Outsourcing to India has always been dominated by software engineering and back-office work, but it is now expanding to special effects for movies also.
Cost cutting measures are compelling Hollywood studios to send more work to India, where special effects projects are up to 40 percent cheaper than in the U.S.
Hollywood’s special effects industry is still dominated by U.S. companies like Industrial Light & Magic. Production standards are generally good in India, yet many Hollywood movie-makers still hesitate to send creative work thousands of kilometers away.
But the distance between Hollywood and Bollywood is narrowing. The Indian market is also maturing as Indian audiences develop a taste for high-tech Hindi flicks.
Visual Computing Labs, based in Mumbai, the visual effects and animation unit of Tata Elxsi, one of India’s most prominent studios is one of the 18 special effects studios that worked on “Spider-Man 3”.
spiderman3Hollywood outsourcing SFX to Indian studiosSo far, most work Indian companies have done is midlevel rotoscoping and compositing, which allow filmmakers to blend complex shots.
For “Spiderman 3”, Tata Elxsi VCL cut out studio stunt shots of Spiderman and sent them back to California, where they were fit into urban landscapes so the hero appeared to be swooping in death-defying arcs from one tall building to another.
For “One Night with the King”, Tata Elxsi VCL used computer software to create and people entire landscapes, filling the land with castles, waterfalls, and hundreds of horsemen, elephants and villagers.
Now, with more visual effects studios coming up in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, more work is being received from Hollywood studios.
Two veteran Hollywood producers recently opened visual effects companies in Mumbai: Geon, founded by “The Lord of the Rings” producer Barrie Osborne, and EyeQube Studios, headed by Charles Darby, whose credits include “Titanic” and the HBO series “Rome”.
Darby set up EyeQube with support from the U.K.’s Eros International and plans to release his first film “Aladin”, an effects-driven live action film featuring top Bollywood talent, in July.
Sony Pictures Imageworks acquired the Chennai effects studio Frameflow. Last year, Mumbai’s Pixion acquired U.K. special effects house Men-from-Mars, whose credits include “Elizabeth”. India’s Prime Focus has acquired four special effects companies in the U.K. and two in North America, which have worked on films like “There Will Be Blood”
The special effects industry is poised for a quantum leap in the coming years. Indian filmmakers are also now venturing into animation films and are not afraid to use special effects, in spite of the cost, as Indian cinema has now world-wide audience and the market is expanding.