Recreating the world of ‘Chaar Sahibzaade’ with Prime Focus World
There are very few films that have pushed the envelope of animation in Indian cinema. One such film was Harry Baweja’s Chaar Sahibzaade which was a commercial success back in 2014. Moving forward with the story, Baweja Movies recently released the sequel to the Punjabi animated movie called Chaar Sahibzaade 2: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur.
Prime Focus World was entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the world of ‘Chaar Sahibzaade’ to life. Giving us exclusive insights on their approach to the story and the animation are Greg Gavanski, VP – Business and Finance, Prime Focus World and Sean Feeney, Senior VP – Animation, Prime Focus World. They talk about the technology used for animation, the challenges faced and the growth of animation in India.
This film is deeply rooted in history, how difficult does it become to research on a subject like this in order to get all the details right? Was it any easier, since the foundation was laid with the first part?
Right from the pre-production stages, Harry (Baweja) was particular about ensuring the historical accuracy of the movie in terms of wardrobe and architecture, as well as narrative. Our teams studied the architecture of the period through online research and books on the subject, along with the references provided by Harry’s production team, allowing them to layout and structure entire cities. The team also had to ensure that costume references provided by Harry were replicated to the finest level of detail in CG, in order for the entire setting to hark back to the Banda Singh Bahadur era and for the audience to recognize and connect with the historical Sikh setting.
Since the character design was already established in the prequel, the major task for the animation team was to work within these limitations to preserve the features of the characters while at the same time subtly enhancing their appearance by tweaking shades and tuning facial complexions to make them look more dynamic and lively.
The most challenging aspect of this film was its sheer scale
Which was the core technology adopted for this film? Is there something new that has been experimented with?
The major technological leap from Chaar Sahibzaade to Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur, has been the representation of the crowd and battle scenes. To create an army of thousands in the climactic battle sequence it was impossible to manually create multitudes of characters and animate them individually. The team overcame the challenge by employing distinctive crowd multiplication techniques, creating ten base models of soldiers, replete with textures and action variations, and then digitally creating duplicates to populate the huge battle scenes.
To add more life to the sequences, the FX team added a host of 2D effects, including fire, water and dust FX for more than half of the total number of shots in the film. In one of the major fight sequences involving a massive blaze, the FX team custom-designed the fire, simulating unique fire effects and crafting a flame cycle to surround different areas of the burning village. Since the sequence occurs during the night, it became all the more difficult for the team to enhance the flames without compromising the dark of the moonlit sky. Virtual light sources were placed to brighten specific areas of the village in the hues of orange and red.
What was the most challenging aspect of making Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur?
The most challenging aspect of this film was its sheer scale – not only in terms of the rich detail of the story but also in terms of the number of characters, the variety and detail in the wardrobe, the spectacular action set pieces and the authentic detail in the sets. It was a huge task, but the final result is worth all the hard work that went into creating it.
The major technological leap from Chaar Sahibzaade to Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur, has been the representation of the crowd and battle scenes
At Prime Focus, what would you say lies at the core of innovation in animation? What is it that you constantly strive to achieve?
At Prime Focus Animation, we constantly strive to ensure our productions are amongst the best-looking CG animated content out there. We believe the key to innovation in animation is to give 100 percent to each step of the process – from script development to final delivery of beautifully realized animation.
Our animation studio in Mumbai is led by a full roster of leading layout supervisors, animation directors and animation supervisors. We have 300 experienced artists running Maya and Nuke, and rendering in V-Ray and Arnold in a Linux environment.
We offer a truly global pipeline with production-tested asset management and deliveries. All of our facilities are connected by super fast data networks, based on our feature film VFX pipeline, and we have access to our own in-house pipe development teams, giving us one of the most advanced animation pipelines available.
How different is the experience of being part of an Indian project as compared to projects from other countries? Any specific learnings about the Indian animation market that you can share?
India is a fast developing, modern and forward looking country making its presence felt across the globe. Working on an Indian project has been a completely novel experience for me not just in terms of filmmaking but it has opened my eyes to the immense cultural heritage and literature of the country.
In some respects, animation in India is still quite young. However, it has a deep pool of talent within the field of animation. There are young men and women who are oozing with dreams, hopes and passion for animation and CGI, waiting for opportunities to showcase their creativity. I see a bright future for the animation market in India and creating films with Indian subjects for the Indian audiences.
It is the script that lays the basis for the entire film and it is the story that the audience comes to watch
In terms of growth, how do you think animation has grown in India in the recent times?
It was in the 90’s that India first saw significant growth within animation and since then it has come a long way. Ram Mohan is to be given much of the credit for this. However, most Indian animation productions have centered on mythological stories, and have lacked budgets for new original content – so contemporary stories have remained in the background.
Nevertheless, with the production of films like Bahubali, Chhota Bheem and Roadside Romeo a turn towards animation can be seen within the Indian film industry. FICCI-KPMG reports that a 13.8% growth has been seen in the Indian animation market and further growth is expected with big investors and global studios tapping into India for animators.
I believe this industry has huge potential and is scaling new heights – including being involved in big Hollywood feature films. And I believe we’ll see increased content production and IP creation within India itself, over the next few years.
What are the factors that you’ll take into consideration while taking on a new animation project?
The script! It is the script that lays the basis for the entire film and it is the story that the audience comes to watch, so the script is always the most important consideration. It’s the authenticity of the content that will in turn give the film popular appeal.
Thereafter, come all other aspects: how commercial the film is to be, what the budget is like, the creative standpoint of the film and its international appeal.
Most Indian animation productions have centered on mythological stories, and have lacked budgets for new original content
Animation is something that is generally associated with children, but as a fast-growing medium, which is now appealing to adults as well, how does it help to create an impact?
The “young adults” today are the generation that grew up watching animation and thus inherently take to it. For animated film and TV to appeal to the older generation it has to carry good content as well as quality animation.