Saturday, October 23, 2010

Drill made of a hundred Rajinikanth Robots

There were many versions made in the pre-visualization stage of the scene where in the army of robots forms a drill that goes underground to emerge as one massive robot. Frankie Chung, a VFX supervisor from Hong Kong, who has Kung Fu Hustle and Kill Bill to his credit, helped the team execute this climatic sequence. The dust particles added in the shot where the drill starts rotating blended very well with the CGI and live action layers.

The most challenging scene

Besides the climax sequence which proved to be the most challenging sequence, Srinivas the vfx supervisor of the film emphasizes on executing the dual role scene played by Rajinikanth' characters Dr. Vaseegaran and the robot Chitti. Instead of using a motion control rig which is usually used to film dual role sequences that have movement, Srinivas used a regular trolley track, super 35mm film and rhythmic beep sounds. During post production both layer movements were matched using tracking software. Because of elaborate setup process of motion control rig, it would've taken an astounding five years to shoot the entire film. The motion control rig was used for a mere 10 days to film the complicated multiple character shots.

The climax

The climax sequence was the most challenging shot for the vfx team as Srinivas points out that there are no real characters in the scene. "Using CGI has its own draw backs," says Srinivas. The main challenge was in balancing the fine line between imagination and realism. The scene was for the audiences to accept.

To get a detailed 3D model of Rajinikanth's character Chitti, Srinivas used an innovative new technology called the Doom Light Stage invented by scientist Paul Debevec at the University of California at Berkeley. This invention captures the actor's face from every possible lighting direction. From the captured data, specialized algorithms create realistic virtual renditions of the actor in the illumination of any location or set, reproducing colour, texture, shine, shading and translucency of the actor's skin. The innovation has been used in Spiderman, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar and the fourth being Robot.

The equipment consists of a dome with around 80 to 90 lights around it. Rajinikanth was made to sit in this dome while his face got scanned from all possible light angles. Since the robot Chitti had a silicon mask of Rajinikanth on its face an extra coating was required to be added on Rajinikanth' face. For the Lightstage team, this was a new experience since fine tuning while scanning was complicated. Different scans with and without make up were taken. The final output churned out a high detailed rendition of his face; one wouldn't be able to tell if it was CGI. This sequence in its own took an unbelievable two years to accomplish.

Peter Hein, the action coordinator, assisted the team in this scene. Rajinikanth was literally on the track in the shot where he gets back on the train. The actor was strapped to a harness for support and legs were replaced with wheels and his hands were replaced since a rig was used in its execution.

The logistics and filming equipment was put in an open bogey while shooting this sequence. The legs, hands and the bag were replaced with CGI components in post-production which worked out seamlessly. A stuntman was used in the wide shots on top of the train where the actor is running. The stuntman's head was replaced with Rajinikanth's head in post, but most of the work was done by Rajinikanth himself.

Yes, Rajinikanth is magnetic indeed

The team placed 3D trackers on Rajinikanth's body for executing the magnetic sequence. This is used to match the movements of CGI elements with live action. For the close-up shots, Srinivas avoided using CGI elements since the production unit got the biggest asset from Stanwinston studios with animatronics. So in the close up, all the metal objects and ornaments that were seen on Rajinikanth' body was in fact shot live using the puppet.

Although the animatronic puppet was blended with CGI shots that were made, the vfx team utilized maximum amount of lights in the close-up shots to match up with the CGI wide shots of the Rajinikanth. Different layers were shot with the elements, in the live action layer, the team physically placed the metal objects around in the scene to match the CGI shot when Rajni's character deactivates the magnet and the objects fall to the ground. For Srinivas the execution was simple because the concept was new.

Rajinikanth battles thugs in the train

For the train sequence, Srinivas and Shankar took up this particular scene in the test to get a better perspective of the look and feel of the shots. With the pre-production in place and meticulous planning of the visual effects break down, the team had creative freedom in executing this scene.

Although midway, due to global recession and some constraints the team couldn't continue with the production company they were working with, the project changed hands when Kalanidhi Maran of Sun pictures took over the venture. Srinivas approached some notable companies from Hollywood such as ILM, Café FX and a few others who were excited and happy with the fresh content they we were churning out, but due to the fixed budget, the visual effects in the scene were done mainly in India and Hong Kong. Apart from Stanwinston' animatronics, none of the American companies were used to execute the visual effects and CGI work for the film.

In the first fifteen minutes of the film, the audiences learn that the robot is made up of many components inside. For Srinivas, the vfx supervisor, one of the biggest challenges was the transition scene where Dr. Vaseegaran played by Rajinikanth puts on the silicon mask on the robot while the machine was singing. This shot is immensely crucial for the film to succeed. If the transition process didn't go well, then the entire credibility of the film would go off. This 19 second shot took an astounding three months to create.

Retaining Rajinikanth' youth

To preserve Rajinikanth's youth in the film, a combination of both make up and visual effects played an important part, touch ups were done where it deemed necessary for the team. But Srinivas emphasizes the fact that Rajinikanth's charisma played a big part in bringing his character of Chitti to life.

Checkout: Rajinikanth's metamorphosis into Robot: Part-II

With its massive box-office collections, Robot is still making waves well into its third week. Shooting at exotic locations like Machu Picchu and with a budget of a hundred and fifty crores, Robot boasts of being one of the most expensive films churned out from India. With its colossal success the film makes its break in the evolution of filmmaking in India.

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' fiancee Sana played by Aishwarya Rai and goes against his creator.

In this second part series Bollywood Hungama delves in deeper with the visual effects behind the film to unveil the magnetism behind Rajinikanth in Robot.

Amalgamating Rajinikanth and the robot Chitti

Srinivas points out that although Rajinikanth was acting, the audiences perceived that he was a robot indeed. The fictional script was designed by the director with this notion in mind. In Hollywood, filmmakers shoot one scene where they insert a part of a droid and the rest of the film is based on the plot. But in India it's a different situation all together, so in order to sell the idea to the audiences, the director decided to portray the story parts with all the details in tow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The success of Endhiran has reportedly prompted Sun Pictures to dub the film in English. Apparently, the producers want to make it a hit among the international audiences too. And in this effort, they have decided to add a few 3D effect scenes.

A 7-minute 3D effect scene was made for Endhiran but this was not included in the movie. Now, there are reports that the producers are contemplating on adding these sequences in the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions.

With Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai being popular international faces, Endhiran’s English version is sure to reach out to the audience.