Chennai based visual effects and animation studio Vensat has completed work on recently released bilingual movie Payanam (Tamil), Gaganam in Telugu. Payanam is a real life hijack drama. The film tries to capture the human dimension of events which took place on board ill fated Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999. Nagarjuna, Prakash Raj and Sana Khan starrer, Payanam has over 400 shots that have passed through the vfx pipeline.
Actor Prakash Raj, who is the producer of Payanam along with Dil Raju is said to have been inspired by a book, 'Flight into Fear'. As in the book, Payanam attempts to unravel the story of a passenger flight which is hijacked by terrorists and their demand of the release of a deadly terrorist. The screen play of the film brings about interconnected drama that taking place between the passengers, the terrorists and the government officials, as captured by Radha Mohan, the director of the film. Radha Mohan is best known for his super hit Tamil films such as Mozhi and Abhiyum Naanum.
A small team of 20 artists have executed the project in about 3 months under the guidance of VFX Supervisor- Stalin. S and the VFX Producer, Alagar Swamy. As seen in Robot and Daabang, the Vensat team has been able to redo their magic of creating several visual treats on air and off the ground, though a lot of ground work was necessary to give additional works like Set extension, BG creation of flight sequence with CG clouds and Stunts Sequence with CG Debris.
Unlike the real life location of mountainous Kandahar, the film revolves around a flight from Chennai which is hijacked and force landed in Tirupati by terrorists. Art director Kathir has reportedly spent three crores in erecting a grand replica of Tirupati Airport at Ramoji Fim City. The set included runway, traffic, ATC room and two planes with perfect interiors so as to give sufficient time as required during the shooting of this action thriller. The director Radha Mohan, is said to have met two families in Trichy who were onboard the Indian Airlines Flight 814 which helped to bring in a lot of emotional angles to the plot.
As the film had many shots which required Set extension, BG creation of flight sequences, adding photorealistic CG elements such as clouds, snow fall, mist and creating a realistic avalanche; Vensat did lot of authentication work, which it did admirably.
Speaking with CG Today Alagar Samy, VFX Producer at Vensat said "The Ace Director Radhamohan and the Award winning DOP K V Guhan approached our Studio for this challenging project; we did a Pre-viz for all the proposed Shot to showcase its complete VFX capability. This helped the Director and DOP to decide in favor of us to be the Lead VFX House for all the pillar shots of the movie.
Our Key value proposition is our conceptualization of what we will shoot on location, what we will generate through the Computer to achieve what the Director requires in the final shot. We referred many stock footage of natural Disaster, to see avalanche in its natural form. Pre-Viz was very helpful to get the directors expectation and also explain the DOP on what needs to be shot on location and its ideal lighting said, Senior VFX Supervisor- Stalin. S.
As you look at the visually appealing shots of snow rapidly falling down the slope on a mountainous terrain, one thing which comes out clearly is that the VenSat has successfully integrated live-action footage and generated imagery to create environments which look realistic, giving dangerous and costly zing to the film which otherwise was not possible.
Shot 1: Avalanche Sequence:
Creating, a live looking, and natural disaster such as an Avalanche were by no means an easy task. What made the task even more difficult is that the actual footage of this key plot sequence did not even have a snow fall in it. Director wanted the avalanche to come sliding down the mountain throwing the military vehicle away in the large mass of snow. As the snow creation is the most difficult of complicated elements of CG creation, the VFX team had to study many of the basics such as Physics, Lighting, and Dynamics to create snow blocks, flows and density.
Shot 2: Snow fall at winter season:
Vensat has developed various iterative versions of shots to make the audience believe that the entire snow fall sequences are happening in snow-clad mountains. A special shader was created to give 3 D effect to the snow fall sequence using Maya and 3 D Max. However, since the Center of Excellence (COE) team at the Vensat for Rendering had already developed automated scripts, it became easy to exploit its Computer Resources as needed for this project. Vensat’s COE has mastered this interesting tool which shows that the pictured elements can be differently rendered.
Shot 3: Cockpit Interior:
In no film of Radha Mohan perhaps CG work was so much a phenomenon as in Payanam. A cock pit scene shot on a green matte background in Ramoji Film Studio was one of the challenging shot. CG elements were used to give real imagery to windows, reflection, dirt, dust and passing clouds. Vensat team has to match the real camera work with the CG camera. VFX specialist has coordinated the real light with CG light to bring the snowy mountain inside the cinema theaters. The idea as Radha Mohan puts it is to make Payanam an authentic experience for viewers.
Shot 4: CG Snow Sequence:
It's an another shot where in CG effect is used when the military truck gets overturned in the snow covered mountains. The beauty of the scene is that the density of the snow as shown by giving CG effect need to be controlled to not to lose sight of the vehicle which was engulfing with the flow of the snow. Vensat team could achieve this with remarkable accuracy due to lot of research which was undertaken before the actual convergence of CG with real sequences.
VenSat VFX supervisor Stalin.S who controlled the VFX effect said, for the avalanche sequence, it is difficult to create out of standard off the shelf dynamics and particle effects. For this purpose, we used our program script to create and control the realistic avalanche.
In each of the sequence to create real time effect was a pretty difficult job said the director of the film, but as VenSat had digged many unusual aspects of the snow fall and avalanches in the mountain the VFX visual have look alive and fascinating.