The VFX industry is a rapidly evolving segment in India estimated at over Rs 3,000 crore. VFX players are engaged in creating live action imagery by using computer-generated effects. This is being increasingly used in visual media in India and can be broadly classified into the following verticals – movies, TV shows and advertisements. However, the segment is still at its nascent stage, with mainly low-end work being carried out in India. Domestic consumption is fairly small, and therefore, the bulk of this kind of work comprises outsourced projects from the US and the UK. However, the domestic market is now seeing bigger budget movies and ad campaigns, for which players have increased their spend on VFX to provide an enhanced visual experience for viewers.
There is a significant growth in the number of VFX companies operating in India. According to estimates, there are over 40 major VFX companies in the country that cater to domestic and international clients. Currently, India accounts for less than 10 per cent of the total animation and VFX outsourcing pie. However, there is ample potential for significant growth and the quantum of work being outsourced to the country from Hollywood is continuously on the rise. Prime Focus is a major VFX player in India and has worked on big Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, TRON: Legacy and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. The company, like other major players in the segment, is growing rapidly, with an increasing number of projects being outsourced to it from abroad. It has set up a 12,500 square ft. facility in Chandigarh, which can house up to 3,000 artists, to cater to this demand. The studio will work on global projects, mainly from North America and the UK. Rhythm & Hues is another major player in this segment. It has recently completed 10 years in India and has studios in Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Moving up the value chain
Companies engaged in VFX post production in India have been working on low-end work such as wire removals and clean-ups for a long time. However, the industry has been moving toward higher-end assignments of late. Players are also tying up with film and entertainment companies on dedicated projects. In late 2011, VenSat Tech Services, a VFX company, joined hands with Reliance MediaWorks Limited to set up a VFX, computer graphics and animation team, which is dedicated to projects secured from the latter. This enables the companies to move up the value chain by working on end-to-end VFX assignments.
Major domestic players setting up offices abroad
Lack of adequate demand from the domestic market has resulted in dominant players in the VFX space looking for work from abroad. Companies have to hard-sell their expertise, since not every production studio in the US or the UK may be comfortable with outsourcing. The inadequacy of domestic work is also an impediment for domestic VFX companies in showcasing their capabilities to clients in developed markets. This has resulted in their setting up offices abroad to showcase their capabilities and service their clients better. Tata Elxsi has a facility in Los Angeles in the US and Prime Focus has offices in several cities across the country.
Nascent but increasing consumption in the domestic market
The domestic market has been slow to adopt VFX as a means of enhancing the visual experience, mainly due to cost constraints and skill gaps. However, the advertising industry has been lately seeing increased adoption of VFX, with players experimenting with the medium, especially due to the increasing popularity of sci-fi in the country. Moreover, big-budget movies like RA.One are beginning to use VFX, and its use is not just limited to Bollywood, but is increasingly used in regional cinema as well.