VCL waves special effects wand on Dhoom2

MUMBAI: Visual Computing Labs (VCL) of Tata Elxsi, the technology arm of the Tata Group has done the pre-visualizing for all the action scenes that appear in Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom:2.

In what is a first for the mainstream Indian feature film industry, VCL has done the pre-visualizing for all the action scenes that appear in Dhoom:2. Over 40+ minutes of VFX (in a 147 minute feature) includes pre-visualization of all the action sequences, high-level compositing, 3D Virtual ‘Set’ creation, 3D character animation, CG model building and some of the most complex wire and rig removal ever.

Dhoom:2 is fast paced action packed thriller directed by Sanjay Gadhvi and stars Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu and Uday Chopra.

Describing Tata Elxsi’s role in detail, Visual Computing Labs, Tata Elxsi creative director Pankaj Khandpur said, “In collaboration with the director, action director, and cinematographer, the team in the Visual Computing Labs actually converted traditional paper-based storyboards into real-time, full length 3D animated sequences, which were then edited to give the director and action director an exact sense of all of the action. Camera information, angles and lenses were available to the cinematographer before he actually shot the scenes. The process was spread over a year, and no sequence was shot until all parties signed-off on the pre-visualization. Thus, exact cinematic impact and length was known before the shoot, resulting in huge production savings for the producers of the film.”

In another first, the ‘Fort Heist’ sequence in the first-half of the film is notable in that there was no fort at the time of shoot. A small 16 ft x 16 ft terrace, 12 ft high was the only set actually built; VCL’s team then virtually ‘created’, in CG, the entire palace, fort and walls that appear in the entire sequence, and added them digitally to the live-action. The ‘city’ that appears far below the fort is also a digital creation, adding depth and size to the entire sequence. Thus, Aishwarya’s 200 ft climb up to the top of the fort was actually a climb of 12 ft, and the final Hrithik-Aishwarya leap out over a 300 ft drop to the city far below, was also a safe 12 ft drop.

Visual Computing Labs, Tata Elxsi Ltd general manager K. Chandrasekhar said, “We are delighted at this opportunity to bring in some of the techniques and art that we have been using for our Hollywood projects in an Indian movie. The work undertaken on Dhoom:2 is unsurpassed in every area i.e. pre-visualization, 3D Virtual ‘Set’ creation and character animation, CG model building and wire and rig removal.”

Other interesting VFX samples in Dhoom:2 were the creation in CG (computer graphics), of some of the ‘gadgets’ used in the film: the robotic arm from the remote-controlled miniature ‘car’ that steals the diamond (including the diamond), is computer-generated, as are the ‘mechanical’ insects that are released to create a diversion during the ‘Coin-Heist’ in the second half of Dhoom:2. The ‘wire person-puller’ and ‘magnetic attacher’ as wrist-gadgets were also a combination of real and CGI imagery.

An interesting last-minute inclusion was the CGI helicopter rotor-blades on the police chopper that lands in front of the tunnel in the climax. The actual helicopter model was a scale wooden dummy, with huge rotor-blades that fell off because of their weight, just before the shoot could begin. VCL then created the rotor-blades for all the shots, including the incredible one where Hrithik and Aishwarya leap on their bike over whirling helicopter blades, and just miss them, dangerously close. Of course, there were no rotor-blades at the time of shoot; it was VCL at work.

In the same climax sequence, for some shots that had a severe under-exposure problem; VCL had to re-shoot elements of a truck, car-ramp, car etc, build parts of the tunnel and roadway, and re-build some shots to fit with the rest, to keep the story-telling narrative intact.

Apart from sparks, gunshots, smoke, metal-eating CG ‘acid’ that helped Hrithik make a getaway via a manhole, VCL worked on over 200 of the most complicated wire-removal and rig-removal shots ever; wires and rigs that ‘helped’ all characters perform their ‘death-defying’ action acts, be it leaping over cliffs, bursting out of man-holes, jumping into deep waterfalls, performing atop moving trains, fighting while parachuting, leaping on bikes across boats, cars, helicopters, and roller-blading at high speeds across the streets of Bombay.