There is An Innovation Every 6 Months In The Digital Space – Eklavya Jain
Eklavya Jain, Associate Vice President, Films and Equipment Rental of Prime Focus, kicked off his journey with the organization in 2009 as Sales Manager. Over the years, he has worked with major production houses including Vishesh Films, D2R films, Next Gen Films, Grazing Goat Pictures, Colour Yellow Productions, Azure Entertainment, as well as notable Bollywood directors like Mohit Suri, Prabhu Deva, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., Nishikant Kamat, to name a few.
We catch up with him to learn more about Prime Focus’ Equipment Rental Division (EQR) and their foray into the digital space ahead of time, tracking the organization’s evolution process along the way.
Tell us a little bit about how Prime Focus’ EQR division was conceived, and its journey to becoming India’s largest camera equipment rental services today.
We started as a small rental division in 2008, and have grown to become India’s largest rental equipment provider. We have a dedicated 10, 000 sq ft state-of-the-art facility in Film City in Goregaon today. We were the first to introduce digital cameras like the ARRI Alexa, Sony F65, and the Red Weapon to the Indian market, which have gained popularity quickly because of how cost-effective the production becomes.
The first ones to usher the 3 Perf Technology equipment in the Indian market, we have been at the forefront to deliver the latest filming equipment at par with international standards, enabling our clients to attain new heights of digital image capture. We offer innovative digital cinema solutions, latest high-end cameras and equipment including expert technical support to the film and entertainment industry in India and worldwide.
Tell us a little about the kind of equipment you rent out, and the services you’ll offer.
We offer a wide range of cameras, including ARRI Alexa XT, XR and EV, RED One / MX Sensor, Epic and Epic Dragon, RED Weapon, and Sony F-65 and F-55 kits. We also have a range of ARRI 35mm film cameras, including the 535B and 435 ES, and a huge range of lenses, accessories, lights and other specialist equipment.
Prime Focus Limited (PFL), the world’s largest integrated media services powerhouse, employs over 6,000 professionals in 15 cities across four continents and seven time zones. We provide end-to-end creative services (visual effects, stereo 3D conversion and animation), technology products & services (Media ERP Suite and Cloud-enabled media services), production services (shooting floors, sound stages and equipment rental) and post production services (Digital Intermediate, digital lab and picture post) to studios, broadcast and advertising industries.
Cameras like the ARRI Alexa, Sony F65, and the Red Weapon have gained popularity because of how cost-effective the production becomes
What are the cameras / lenses that are requested the most often by Indian DOPs?
There are many DOPs who have their own specific type of preferences, as far as the equipment is concerned, but eventually, it’s generally in conjunction with the director, the script and the location.
I’d say most people do choose to go with the ARRI camera, but a lot of other parameters are involved while choosing a camera, and some choose to go with the Sony F65. Besides that, there’s a range of high-end camera lenses that we offer.
Explain to us your focus on VFX/DI work and the process it entails.
Visual Effects and DI has progressed a lot since 1990’s. Today as technology marches on and is available at lower costs, and with the emergence of various modern techniques, the possibilities have become endless.
VFX and DI today is not only used as a tool to add glamour, but to enhance the storytelling and viewing experience. And apart from that it is also used as a problem-solving tool. Also VFX and DI gives filmmakers the freedom to chase their creative instincts and not get bogged down due to situations where physically shooting a scene becomes difficult because of time, money or safety constraints.
Till date, Prime Focus India standalone has delivered over 500+ feature films. We’re the ones who started the DI process, and the first film to be graded was Qayamat. We also offer ‘Baselight’ – a non-linear grading system, which in conjunction with the latest digital projectors forms an integrated network of DI grading suites which exceeds anything else in the marketplace.
We are proud to work on some of the best films and with some of the best filmmakers. Some of our recent credits include Bajirao Mastani, FAN, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kick, Bang Bang, Mary Kom, to name a few. It was a fantastic experience working on each of these projects. With each project, the filmmakers gave us a chance to bring their creative vision to the screen and we thoroughly enjoyed the challenges that come along.
VFX and DI today is not only used as a tool to add glamour, but to enhance the storytelling and viewing experience
Among your recent projects, which films have had VFX/DI work that stands out, and why?
Visual effects and DI is just a tool to enhance the storyline. At the end of the day you need great characterization and a good story to draw the audience in and keep them there.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Brothers had some complicated work and very limited time frames to deliver. It was only because of the team we had that we could deliver the product in the stipulated time. The few names that I’d like to mention would include the VFX supervisor for Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Brothers, Keith Devlin, who is our senior-most VFX supervisor, and the entire look palette for Bajrangi Bhaijaan has been set by our senior colorist Manoj Kumar, another visual heavyweight on our team. We also provided cameras for this film.
Another film that comes to mind is Fan; Prime Focus’ work on the film began as early as November 2014 when 20-30 shots of the film were tested and the final look of the character of ‘Gaurav’ was locked in. The film was graded by colorist Ken Metzker worked under the clear and wisely-considered direction of DoP Manu Anand to perfect the look of the film.
Having introduced DI technology in India, would you say you anticipated the digital wave?
We didn’t anticipate how quickly it would happen, we thought the transition might take a little more time. We did anticipate the evolution, though, which is why we started moving forward in investing in digital cameras, and effectively taking it across in VFX/DI facilities. We also pre-empted that VFX is going to be an integrated part of filmmaking.
If you look back at regional Indian films made in the last two years alone, you’ll see how much they’ve opened up to incorporating VFX — Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil films, for example. We’re enhancing the filmmaking in the current space through these effects that we incorporate.
Our capabilities extend to facing different challenges and coming up with versatile, comprehensive solutions that propel a project forward, melding cinematic possibilities seamlessly with the technical support.
What was the response you initially got to the introduction of cameras like ARRI Alexa, Sony F65, Red Epic & Red Scarlet to the Indian market? Has it changed since then, and how?
The response wasn’t too great, to begin with. The use of digital cameras did indicate a drastic drop in production costs though, so DOPs and cameramen soon came on board, and things transitioned very quickly after that. It also made the whole work process much easier by cutting down on steps like storing, maintaining and transporting the footage manually, so a film having a budget of INR 2-10 crore ended up saving a lot more.
We also invested in having a range of lenses, such as the Carl Zeiss lenses and the Cooke lenses in spherical and Kowa. So in parallel, along with cameras, I’d say there was also a shift towards these new lenses in the last 10 years, which has effectively made a difference visually, on-screen. We’ve also just acquired a new piece of equipment called the Red Weapon, which was used to shoot Kahaani 2 by Sujay Ghosh, recently.
It has become imperative for our filmmakers to produce films that are technologically advanced and aesthetically superior
What is the vision of the EQR division, and how accessible is it to filmmakers/production houses of varying sizes/budgets?
As the Indian entertainment segment enters the global landscape, it becomes imperative for our filmmakers to produce films that are technologically advanced and aesthetically superior. Our EQR division today boasts an unmatched range of best-of-breed camera equipment and maintenance services to meet the growing demands of the Indian film fraternity.
Prime Focus has a vast range of rental equipment available, from film and HD cameras, to lenses to lighting kits. The facility also has an in-house state-of-the-art maintenance department making Prime Focus the only supplier in the country to provide technical support with camera rental services. In addition to film cameras, Prime Focus provides high definition digital shooting with the latest Sony HDCAM SR technology with Canon block lenses and Panasonic Varicam for budget sensitive projects.
We continue improving our services and equipments to provide our customers with the best possible digital filmmaking equipment.
What were some of the challenges you faced along the way?
When you’re trying to introduce something early in India, there’s always that element of risk. If your thought process and vision is clear, and you can push through to the creative people – that’s when you can feel like you’ve arrived at something special.
Where do you see rental technology headed in the next 5 years?
In the digital space, there’s an innovation practically every 6 months – this is an observation from the last four years. For example, within a year of the Red Dragon coming into the market, Red One was released. A year after that, there was Red Epic, and most recently, Red Weapon.
Overall, I’m expecting virtual reality to become a big consideration. Prime Focus has already announced a tie-up with Digital Domain Holdings Limited to cater to the virtual reality market in India.