January 2014 | Nithin Rao

Creating high-octane excitement

Edge-of-the-seat action scenes by Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Labs in movies such as Gulliver’s Travels, Spiderman and Into the Blue have thrilled audiences worldwide. Dhoom 3, a thriller from Yash Raj Films in India, is the latest to get VCL’s special effects treatment    

Millions of Bollywood fans have been enthralled by the high-octane action scenes in the latest thriller from Yash Raj Films, Dhoom 3, which has turned out to be a box-office hit. Working behind the scenes and creating the fast-paced action sequences was Visual Computing Labs (VCL), the VFX (visual effects) and animation arm of Tata Elxsi, India’s leading design company.

VCL worked with some of the best names in the industry in India and abroad to deliver over 1,500 VFX shots with a team of 100 artists in a short span of 11 months, to capture and replicate the director’s vision on the silver screen. VCL achieved this feat by seamlessly integrating multidisciplinary skills to amplify the action and the drama in a realistic and believable way.

Since Dhoom 3 was India's first film to be released simultaneously in the IMAX format, all the VFX had to stand the test of being credible and successfully deliver on VCL’s commitment to offer viewers a larger-than-life experience.

The action-packed thriller, featuring superstars Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Katrina Kaif, directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya and produced by Aditya Chopra, is the third installment of Yash Raj Films' popular Dhoom franchise. Dhoom 3 released on December 20, 2013, and opened to a roaring response from the audience.

VCL executives held detailed discussions with the film’s creative team post the initial script narration to ensure that each shot was meticulously planned to recreate the scene in the film. The VCL team, which included its academy award-winning senior VFX supervisor Joel Hynek, creative director Pankaj Khandpur, and VFX supervisors Sherry Bharda and Vishal Anand, designed comprehensive action sequences and produced the rough storyboards.

The unique methodology of pre-visualisation helped experts at VCL to recreate the scenes in a virtual format, minimising the effort and time invested in reproducing the shots on location.

VCL demonstrated a vast array of visual effects solutions in Dhoom 3, ranging from creation of digital characters to re-creation of vehicles and two-wheelers using computed generated imagery (CGI), which also included a 3D water jet ski. And to make high-octane action scenes look real, VCL conceptualised and generated several key elements to control and maintain the focus on the actor’s face in most of the fast-paced bike riding shots. This involved extremely accurate CGI lighting and reflections on the helmet visor as well as on the digital assets used. VCL’s contribution also included the creation of both interiors and exteriors of the sets using CGI to deliver specific sequences in the film.

“We are honoured to be associated once again with Yash Raj Films, which is one of the most respected and highly acclaimed production houses,” said S Nagarajan, COO, Tata Elxsi. “This project is our largest VFX project till date, and has helped us showcase VCL’s cutting edge capabilities in the VFX domain. We are confident that this film will become a benchmark in mainstream cinema for providing viewers with a world-class experience.”

Added Mr Khandpur: “This film encompasses some interesting ideas, conceptualised and executed by the extremely talented team of VFX artists at VCL. Our association with Yash Raj Films has always been a highly enriching experience. It has been our constant endeavour to leverage our VFX expertise to transform the director’s vision onto the big screen, and offer larger-than-life experiences to all our viewers.”

As a design company, Tata Elxsi blends technology, creativity and engineering to help customers transform ideas into world-class products and solutions. A part of the $100 billion Tata group, Tata Elxsi addresses the communications, consumer products, defence, health care, media and entertainment, semiconductor, and transportation sectors.

Its key services include embedded product design, industrial design, animation and visual effects, and systems integration. Headquartered in Bangalore, it has offices in Dubai, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The Visual Computing Labs had earlier developed two full length movies, Roadside Romeo, a joint venture between Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney, the leader in animation worldwide, and Arjun -The Warrior Prince, presented by Walt Disney Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures.

A winner of several awards at national and international levels, VCL has also been nominated by Hollywood-based Visual Effects Society (VES) for delivering outstanding animation in Roadside Romeo, India’s pioneering CGI animated, theatrical, contemporary entertainment movie.