The VFX in Netflix’s film Jaadugar was provided by FutureWorks. Directed by Sameer Saxena, the sports comedy released worldwide on the OTT platform on 15 July 2022.
The film tells the tale of a small-town magician (Jaadugar) with zero interest in football, who must lead his local team to victory in order to marry the love of his life.
FutureWorks worked closely with Saxena in pre-production and across 700 shots of a production challenged by both budget and Covid-19 restrictions; imagining and realising inventive solutions that populated the film with those all-important match-day crowds.
Jaadugar’s match scenes are central to the film but the production was filmed in March 2021, when India and the rest of the world were in the throes of Covid-19 restrictions. In India at that time, only 50 vaccinated people were permitted on set. That presented an obvious problem for crowded stadium shots, scenes that were made even more complex because shooting dates spanned March to September 2021, and accordingly variable weather and lighting conditions.
With around 200 people, mid and close shots of the crowd would be possible, but the 50-limit presented a huge challenge. Even taking crowd plates on set would look repeated. Working with a budget that didn’t stretch to a CGI crowd, FutureWorks’ VFX supervisor Vinay Chuphal and his team looked to more inventive solutions for the film’s 450+ crowd shots, 90 per cent of which were ultimately executed using 2D techniques and the on-set crowd of only 50 actors.
2D crowds and locked camera shots
Working with DOP Soumik Mukherjee, tests were first carried out on achieving the required energy and pace for many of the movie’s match scenes with a combination of clever camera moves/angles and 2D crowd plates.
FutureWorks then attended a two-day crowd shoot, noting camera data for all shots and lighting conditions. The 50 crowd extras who were permitted on set were filmed acting out all required match-day reactions; from sitting, standing and idly watching the match, to leaping out of their seats, reacting to missed goals and singing during the final match.
FutureWorks LIDAR scanned the entire stadium which helped to match camera motion, reducing time and cost for 3D modelling and helping to create a more realistic environment. So for simpler shots with minimal camera moves and no shifts in perspective (and with similar light conditions), FutureWorks used direct comps of the multiple crowd patches and detailed roto for each layer.
2D crowds and moving camera shots
The more complex shots were when the camera was moving during a match, and the perspective of the crowd was shifting. During the crowd shoot, FutureWorks additionally created 200 layers made from shooting individuals once again engaged in a multitude of fan behaviour on a green screen, also matching this with sunlight direction and camera angles/positions.
Those individuals were then placed on 2D digital cards, one at a time in each seat, before being re-lit in the digital environment to match the onset lighting. This technique worked well with wide-angle camera motion and with the fast-cut edit sequences of a football game.
The changing weather over the course of the production from March to September 2021 presented a particular problem throughout. India is cold, with harsh sunlight in March and rain, with softer sunlight in September. The crowd plates being shot in these differing light conditions presented a considerable challenge for compositing artists, especially when it came to matching light directions. Our comp team used Nuke’s relight gizmos to recreate light direction. To achieve the right depth of field they used DepthGenerator, which helped to create the best possible defocus in layers.
Director Sameer Saxena commented, “FutureWorks creatively solved one of the biggest challenges the production was facing, which was delivering those atmospheric and realistic stadium crowd scenes that are so key to the film, whilst complying with Covid on set restrictions. They approached the difficulties with inventiveness and passion and the results speak for themselves.”
FutureWorks’ VFX supervisor Vinay Chuphal said of the project, “Jaadugar put FutureWorks’ problem-solving abilities to the test. We pulled out all the stops and with early collaboration, we were able to devise cost-effective solutions to the constraints around budget and filming. We’re all very proud of the results.”
FutureWorks has worked on Lost In Space, The Peripheral, Westworld season 4 and more.