By Neville Bode, October 18, 2010 – 15:43 IST

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into 'Robot'

With the enormous success of the South Indian blockbuster, Robot (Endhiran) has already made a benchmark in the evolution process of filmmaking in India. The Rajinikanth – Aishwarya starrer directed by S.Shankar, got rave reviews for its uniqueness in action and visual effects. With a budget of over a hundred and fifty crores, 25 % of the funds were allotted in executing the commendable work done in VFX that helped in the narration of the film.

The film revolves around Dr. Vaseegaran played by Rajinikanth who invents a High-end robot named Chitti, a mirror of his own image. The scientific body, AIRD, declines the approval of the robot stating that it does not have emotions and the ability to make rational judgment. An unexpected flash of lightning induces emotions in the robot, and Chitti is geared up for its integration into the human world. Chitti then falls in love with Dr. Vaseegaran’ fiancée Sana played by Aishwarya Rai and goes against his creator.

The film has already spread its wings across the globe with raking in massive box-office collections. V. Srinivas Mohan, the VFX supervisor of this film and CEO of the VFX studio – Indian Artists, utilized the innovative skin grafting technology that got laudable appreciation from critics for Sivaji. Shankar got him on board for his latest endeavor Endhiran. He has also worked with the director in Aparichit and Boys hence it was certain that the director would need the VFX extraordinaire in executing the science-fiction film. Along with him Frankie Chung of Kinomotive studios and Eddy Wong of Menfond Electronics & Arts, both from Hong Kong, also worked as additional VFX supervisors for their respective sequences.

Robot boasts of a mammoth 2000 visual effects shots in 40 scenes. The bulk of the VFX work was undertaken in Srinivas’ Indian Artists Computer Graphics Pvt. Ltd., Kinomotive Studios, Menfond Electronics & Arts, Pixion, Vensat, Firefly Creative Studios Hyderabad, EFX Prasad Studios, Oyster and Ocher studios also assisted in executing some of the VFX and post production work for the film.

Apart from the studios that were on board in this project, talented freelancers from London, Iran, Germany, France and Hong Kong were required for their expertise.

In this exclusive two part case study, BollywoodHungama gets to the bottom of the making and visual effects process that made this monumental film and Rajinikanth shine like steel.

Initiating pre-production

Shankar the director called up Srinivas in the winter of 2007 and narrated the entire story to him for over four hours. Amazed and excited about the project since nothing of this nature was undertaken by any filmmaker in India before. The conceptualization and ideation was done entirely by the director. Following the preparations of the script, Srinivas explained to the director that pre-production and planning was needed to execute his ideas before production of the film began.

The Test

When Srinivas, the VFX supervisor, understood the script, a test was carried out to get a glimpse of the scene with visual effects. The director and Srinivas chose the train sequence for the test. With the shot divisions regarding the different camera angles in place during pre-production, an animator Sanath P.C. from Hyderabad was roped in to enhance the pre-visualization process.

Maya, an academy award winning software was used to create a digital set based on the script. Layouts of the train and characters were made using the software, although the team didn’t finalize any locations during the test, they used actual physical proportions of a real train. Once the director approved of the layouts, basic actions of the scene were carried out.

Srinivas along with the director and the director of photography blocked the camera angles for the scene using the software. Each shot had 2 to 3 versions of camera angles made to get a better view of the sequence. With the digital shots in place, temporary clips better known as ‘playblasts’ were extracted from the software to view the shots they made in real time. With these clips in hand, Anthony – the editor, was required to line up these clips according to the scene. This gave the team some room in improvising the shots that were made. Utilizing this method, the team planned out 40 crucial visual effects scenes of the film.

After the test

Shankar did the shot division of the script which he handed over to the supervisor for pre-visualization. With the pre-visualization sorted out, Srinivas who headed the visual effects team did the entire VFX breakdown of the film. With this the team had more clarity in terms of execution and knowledge of the different layers that consisted of live action, CGI and animatronics. Based on the breakdown, Srinivas started hunting for appropriate artists and talent they needed for the film.

Director of Photography

The D.O.P, R.Rathnavelu was instrumental in the pre-production stage; he helped Srinivas and the director in blocking the different camera angles that were required. This clarified what was needed in all the different layers involved in the shots. With his tremendous knowledge in visual effects, Rathnavelu pointed out the constraints in executing the shots in terms of lighting and other technicalities.

The opening shot of the film

The opening shot of the film where-in the robot gets assembled and the credits of the film are rolling weren’t decided in the script initially. Instead of the animation sequence seen in the film, the makers had initially thought of using live action for the introduction sequence. This didn’t go well for an opening shot. With this in mind, Srinivas consulted the director and suggested using an animation of the robot getting assembled in the scene.

He points out that this was a last minute decision which worked in their favor. Pre-visualization and implementation of the animation was done in a week. Pixion in Chennai did the opening credits and animation for the opening scene.

Animatronics

Animatronics is mostly used in filmmaking and other avenues of entertainment. It is basically electronic puppetry that simulates real life in front of a camera. This technology is used in a large number of films in the west. Srinivas insisted in using this unique innovation for Robot based on the visual effects break down that was made for the film.

He approached Legacy Effects formerly known as Stan Winston Studios in LA, to assist in the making of the film. The American studio worked in movies like Terminator: Salvation, Avatar, Alice In Wonderland etc. Srinivas points out that they utilized electronic puppetry in place of the actor for its realism. The scene where Rajinikanth places the eye on the robot was all executed by Legacy Effects. They also assisted in special make up that was required for Rajinikanth.

(Stay tuned for part two of Rajinikanth Amalgamation into Chitti)

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