Philip Bode, Sep 3, 2012
Darling of the masses, Salman Khan has once again managed to seduce the audience to throng to the theaters across the world with his latest action flick, Ek Tha Tiger. Directed by Kabir Khan, the film has managed to silence the critics, by crossing over Rs. 180 crores nett within a fortnight, thus becoming the second highest grosser in Bollywood. Film pundits predict that the film could surpass Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots which had a record haul of Rs.202 crores nett. One of the most crucial aspects in the filmmaking process, which contributes to the success of the movie, is the visual effects and post-production process. One of India’s largest post production and animation production house, Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Labs (VCL) was roped in to accomplish the visual effects in the film. With over 1200 shots digitally augmented, sixty skilled artists worked round the clock to deliver the product in six and a half months. Talking about the project, S. Nagarajan - COO, Visual Computing Labs, Tata Elxsi says, “Ek Tha Tiger is one of the biggest shows we have ever done for Bollywood in a long time. The team at Tata Elxsi fused live elements with CG elements, and we used a large diverse bag of VFX tricks to augment the narrative of the film.” Pointing out on the magnitude of digital enhancement and post-production work involved, Pankaj Khandpur - Creative Director, VCL says, “An average film would have over 2000 - 3000 shots in it. In Ek Tha Tiger, we have over 1200 VFX shots, this comprises of a little less than half the number of shots that make up an entire movie”. Bollywood Hungama’s Philip Bode gets Pankaj to talk about shooting across continents, rebuilding an entire tram digitally, working with Kabir’s direction team and how they used VFX to resonate a roaring Tiger.
“The transport authorities told us that it was not safe to shoot any action sequence on a moving tram”
Initially, before we landed in Dublin we were informed that it was possible to shoot action in a tram. Although later, the transport authorities told us that it was not safe to shoot any action sequence on a moving tram, we shot the sequence on location as much as we could around December last year. For this, we needed to rethink on what could do with CG in the scene; there are large components of the Dublin sequence where the tram is actually made in CG. It was important to recreate the street outside the tram, because the tram cannot go over the same place as this would disturb the film and create jerks in the shots. This was a very challenging sequence wherein we have worked from January right till the release. It took over 7 months to accomplish this sequence; we worked on all the action scenes alongside.
“We made animatics of all the action sequences on the computer”
We started post-production in February, but we began with the planning phase in October last year. We visualized all the action sequences upfront in CG and reworked on some of our ideas. To have a glimpse on what the action sequences would look like, we made animatics of all the action sequences on the computer, based on the locations scouted by the unit who traveled to those places. If you look at the animatics we made during visualization today, you can find that the end result is quite close in terms of the camera angles, shot breakdowns and the planning that went into the action. With the reference images of the locations that were provided to use, we recreated Dublin, Turkey and certain parts of Cuba. We executed the action sequences based on what Mark and Kabir wanted to show in the scene. By the end of it, we had a good idea on what the action sequences would look like.
“This makes it look like Salman’s doing all action on his own”
I think the most challenging aspect is to hide a visual effect, the whole point is that the audience enjoys watching Salman do these death defying activities. In a way, we can easily spoil the show, by stealing the credibility from the audience if they realize there is an element of trickery involved. Everything we do has to be hidden perfectly well, for example: the climax scene in which Salman leaps onto a plane while it takes off was shot with Salman’s double on a motorcycle in a separate layer, a CG plane which was merged with the other layers in the compositing phase. This makes it look like Salman’s doing all action on his own, the challenge is to hide what we do, and only we the filmmakers would know what we have done. Kabir is quite open to taking suggestions and he gives the creative freedom for us to experiment on a few things and comes back to tell whether he likes something or not. We got a lot of inputs from Kabir and his direction team, he was very involved in the entire process and we could call him anytime if we had queries on improvising a scene.