"It's an exciting time for the business post-production in India": Gaurav Gupta
One of the common phrases on a set is, “Koi baat nahin, Post mein dekh lenge! (Don’t worry, we will handle it in the post production stage!). Ever thought about who are these messiahs?!
Pandolin spoke at length with Gaurav Gupta, Managing Director at FutureWorks about Post Production – one of the imperative aspects of cinema.
The company was founded in 2007. Since then you’ve worked on major national and international projects. What are the key changes in technology that you’ve witnessed during this period?
The biggest change in the last decade is a shift from celluloid to digital. This transition has opened a lot of new opportunities as far as post production and visual effects are concerned. It has made things easier and faster. This shift has certainly given a boost to creativity, for both Visuals and Sound. People (technicians and audience) today are more knowledgeable. They are constantly reading about technical advancements. India is adapting and incorporating the changes very fast. New ways of shooting, lighting, music, sound and even visual effects are being used. There is more awareness about how visual effects are much more than just the look and feel and how it can support the drama and overall narrative. People are using visual effects to enhance what they have already shot. From something as simple as replacing the sky to something as complex as creating an environment in the background of a shot.
We are finding more and more filmmakers discussing the look and effects of their film as a key part of pre production. They start prepping much earlier than leaving it for the end. Even the smaller productions are becoming much more involved and want the post-production discussions early on. It is a very exciting time to be in the business of post production in India.
In your ten year journey, could you share some of the milestones of the company?
Every project is special and hence qualifies for a milestone. The journey has been very interesting. Yes, milestones are based on the kind of people we move up with. I am rather privileged to have worked with different filmmakers, actors, studios et al. For me, working with new people every day is a milestone. There have been several milestones that we have achieved both technically and in terms of creative output. Some of which include India’s first 4k feature Drona, winning National awards for sound, working on 3D conversion for Disney’s John Carter, introducing Dolby ATMOS in India and the recently released Dangal. Every film is a milestone, and every year FutureWorks is aiming at creating a new one by providing better services.
Technology is ever expanding. How do you’ll keep up with the latest in the industry? What are the unique innovations (technologically) that you have come up with for your projects?
Most recent of all is moving our visual effects to the cloud. That’s been a big technical innovation for us. We have moved all our visual effects to the cloud using Amazon Web services. It has been quite a challenging job.
In terms of technology, you have to build technology that provides value to the filmmaker. You cannot just keep jumping from one technology to another. It should be useful as well. An artist should be able to do his job faster and have more time to be creative. At the same time, he should be able to use the technology in such a way that he creates something which is innovative.
We are constantly studying, talking to experts, attending seminars, meeting people and working with manufacturers and software vendors. We are in a constant learning process. There are sessions for artists where they can get a complete know-how about the latest innovations. We are constantly looking at upgrading every department. Whether it’s our camera rental business, cloud for visual effects, HDR format for DI or bringing Dolby VISION to India. In the last four years, we have worked really hard to make Dolby ATMOS widely acceptable. Now we are working on taking that leap further in terms of how we can create a really immersive experience for the audience in theatres.
In terms of services, what are the main differences in International and Indian projects?
More or less filmmaking is approached in a similar manner. Budgets differ greatly between Indian and International projects. Nonetheless, the intention of the filmmaker is the same, which is to tell their story in the most beautiful way possible and adapting the best technology for it.
Due to the varying budgets, the focus on detailing in post production differs. Hollywood spends a considerable amount of time in pre-production and visualising the project. Their planning is a lot more meticulous. It’s not that all this is not happening in India. But all I am saying is that it needs to happen more often. Thankfully, we are headed in the same direction of excellence in terms of discipline.
Which has been the most challenging project in recent times and what made it so?
In 2016, we had a couple of challenging projects for visual effects. But there were two which really made us up our game to meet those demands.
The first one was the Chinese blockbuster Time Raiders. It had quite complex environment building and visual effects work, which we hadn’t approached before. On top of that, the timelines that needed to be met were also very challenging. It worked out really well. We are very happy with the end result.
The second was Balaji Productions’ Azhar. It was challenging because we had to build those cricket stadiums keeping in mind the era that they existed in. We had to also digitally build all the crowd for the matches.
Given the fierce competition in the post production industry, how do you deal with it?
I firmly believe that there is no life without competition. Competition forces you to work better and to constantly strive for excellence. Yes, post production and visual effects is a very competitive field. Our philosophy is to welcome competition. At times we collaborate with them. Our aim is not to follow competition but to be a true leader in the space. More than anything, the best way to deal with competition is to listen to your customers and their feedback. If one incorporates the best practices, improves the deficiencies and addresses customers grievances then there is a customer retention. That’s the best way to be a market leader. Once you are in such a state then there is no competition to bother you.
How is costing or price point influencing the growth of Indian post production companies?
There are plenty of new entrants in the field who quote a very low price to win business. It certainly brings down the value. When things like these happen, it becomes difficult for companies to invest in new technologies or make capital expenditures for further growth. Price competition is a reality and we have to face it every single day. But if you are focused on service and look at building relationships with your customers as being creative partners then you are able to succeed no matter what. Price is not the only part that you compete with. If you start competing on other things except price, then you are able to overcome that hurdle.
Post production is often linked with damage-control. Can post production be as planned as pre production and production. Your thoughts.
I don’t think that attitude will ever change. People have realized the strengths of technology. Sometimes, the cost of shooting a particular sequence is so high that trivial goof ups such as bad paint on the wall are deliberately ignored for correction in post. Yes, sometimes this public image of post production is troublesome. But over time, it has become an essential part of what post production is. Earlier visual effects were just used as an enhancement but now it’s a necessity. All I am saying is that people need to build a budget for damage control. Once you do that then it’s a part of a process. Make up and set fixes are an equal part of post production, so people must budget for that as well. Planning well saves a lot of last moment hassle. Spending the right amount of time and money in pre production can also save a lot problems. But even if that isn’t done, post production ensures that the game is still on.
There is more awareness about how visual effects is much more than just the look and feel and how it can support the drama and overall narrative
Which was your last Hindi film release? Which are the upcoming big releases?
We are constantly working on various projects that release every week. Our latest release was Dangal. We did it’s sound and provided camera equipment for it. In December we worked on Befikre where we did it’s colour finishing.
Our next project due for release is Kaabil. We are working on Badrinath ki Dulhaniya, Munna Michael, Telugu film Gautami Putra Satakarni, Bahubali 2 and 2.0. 2017 is a very exciting year for us both in terms of Indian and International projects.
What are the future plans for FutureWorks and upcoming projects in the pipeline?
The future is just about growth. We wish to grow with our clients, fulfilling their demands. We continue to grow both creatively and in terms of our technical knowledge. We are looking to attract the best talent to work with us. We plan to continue our investment of time, effort and resources; in all the areas that we already have a presence in. An area that we are very excited about is web episodics. We are looking forward to 2017-2018 as it is certainly going to be the time that web episodics are going to become a big thing.
Are you already working on some?
Yes, we are working on some which are just starting to roll out. We did 24 season two for Viacom last year. It was shot in an international web episodic manner. Unlike conventional soap dailies, 24 was shot and post produced like a film. We find that as an exciting opportunity. The likes of Amazon Video and Netflix have transformed our way of consumption. We are thrilled about the future!