Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Special Report: India's Movie Business Booms

Digital technology expands industry beyond Bollywood song-and-dance
Krrish playbill
Indian filmmakers are increasingly using digital filmmaking technologies for visual effects, animation and in post-production. For example, "Krrish," the first major superhero movie to be produced in Bollywood, comes complete with splashy visual effects.
Krrish playbill
"Krrish" was the first major superhero movie to be produced in Bollywood, complete with splashy visual effects. Others will follow as the country's movie industry moves away from its traditional song-and-dance films.

By Barry Hochfelder

Most everyone's heard of Bollywood, the burgeoning Indian movie industry. If not, the success of the recent film, "Slumdog Millionaire," should do the trick. As the nation's imaging technology grows, the film industry grows with it, becoming more fascinating and attractive. The Indian film industry releases about 1,000 movies a year.

How big is it? A report issued last year by PriceWaterhouse-
Coopers projected that annual revenues for the Indian film business would reach $4.5 billion by 2010—up from about $2 billion in 2006. Not so long ago, Bollywood was known for its traditional song-and-dance movies enjoyed by this country of more than a billion people. While those popular extravaganzas aren't going away, Indian filmmakers are increasingly using digital filmmaking technologies for visual effects, animation and in post-production.

"What's happened is, the Bollywood folks are starting to take notice of what's going on worldwide," says Laura Dohrmann, Digital Film Group Marketing Director for NVIDIA (Santa Clara, Calif.). One of the technologies making a difference is the advance of the GPU, including NVIDIA's Quadro GPU accelerator cards.

"There's an emerging market in Asia that's very important to us," she says. "We're doing work in India, China and Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has a gaming initiative. In Singapore, there's a lot going on."

As to movies, adds Mumbai-based Dohrmann, "Folks are really committed to making India a real global force in the film community. The energy is amazing. We do lecture series [on our technology] and it's not uncommon to have 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 people show up."

Dohrmann, who heads up NVIDIA's Digital Bollywood Initiative, which began in 2006, works with companies such as Big Animation (India's second-largest studio), Rhythm & Hues, DreamWorks, Autodesk, and local companies to advance training and support artists, arranging for product training sessions and community team building.

"We wanted to help build a film system, with large and small studios and perspectives," she says. "We would bring in experts from the West [to provide] education and training on specific techniques and shots in films.. We look at the community as a whole."

Among the milestones she cites is last year's release of "Krrish," the first major superhero movie to be produced in Bollywood, complete with splashy visual effects. Two other recent films, "Om Shanti Om" and "Chak De India," featured visual effects by Red Chillies, a production company founded by the prominent actor Shahrukh Khan.

Because of her regular interaction with most of India's major production houses, Dohrmann has a unique perspective on the evolution of Bollywood filmmaking. Her work with NVIDIA software and hardware products in film production, animation, and visual effects has also included stints in emerging markets that span China, Singapore and Russia respectively, as well as years working in the U.S. and European film-production communities.

The state of technology in the many studios varies but, says Dohrmann, they have a very strong understanding and know what is to be used. "In July, we did a class on mental ray (software rendering) with guys who have worked with it for years. They said it was one of the best they've ever conducted and that the schools and studios blew them out of the water in the scope of that they could do and achieve. The people are so responsive. To take five days out of a production schedule to attend a training class [shows just how responsive they are]."

Mental ray is the Academy Award®-winning photorealistic rendering software that runs on a wide variety of platforms ranging from networks of workstations to parallel supercomputers, producing images of unsurpassed realism. It is produced by mental images, a subsidiary of NVIDIA, which was founded in 1986 to create visualization software for the entertainment, computer-aided design, scientific visualization, architecture, and other industries that require sophisticated images. It works with leading computer-aided design (CAD) and digital content creation (DCC) software products such as those produced by Autodesk, Dassault Systems.

In addition, leading visual effects (VFX) companies and studios, such as Buf Compagnie, Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Rainmaker, The Mill, The Moving Picture Company are among mental images' largest customers. In the automotive, aerospace, advertising and other industries, mental ray is used extensively for product simulation and visualization.

At the same time, the growing business is attracting international players. Sony, DreamWorks and Disney have forged relationships with Indian production houses, and mainstays from the Hollywood production community, such as Rhythm & Hues, are opening dedicated facilities in India.

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