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Packed with insightful sessions, VAM 2023 ended on a high note with awards

The first day of Animation Xpress’ much awaited third edition of VFX and More (VAM) Summit and Awards 2023 kicked off with a bang. With the previous two editions being held virtually, this was the first time when VAM Summit & Awards was held on-ground in Mumbai on 23 March at The Lalit and 24 March at Cinepolis, Fun Republic. This edition witnessed panel discussions, sessions, masterclasses and awards.

With the theme ‘Building a Creator’s World’, this year’s edition brought together the industry stalwarts under one roof, to pause and reflect on trends, technologies, developments and policies in the VFX industry. Whereas the VAM Awards honoured and recognised the magic of the creators behind these immersive, awe-inspiring visuals, who have set the bar for the Indian VFX industry.

Day one started with a keynote speech on ‘Understanding Storytelling & Role of Technology’ by Bollywood director, producer, screenwriter Vikram Bhatt, who is also the founder of Harekrishna Mediatech. Mr. Bhatt spoke about using virtual production technology in filmmaking. “I was tired of going to sets. I wanted to shoot an entire film at one location. People called me a madman. But I did it.” He further mentioned that his upcoming film 1920: Horrors of the Heart is entirely shot using virtual production.

Moderated by Indian Television Dot Com Group founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil NM Wanvari, the first session for the day was Art of Filmmaking With VFX. Wanvari was joined on the stage by Rose Audio Visuals managing director Goldie Behl; yFx studio head Sherry Bharda; DNEG India environment head Sameet Gupte; PhantomFX founder, CEO & VFX supervisor Bejoy Arputharaj; director of photography/director Manu Anand and director Vishal Furia.

VAM 2023 panel on storytelling & VFX
L to R: Sameet Gupte, Vishal Furia, Goldie Behl, Anil Wanvari, Sherry Bharda, Bejoy Arputharaj, Manu Anand

Behl believes in minimalistic use of VFX. He feels that filmmakers should go for live shooting as much as possible, and enhance it with VFX. Once a VFX artist and now a director, Furia is of the opinion that it is always story and storytelling that take precedence over everything else. The panellists discussed how the cinematography department and the VFX department work in tandem, and how VFX should not be used as a fix or jugaad.

Autodesk technical solutions manager M&E – India & SAARC Samit Shetty spoke about the Future Trends of M&E Sector by Autodesk.

Next, the audience witnessed an enlightening discussion titled New Innovations That Will Change The VFX Landscape. Arun Media Works founder Arun Iqbal Khan; Samit Shetty and Adobe Systems solution consulting manager, digital media Guru Vaidya stepped up as the speakers. The session was moderated by Paperboat Design Studios & Occult VFX Studios co-founder & director Aashish Mall.

VAM 2023 panel on innovations in VFX
L to R: Aashish Mall, Arun Iqbal Khan, Guru Vaidya, Samit Shetty

While Khan spoke about his fear of Machine Learning taking away jobs, Vaidya had a contrasting point. He believed that a lot more people would be able to express themselves better. Shetty spoke about how India still used traditional mocap setups but suggested that we have the talent to fine tune them.

Up next was a panel discussion on How Virtual Production (VP) Can Be Integrated in Films. This session’s moderator Whistling Woods International vice president & business head, CTO & head of emerging media Chaitanya Chinchlikar gave a small presentation explaining the nuances of VP. For the discussion, MediaMonks India managing director Robert Godinho, Green Rain Studios virtual production specialist Utsav Sinha, Annapurna Studios CTO C V Rao, Film Engineers founder Vivek Kandasamy and Absen sales head (India business) Gangasagar Amula joined as speakers.

They spoke about the amount of awareness on virtual production and whether filmmakers are asking the right questions about the technology.

VAM 2023 panel on virtual production
L to R: Chaitanya Chinchlikar, Robert Godinho, Utsav Sinha, C V Rao, Vivek Kandasamy, Gangasagar Amula

After this, Micron Technology principal solution architect Rohit Sharma and Windle House founder & technology head Kabir Ulhas spoke on how their company is helping the M&E industry with technology and innovations.

It was followed by an interesting session where Amar Kaushik, director of Bhediya along with the film’s VFX team from MPC revealed what went into creating the creature comedy film. The session titled Building a VFX Universe – Meet The Makers of Bhediya had production management head Nimish Narendra Shah, CG supervisor Mangesh Kushaba Awate and creative operations head Kiran Kumar V (KK) from MPC India. The Mill India executive director, creative production & operations and MPC India ex- executive producer RK Chand took the discussion ahead as the moderator.

Kaushik spoke about how they developed the film concept and got MPC on-board to work on the VFX of the film. MPC India’s VFX team revealed how they spent a vast amount of thought and time on the human transformation into a wolf. The members explained the creation of the scenery in the film, the various environments created in CG, digi-doubles of actor Varun Dhawan and more.

VAM 2023 shows making of Bhediya
L to R: RK Chand, Mangesh Kushaba, Nimish Narendra Shah, Kiran Kumar V (KK), Amar Kaushik

The next session titled The Rise of Indian VFX; Its Drivers And The Future’ saw an informative discussion by Speedgaze Technology Solutions CEO Upen Desai, SilverCloud Studios aka After Studios business development manager Ankush Rai, NY VFXWAALA business head Yogesh Chhag, and Famulus Media & Entertainment and Maadfam Studios founder/CEO Suchit Mukherjee. Anil NM Wanvari moderated the session.

The speakers discussed the lack of infrastructure in the VFX industry, cloud rendering, accountability in rendering and the features that Speedgaze offers.

VAM 2023 panel on VFX cloud rendering
L to R: Ankush Rai, Upen Desai, Anil Wanvari, Yogesh Chhag, Suchit Mukherjee

The summit further included an engrossing panel discussion on Creating Visually Stunning Shows For OTT. The eminent speakers were: philmCGI managing director Arpan Gaglani; Contiloe Pictures founder & CEO Abhimanyu Singh; Future Works Media Ltd. managing director Gaurav Gupta; ZEE5 VP and head of series – original content Khurram Imdad; Framestore CG supervisor – film and episodic Prashant Nair; Blink Pictures filmmaker, executive director Indrajit Nattoji and Raj VFX founder & director Chirag Chandrakant Bhuva.

The veterans spoke about using pre-vis for VFX, importance of storytelling in VFX-heavy shows, budgets given to VFX studios, how production for OTT shows is different than for films, and why studios require upscaling in infrastructure.

VAM Summit & Awards 2023 panel on OTT
L to R: Indrajit Nattoji, Arpan Gaglani, Gaurav Gupta, Abhimanyu Singh, Anil Wanvari, Khurram Imdad, Prashant Nair, Chirag Bhuva

VAM 2023 also had a session titled Colour Management Overview of How Dolby Vision Works by Colorfront support specialist Jose Luiz Tamez.

The concluding session of the day, Front-End Development In India – India As A Hub, had industry stalwarts associated with the AVGC task force. CII National AVGC Committee chairman & Technicolor India country head Biren Ghose, and AVGC Forum – FICCI chairman & Punnaryug Artvision founder Ashish Kulkarni had an in-depth discussion with Anibrain founder & CEO Jesh Krishna Murthy on educational and upskilling ecosystem in India.

Biren Ghose and Ashish Kulkarni
L to R: Jesh Krishna Murthy, Biren Ghose, Ashish Kulkarni

The day ended with VAM Awards. Every industry member showed a high spirit while they cheered for their own studio as well as those of the competitors. The awards were graced by Indian celebrities like Rakhi Sawant, Mrunal Jain, Anupamaa actors Sudhanshu Pandey, Rushad Rana who gave away awards along with industry experts.

The second day of the summit was lined-up with a masterclass and making-of sessions of some of the hot 2022 films.

MPC India head of department 3D DMP Amit Kumar Sharma took a session on Bridging The Gap Between Synthetic And Photo-Real: Digital Matte Painting. He explained the work of a digital matte painter and highlighted the skills that they are supposed to have.

Amit Kumar from MPC and Sanjiv from NY VFXWaala
Amit Kumar Sharma (left) and Sanjiv Naik (right)

The second session was the much-awaited making of Marvel’s Thor: Love & Thunder. Framestore CG supervisor – film & episodic Prashant Nair explained its making and at the end of the session gave tips to the students in the audience on what skills they’d require to join a VFX studio.

Senior VFX supervisor at NY VFXWAALA – Sanjiv Naik – explained the making of the major hit Ponniyin Selvan – I. The session proved to be highly interesting and insightful for the audience.

Jaykar Arudra from DNEG and Prashant Nair from Framestore
Jaykar Arudra (left) and Prashant Nair (right)

Brahmastra: Part One was one of the most VFX-heavy films that India has ever seen and its VFX supervisor Jaykar Arudra from DNEG India, explained the making of the 2022 blockbuster hit. The audience was treated with multiple showreels, storyboards and pre-vis of some VFX-heavy shots in the film.

The attendees – including professionals and students – had a wonderful experience at the summit. AnimationXpress thanked the speakers, industry veterans as well as the visitors for making it a fruitful event!