efficiency and increase their
productivity by automating a lot of activities in the pipeline.
9. Rendering a whole bunch of
characters and Backgrounds must have been a painstaking job ? How did
you manage the whole process ?
Yes, it was one of the biggest
challenges, more than 150000 frames, each frame having more than 80
passes average. So yes, a lot of data to render. Right from start we did
certain tests on the initial sequences of Delhi Safari and locked down
the maximum average time we could afford for rendering, which was set at
6 hr per frame. We then settled at 7 hr per frame as huge sets followed
in the coming sequences. We also fixed a tolerance for maximum number
of passes, type of passes, fur data.
The pipeline was designed and tweaked continuously till a
point, that somewhere 5 sequences down the line, we actually didn't do
any re-rendering. Once what was rendered never came back to rendering,
unless we had to redo the animation or a technical problem, like jitter
error or flicker etc. All the changes from directors could be done in
compositing , as we had already assumed we would have those changes and
kept our passes very flexible.
10. Any last minute stomach pangs that you would want express...
Just too excited, overwhelmed as the
release approaches on 19th october. And yes, its releasing in lot of
countries... so am very very satisfied with what the team has done and
nervous for the release :)
And thats not all... We will be getting
you some exclusive excerpts as Nishith Takia, Founder - Krayon Pictures
and Co-Producer , Delhi safari expresses his journey of being a part of
this movie and his expression on the same... So keep yourself updated
in this section.