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"Rhythm & Hues is here in both Mumbai and Hyderabad," Dohrmann says. "They won the Oscar this year for Visual FX (effects) on "The Golden Compass," so now, everybody wants to work with Rhythm & Hues, because they know they do good work."
Rhythm & Hues has taken an "out-of-the-box" approach to addressing the Indian market. "It's not an outsourcing or offshore model," says Prashant Buyyala, managing director of Rhythm & Hues India. "Essentially, the artists and support staff are like employees of the Los Angeles office in another building. We kind of moved the building halfway around the world," Buyyala explains. "We don't have any separate Indian projects, or Asian projects, or separate tasks that are done in India. It's all one common pool of resources. We have the same network, the same software, the same projects, the same tasks and everything."
Most of Rhythm & Hues' projects are for Hollywood feature films or television commercials. When a project comes in, if a producer needs 30 animators, they are drawn from a geographically agnostic pool. "It could happen to be that 10 of the animators are in India, and 20 happen to be in L.A.," Buyyala says. "The same shot actually can go back and forth between all the facilities. For a single shot, the animation might be done in L.A., the lighting might be done in Mumbai, and the final effects might be done in Hyderabad. So, it's completely transparent, even in a single shot."
Other Hollywood production companies and studios are using modified offshore models that illustrate the truly global nature of the film industry. DreamWorks, for instance, has struck a strategic partnership for Indian production that might best be described with a flow chart. The DreamWorks Animation Unit in Bangalore is a dedicated unit of Paprikaas, which is majority-owned by Thomson. Thomson invested in Paprikaas to build up its Technicolor Content Services division. Altogether, Technicolor has four divisions operating out of Paprikaas, which in addition to the DreamWorks Animation Unit, include Paprikaas Animation, Paprikaas Interactive-Video Games and Paprikaas Visual Effects for Moving Picture Co., London.
Paprikaas Animation, as a separate Technicolor division, maintains its own offices in Los Angeles and Bangalore, in a more "traditional" offshore production model. VP of Business Development Sanjee Gupta represents Paprikaas Animation in Los Angeles, meeting with clients to discuss using the Paprikaas Animation production staff in Bangalore.
In the same way that most Hollywood deals are done, most of Gupta's business comes via relationships and word of mouth. "Given the nature of production, it relies heavily on freelance artists and producers." Gupta says. "They tend to move from project to project as the production schedules ebb and flow. Quite a few of those people have now dispersed onto other projects and our name has just proliferated through the marketplace."
Although India has many talented digital artists, the rapid expansion of the industry demands ever-increasing numbers to keep up with demand. Consequently, one of the most important ongoing initiatives is training and supporting artists. "There's a lack of training, and such a tremendous desire for it," says NVIDIA's Dohrmann. "The challenge is the animation and effects industry in India is fairly young. Many artists and animators working in Los Angeles have 20 or more years of experience. We don't have people who have been in the industry with that much experience, unless they are transplants to India."
There's a shared commitment to training and education among all the key companies in the Indian film industry, including competitive companies. "We're really all trying to be involved in it together," Dohrmann says.