45 minutes of visual effects in KANK

Bangalore: Visual Computing Labs (VCL), Bangalore showcased its Visual Effects (VFX) in Karan Johar’s third directorial venture Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK). This movie was shot over a 90-day period in the USA and a few on four large sets at Mumbai’s film studios.

VCL is a division of Tata Elxsi and is a creative facility offering animation, gaming and special effects for the global entertainment and broadcast industry. K Chandrashekhar, Head of VCL says, “This is VCL’s second project for Dharma Productions, having worked with them earlier on Kal Ho Na Ho. In KANK, VCL has executed more than 45 minutes of effects work.”

Pankaj Khandpur – Creative Director, Visual Computing Labs, Tata Elxsi explains, “The most outstanding work in the multi-starrer movie was the creation of a Computer Graphic Image (CGI) football stadium and the neighboring city in the aerial views. It is for the first time in India that the creation of thousands of stadium crowds in all the long-shots was all done in computer graphics!”

He further adds, “The creation of CGI crowds in the stadium was particularly challenging as we were combining CGI characters in the distance with existing live-action actors in the foreground. Each of the CGI ‘agents’ had to reflect the same level of movement and excitement as the live-action actors, so that both types of ‘actors’ could blend seamlessly in the same shot/s. Even the relative clothing, hair etc. had to be similar! Apart from the blending, the biggest challenge was rendering a crowd of 75,000 people in CG, each in complete 3D, with clothes, caps, shoes, and even tubs of popcorn!”

All the environment effects like snow and rain for many of the scenes, including depicting the changing of seasons in real time were created in CG by VCL. These scenes required the creation of matched trees, as well as matching the grounds of various shots, and the creation of freshly fallen digital snow in the Shah Rukh scene.
On the execution of environmental effects for KANK Pankaj Khandpur says, “The narrative requirement was to show the passage of time via the changing of seasons, across multiple locations, and multiple characters.

The scene begins with Abhishek walking in a crowded square. It begins to rain. We seamlessly tilt up to a tree in summer, with green leaves, which turn to brown as the camera comes down to show us Preity in the garden of her house. She puts her hand out to catch the first flakes of snow. The camera travels to the ground, which quickly covers with snow. The camera now tilts up to reveal Shah Rukh walking past a snow-covered cemetery with more snowfall. Match to Rani at another location, walking through a snowstorm”.

Elaborating on the for such effects in the environmental scene he adds, “Whenever the unit shot in real snow, by the time the shot was taken, the snow was completely destroyed with hundreds of foot-prints… you could see the footprints of the lighting, camera, costume, direction and setting departments (even car tracks), and all of the actors’ retake footprints! The script however, called for the loneliness and bleakness of the location, with just a character alone in his solitude! A snow-covered groundscape that looked like an army had just passed by would destroy the objective of these shots! VCL had to create digital virgin snow, and fill back the tracks, leave exactly ONE set of footprints (ostensibly the character’s), and then motion track all of this had to match the live camera movement!”

Apart from animation for the movie and the film logo, VCL has designed the opening credits of the film, as well as many minutes of hidden effects such as cosmetic fixes, embellishment, transitions, and day-for-night effects.

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