By Money Sharma & Mrigank Dhaniwala, Bollywood Hungama News Network
International visual effects wiz Charles Darby has been in the industry for 14 years and has worked on more than 47 films. One of the pioneers of digital matte paintings, Charles is currently the CEO and Creative Director of EyeQube Studios in Mumbai, which is an Eros International company working on a number of projects including the much awaited Aladin and Veer.
Darby's work includes Academy and BAFTA award-winning work on films such as Titanic, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Fifth Element, Minority Report and Drona. In an exclusive conversation with Bollywood Hungama, Darby speaks about the visual effects in Sujoy Ghosh's Aladin, his views on the Indian film industry, future projects and more…
Tell us about your visual effects (vfx) work for Aladin?
We have over 1,500 vfx shots and that includes, quite easily, the most complex vfx ever produced in India.
What kind of shots does the film have?
It's a gamut of work actually. It's everything from 3D city shots, 2D shots, character animation and high-end compositing. It's everything you can imagine a large FX driven film to have.
I think Eros has already green lit a sequel
Is there any other studio working on Aladin?
I have designed all the shots in the film and EyeQube has created all the CG elements used throughout the movie. We have commissioned one other company to help composite our elements for one sequence.
We supervise the work and make sure our quality standards are met.
Is a sequel in the pipeline?
I think Eros has already green lit a sequel. I am sure the performance of the first Aladin is going to be the most important thing. But, Eros is so happy with Aladin so far, that they are already having the second one written.
Charles Darby How do you see vfx integrating in Bollywood films?
We don't deal with many clients but only large shows. If a show comes to us, they kind of adhere to the manner in which we work. So, if we are involved in pre-production, then it's the kind of show we would be involved with. Not every show, here in Bollywood is run like that but those who want really western quality high-end vfx, and the ones that don't mind planning, are the ones that we are going for.
With Aladin we have been very fortunate because the director, Sujoy Ghosh has given us a lot of leeway to do our job, and that makes a huge difference.
Did you also work on the pre-production and pre-visualization?
Yes. Even before EyeQube had an office, I had been on Aladin for almost two years.
How much of vfx work has been completed?
I can't give you a percentage. Essentially, I don't say something is final until it looks really good.
EyeQube was also involved in outsourcing work with other projects.
We produced 300 shots for Drona. We have already started with pre production for vfx shots for Anil Sharma's Veer.
Aladin is slated to be the biggest vfx film since Drona and Love Story 2050 in 2008. How are you making sure that the quality of visual effects meets international standards?
Every day is a fight. Its very difficult to get western style quality here because very few companies care enough or have enough time and desire to make that kind of work. Ultimately, no one really cares how many shots are there in the film. All they care about is how it's done at the end.
The other thing they care about is the story. If it doesn't have a good story, it doesn't matter. It's quite like saying that this film has great sound but awful story. Part of what we do is to make a good story look bigger and better.
Is the story more important that the visual effects?
The story is always more important. But if you take a good story and give it great vfx, it will be a very memorable piece of filmmaking. But you can't put great vfx on a mediocre story and make it work. A mediocre story is always a mediocre story.
Tell us about any challenging shot in Aladin.
We have a completely 3D computer generated (CG) city and landscape with over 3,000 houses, all modeled and textured. (It's been) very difficult. When you have full CG, there is nothing real, there is nothing to support it on the screen. We have a lot of shots of the city and some of the most complex shots any fx house anywhere in the world would attempt. And no one in India would ever attempt that kind of look. So far, that's the most complicated shot.
Charles Darby What is there for the audience in Aladin?
It's a good story, its entertaining. So even if you take out the vfx, it's still a fun film. If you put the vfx in, it's a really big film. And that's the key. In some films if you take out all the fancy digital intermediate (DI), all the music and vfx, you are left with very little. And I think a lot of producers are realizing that the story is actually important. There is no point in having visual effects for just