Slash And Burn

Published Date
01 - Oct - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2006
Slash And Burn
It's the special effects in movies such as The Matrix, Terminator 3, Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars trilogy, and many more that are responsible for much of their appeal and, as you probably know, those effects are made possible with the assistance of computer-generated imagery. In fact, a good home-grown example would be the 90 minutes of special-effects scenes in the recently-released movie Krrish. Yes, the scenes were designed entirely in India!

Though it is still in the developmental stage, television as a communication medium is getting more powerful. New channels are coming in, and some are falling by the wayside. The competition is intense. But it is for this very reason, and because television needs a minimum of 20 to 25 programmes per week per channel, that the scope for growth of the television medium is immense.

The production process of a movie or TV programme can be broadly divided into pre-production, production, and post-production. The first of these involves the planning of all the activities to be undertaken in the next two stages. Production is where actions are performed according to the script and are recorded. The process after the shoot is recorded is known as post-production, which involves putting together of the whole programme and giving it a final shape, replete with animation, graphics, and special effects.

"The Indian entertainment industry is on a high growth path, and now enjoys a respectable position on the global map. The industry, earlier referred to as unorganised, is now moving towards compartmentalisation of each task involved in the post-production process. Awareness amongst people about opportunities in post-production still falls short," says Raman Madan, regional manager, Animation and Desktop Video, South East Asia and India, Autodesk Media and Entertainment Solutions.

The post-production crew, naturally, plays an important role in turning the raw footage into a polished entertainment package. It's the art of transforming imagination or concepts into scenes with help of technical excellence and multimedia graphics. Ask yourself if "Graphical Imagery," "Special Effects," "Visual Effects," and "Editing" excite you-and you'd have the answer to whether you'd like to get into post-production.

The How And The What
A comfortable way would be to get a degree from an institute that provides education and training in film making and TV production. The courses available provide an overview of the film and television production process, where you can learn the arts and aesthetics of video production. The limited number of seats at such institutes means fierce competition. One of the advantages of joining such an institute is that you can get an internship, or assist with a project, which can be beneficial during or after the academic schedule. The basic requirement to gain admission into these institutes is a graduate degree; the good news is that it could be in any field.

The post-production process is exciting as well as challenging. It involves the correction of or improvement upon scene mistakes, and visual manipulation as well as enhancement of filmed shots. Pre-visualised concepts can be presented on the screen with the help of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) or what is commonly called Visual Effects (Vfx). Professionals and artists from the animation field are very much in demand in post-production.

"This field is very broad, and the skill sets can be divided into two broad parts-Technical and Arts. A person should possess artistic grace as well as technical knowledge, besides other basic skills-drawing and sketching, visualising, painting, and storyboarding," says Prof Shashikant Pandey, Head of Department-Post Production at the Asian Academy of Film and Television, Noida (an institute that gives education and training in the art and craft of film and television production).

Aspirants planning to take up post-production as a career should begin grooming basic skills such as drawing, modelling, and visualising, and also acquire knowledge about the various tools and technologies used in post-production. Work hours are never fixed in this field, especially with news channels, which work round the clock. Those not willing to work at odd hours-or even, sometimes, all day-need to do some serious re-thinking about the field they're getting into!

"No specific qualification is required for entering this field. However, this is a service sector, and the industry looks at hands-on experience, training received, and projects worked upon. Technical and artistic proficiency is only achieved after years of experience and positive attitude. Patience is a necessary virtue for any fresher joining the industry," says Naresh Malik, CEO, Pixion-a post-production house.

"The Indian entertainment industry is slowly and gradually pacing up towards using cutting-edge technologies for better output"

Raman Madan Regional manager, Animation and Desktop Video, South East Asia & India, AutoDesk

Post-production Software Used By Professionals

Visual Effects

  •   Autodesk Lustre (Color Grading)
  •   Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max (animation)
  •   Mental Ray, VIZ
  •   Adobe AfterEffects
  •   Adobe Photoshop
  •   Autodesk Flame
  •   Character Studio
  •   Softimage XSI
  •   Avid 3D

Digital Compositing Softwares

  •   Autodesk Inferno, Flame, Fire and Combustion systems
  •   Adobe AfterEffects (Windows)
  •   Eyeon Digital Fusion/Fusion 5
  •   D2's Nuke

  Editing and Finishing

  •   Adobe Premiere (Windows)
  •   Autodesk Smoke and Fire
  •   Avid Xpress Pro (Windows and Mac)
  •   Avid Media Composer (Windows)
  •   Avid Liquid (Windows)
  •   Avid Symphony Nitris (Windows)
  •   Avid DS Nitris (Microsoft Windows)
  •   Cinelerra (Linux)
  •   EditStudio Pro (Windows)
  •   Final Cut Pro (Mac OS X)
  •   Kino (Linux)
  •   Leitch's DPS Velocity (Windows)
  •   Magix Movie Edit Pro (Windows)
  •   Magix Video Deluxe (Windows)
  •   Pinnacle Studio (Windows)
  •   Ulead Video Studio (Windows)

Get The Training
Some prominent institutes providing education and training on film and television production:
Film and Television Institute of India, Pune
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
Whistling Woods International, Mumbai
Asian Academy of Film and Television, Noida
Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu, Chennai
Xavier's Institute of Communication, Mumbai
Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata
Foundation Institute of Learning Media, Delhi
Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune
L.V. Prasad Film & TV Academy, Chennai

Going Digital

Post-production has now been widely impacted by the digital revolution. Software and conversion techniques are incorporated as and when they are available, and are now being adopted in India in the entertainment industry. Education and training upon software that have the features used in post-production can be availed from private institutions.
These institutions include such names as Arena Multimedia, Maya Academy for Advanced Cinematics, Zee Institute of Media Arts, and Real Image Media Technologies Pvt Ltd, to name a few. These provide the latest career, professional, and short-term courses on editing, animation, graphics design, compositing, and Vfx. India has a large number of big, medium, and small private education and training Institutes, but only a few of them are certified by the multinational entities-Autodesk, Avid, Apple, Pinnacle, Adobe, Edius et al-who provide a wide range of software for specific purposes in post-production.

"The biggest problem in India is the lack of trained artists. Few students today are aware of the opportunities in this field, and that's why a lot of artists fumble when it comes to this as a career. But the trend is changing rapidly: some training institutes are doing a good job by imparting software training and education. At Prime Focus, we train our own crew members to make them better artists and provide a growth path for them," says Merzin Tavaria, creative director-Prime Focus Ltd (a post-production and Vfx service house).

Software makers are now moving towards providing education and training courses on the products they supply, which are accepted as standards in the industry for particular tasks such as editing, compositing, finishing etc. Their basic goal is to provide software education and training to meet the demands and requirements of the media and entertainment industry.

Their efforts are in execution: they have training programmes at authorised training centres for products such as Smoke, Final Cut Pro, Maya, After Effects, and others. These are used for different purposes in post-production. At the end of the programme, candidates are awarded certificates by the companies (such as Autodesk, Avid, Apple, and Pinnacle), which are recognised as the certified students and instructors of their particular software.

"Today, a lot of work is done on the Smoke system, which has slowly started being identified as an industry standard for compositing and editing. I feel this course on Smoke has helped me enhance my career prospects," says Tilak Chari, a Smoke Artist employed with Famous Studios, and one of those who passed out in the first batch of the Autodesk Smoke course in collaboration with Zee Institute of Media Arts.

Opportunities In India
As in many other areas, a fresher could face a chicken-and-egg situation: post-production houses, TV channels, and advertising agencies all want to hire those with experience. But how does one get experience without having gotten a job in the first place? However, there seems to be not too much cause for worry, because right now, opportunities in the field are unlimited. The television and film industries want to absorb young, talented freshers willing to work hard and acquire knowledge of the applicable technologies. Demand exceeds supply here.
The Indian entertainment industry has been proving its potential with movies such as Black, Wah! Life Ho To Aisi, Rang De Basanti and others, using international-standard post-production facilities.

"Today, many film makers and TV programme producers are outsourcing their work to production houses involved exclusively in post-production. There is plenty of work available in the market, but the industry is facing a shortage of talented and creative professionals," says Mohan Krishnan, head of corporate communications, Prasad EFX, a pre- and post-production house specialising in Vfx.

"The main challenge for professionals in this industry is to create a niche and get their work noticed. Only that can mark the beginning of a successful career"
Atul Vohra, Country head - Domestic Retail, Arena Multimedia

The Figures
The Indian media and entertainment industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19 per cent to reach Rs 83,740 crore by 2010 from Rs 35,300 crore at present, according to a 2005 annual report by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers on the industry.

According to NASSCOM (the National Association of Software and Services Companies), post-production work of US and European film studios being outsourced to India could grow to an amazing Rs 44,650 crore by 2009.

The Long And Winding Road
Placements are possible at Television Channels, Post-Production Houses, Advertising Agencies, and NGOs. You could also freelance or even start a post-production house!

A Broad Categories Of Career Profiles

Post Production Executive/Project Manager: Plans, handles and co-ordinates every activity of post-production
Video Editor/Assistant Editors: Editing of footage, cutting of scenes, making a final logical sequence of the footage
Visual Mixer (Online Editor): Receives a signal from the director to cut from one picture source to another, producing a smooth sequence of images.
Visual Effects Supervisor: A person with the experience and knowledge to generate visual graphics. He should also be able to work with natural phenomena like smoke, fire, flames, and particles
Graphics Designer: Creates, handles and co-ordinates still and motion graphics generation from the team of animators, modellers, designers, and such
Visualiser: An artist who conceptualises or visualises a particular scene or shot of a movie / program and pens it down in the form of words and storyboards and/or sketches
Special Effects Artist: An artist who plans or arranges for special-effect stunts and scenes
Compositor: Adds multiple layers and combines various elements such as live footage, still action, animation, and so on
Summing It Up
The post-production industry is now incorporating the infrastructure to meet international standards. With the increase in expectations from clients and filmmakers, efforts are being applied for better output. The availability here of creative, skilled, English-speaking professionals, as well as cheaper ways to generate special effects with the use of the latest equipment and facilities has attracted many clients to outsource their post-production work from the US and Europe.

The process of post-production is getting broader and more compartmentalised. The need and opportunities for freshers and professionals will always be there. Unleash your latent creativity on-screen-with a little help from technology-and the world can be yours!

Team DigitTeam Digit

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