This October, India’s biggest VFX film will be released starring Hindi superstar Shahrukh Khan. Some pretty good VFX in the trailer.
So will this film put Indian VFX on top be and as Steve Wright say, be the “final nail in the coffin” for unionizing Californian VFX artists?
In my opinion, surprisingly not if you read the details about the film according to the star himself Shahrukh Khan:
Talking about the advent of VFX in Hindi movies, Shah Rukh said Indian cinema was on the verge of losing out younger audience to the western cinema. “We have to rope in the best brains in the West to work on visual effects in our films. The world has taken the best brains from India for their development and now India should also do that,” he said.
It turns out that while there was VFX work done on the film in India, there was also VFX work conducted in Canada, France, Thailand, and the US.
Of course who cares? The argument has always been that EVENTUALLY all the work will go to India and China as they get up to speed on how to do quality VFX and it will be cheap, cheap, cheap. Right?
Not exactly according to this article on the film in Animation World Network:
Mamta Narang: What’s the total VFX budget of Ra.One?
Keitan Yadav: At this point in time, this can’t be disclosed, but all I can say is that this is the most expensive and one of a kind VFX movie done in India to date. The VFX budget is enormous like the budget of a big Bollywood blockbuster.
And there seems to be all indication that the advancement of the Indian VFX industry is going to cost more:
MN:Harry, do you see Ra.One advancing the Indian VFX industry?
HH: Yes, some of the big VFX movies didn’t do well. But I do see Ra.One as a turning point. The Indian industry has started recognizing the value of VFX. Still, we need higher budget films with a focus on VFX.
However the most important thing that matters in VFX is quality. Rhythm & Hues was one of the first vfx facilities to open a division in India back in 2001. So it’s been 10 years, how much has the quality improved?
MN:In India, the animation and VFX industry is booming. How would you guys rate the quality of education on a scale of 1 to 10?
HH: Yes, 3. Well, that’s the fact. Most of the faculties that are teaching in institutes have been trained by their institutes. That’s why VFX falls into a loop. We need to learn a lot apart from this. In the case of Ra.One, we have Jeff, who’s the lead vfx supervisor and we need more collaboration like this to be on the global map. Budget is a big constraint; if we have higher budgets, we can dig more.
Well looks like vfx teacher Steve Wright has his work cut out for him! You’ll remember I criticized him for trying to instill fear in Californian VFX artists who were contemplating unionization. Tag Organizer Steve Kaplan recently penned a piece about his argument.
He said that the work would just go to cheaper locations like India. Yet ironically it was Steve Wright who wrote an op-ed piece called the Indian Exodus where he went over the problems with the Indian VFX industry: The quality was stagnant and the costs were rising.
I’ve written many posts about the issue. A similar situation occurs in China and I’ve called outsourcing to cheaper developing countries a boogeyman argument. Most of the people trying to say VFX will go to India and China are just trying to scare you. The real reason VFX goes to other countries is because of government subsidies for US studios to do the work there.
What this latest bit of news reveals is a measurement of progress in India but also shows that cheap work doesn’t stay cheap especially when you consider that foreign currencies are rising against the dollar making it even more expensive for US studios to do work elsewhere.
That’s not to say that there isn’t quality talent in India. There are many superb Indians doing VFX and like you and I, they want to be paid appropriately for their talent. So many of them leave India for Australia, UK, Canada, and the US. Read this post written passionately by a VFX artist in India.
There is also one interesting wrinkle for the Indian and Chinese VFX subcontractors that has been pointed out at the FXDag blog. Many of them are on crack:
When I’ve asked Chinese and Indian counterparts about their software licensing, I’ve been quickly assured that it’s all above board because they only use “open source” versions of Maya, Nuke, Fusion, Softimage, Photoshop, whatever downloaded from the internet for free.
Unfortunately the Chinese and Indian definition of “open source” is pretty much the same as the American definition of “software piracy”. The use of “Crack” across Asia is epidemic.