CG Today : Then you moved to Animal Logic and to work on the Academy Award Winner Happy Feet as a Lighting TD?

Rahul : After a 7 year stint in the US I finally came back to India. I soon started working on Hoodwinked at Prana Studios leading a team of artists doing lighting. In about 6 months and almost at a time when Hoodwinked was finishing up, I was offered a role as a Lighting TD at Animal Logic. This was to be my first motion captured CG film and I was quite excited about this role. I was lucky to be included in the team quite early on in the project and was able to do some look Happy Feetdevelopment work in the shading and lighting area. I was also able to pre-light some scenes to block lighting rigs to be further fine tuned. The challenge involved was that this was to be all played out in snow. This changes how the light is absorbed because of the subsurface scattering and how the shadows color themselves according to the surroundings on a white base. I think I learnt a lot about lighting on this particular project.

Also the effect the director was going for was very realistic and there was no live action plate this time to match to. I had a splendid time working on this project and was quite overjoyed when the effort of so many people like me was rewarded with an Academy Award.

CG Today : Can you throw more light into the FX TD role?

Rahul : My love for FX work is even bigger than lighting. This is because in FX one has to start with a clean slate. Mimicking a natural phenomenon and making it look super real is one of the joys of FX work. Particle dynamics, fluid simulations, rigid body solvers etc. when done correctly to achieve the desired result is very satisfying. It is like magic.

Primary responsibilities of an FX TD can include but may not be limited to developing innovative, believable and beautiful solutions to challenging and complex problems using an array of commercial and proprietary software tools to produce photorealistic simulations of real-world phenomena, producing test and often final renders of FX elements for shot/shots, creating working test composites for review by the supervision team, working in partnership with lighters & compositors to ensure shots are delivered to the very highest standard.

I always loved doing FX on the side and playing with particles and dynamics with Maya and expressions in MEL and creating weird and totally useless simulations. Although I worked on a lot of FX heavy shots in the early days at LookFx, one good thing that came from all this was when time came to hit the ground running. It happened on Superman Returns at Rising Sun Pictures in Sydney, I was able to pull off a list of 14 shots in a month and half involving dust, debris, water sprinklers, rigid body simulations for the young Clarke sequence jumping through the barley fields and crashing through the copula and the roof into the barn. From this time on I started doing FX and Lighting as and when necessary. The biggest challenge in FX work is getting the core simulations right which accounts to more than half of the work required for the shot. Once this is right everything else falls into place.

CG Today : Now tell us on your entry to WETA, another VFX powerhouse in the planet.

Rahul : After having seen the awesome work that came out on all those famous movies, the names of which I do not have to even mention and I am sure everyone keen in this industry already knows, I was totally hooked with the idea that I needed to work at this Mecca of ground breaking visual effects called Weta Digital. Having been a fan of LOTR and then King Kong I was thrilled when Weta decided to offer a contract to do FX work on The Day The Earth Stood Still. The team was responsible to create particle simulations that would see Keanu Reeves engulfed in a blizzard of coherent yet chaotic swarms of these nano insects trying to eat everything in their path. It was a massive challenge to create these swarms that comprised of objects so small yet they had to move and behave like swarms of locusts OR schools of herring in the ocean by changing their shading and lighting with sudden movement. But we pulled it off in the end and the result speaks for itself. My part in all this was to create the chaos of a blizzard for Keanu to move in and out of while being eaten away gradually.



CG Today : Now tell us more on the experience and the work you did on the “Mother of CG flicks”, Avatar. How were those days to work on this mammoth project and what were the challenges you faced?

Rahul : What can I say!! AVATAR as you put it is “The Mother Of All CG flicks”. It was a fantastic experience working on that movie. Final say was obviously James Cameron but to work under the likes of VFX Supervisor Joe Letteri was just awesome.

I moved onto Avatar after working on The Day The Earth Stood Still. I did a sequence of lighting shots where they needed help to push the sequence out the door and once that was done I moved back into doing what I love.


There was a team of 4 doing the waterfalls and after much R&D we finalized a system that was flexible to adapt from shot to shot and create some of those beautiful waterfalls that you see in the film. My favorites and also quite difficult to achieve were, one where Jake walks behind the waterfall brushing against the wall and the other where Neytiri gets onto her Banshee and dives down to the base of the same waterfall where it gets all misty. The transition from gushing water to droplets to mist was quite hard to achieve but I pulled it off in the end seamlessly. Where Jake walks behind the waterfall, James wanted trickles of water when the camera looks down and that added more realism to the shot since we could see water forming these small rivulets and then disappear into nothingness to give that massive drop feel. There are more scenes where I added other waterfalls but these are the core ones I care to discuss for now.

With the waterfalls done I moved onto creating these clouds that interacted with the mother ship coming over to attack and also created the dust explosion for the shot where this same ship falls to the ground and explodes. I had to get the dust covering a massive area of foliage and it had to look like an atomic explosion radiating outward from the blast. Overall I had tonnes of fun working. One look at the film pays off the long hours and the weekends and huge effort put into making it what it is today “The Mother” of all CG movies.

CG Today : Tell us on your current role at Dr.D Studios and the projects you are in charge of?

Rahul : My current role at Dr D is of a Senior FX TD brought in to create tools for various shot requirements in HOUDINI. Although I have used Houdini sparingly in the past, this project/company called for a thorough knowledge of the software. I began learning the software in my 3 month break after Avatar and before I started here at Dr D. I am currently working on Happy Feet II in 3D and in charge of all the underwater effects for the environment and the penguins interacting with that environment, namely silt, bubbles, caustics etc. This is the stuff that gives the illusion of water without water being ever present. I am also in charge of these other huge simulations for some underwater creatures that I am not at a liberty to talk about at this very moment. Houdini has always been the software of choice for many as fx artists around the world and now I, can see why.

CG Today : If I ask you what are the ideal qualities needed in a TD?

Rahul : A technical director is a person who has a thorough knowledge of all the software being used for a job and also has a way to come up with solutions to complex 3D problems arising in production in his/her area of expertise. When a job comes into a facility there are a few people like CG Supervisors, producers, etc. brain storming to see how the job can be completed. A certain amount of work can be handed off straight to modelers, animators, texture artist but some work will require experimentation, research and development of tools to get done.

This is up to the TD's to produce a method using the existing toolset OR to look into developing tools themselves or with the help of coders. TD’s usually take on aspects of the work that are too tedious or technical for your average artist to want to tackle themselves. Things such as character rigging, crowd shots, cloth, fur, particles, dynamics and procedural animation can be good examples. Apart from problem solving TD's are also responsible for aspects like lighting to rendering of the final output. The task of look development has become a lot more complex these days with the advent of technologies like Image Based Lighting, Global Illumination, Ambient Occlusion, Caustics, etc and as a TD there is always something to learn every day. There are just some of the ideal qualities a TD should have.

CG Today : Can you predict those major changes the CG Industry is going to witness in the coming years?

Rahul : The CG industry changes everyday as we speak in terms of technologies being born to meet the ever increasing demands from storytellers and directors wanting to incorporate unthinkable material in their movies. The way I see it, stereoscopic images and motion capture is the future of the CG industry in the coming years.

CG Today : Let us hear your perspective on the Indian CG Industry.

Rahul : The Indian CG industry has progressed in leaps and bounds in the recent years. The highly skilled English speaking artists and low cost of production has made a huge change in how more and more work is being now sent to India. The key factor for India is going to be producing more local content which will train artists to a higher skill level.

The government should start recognizing computer graphics as a faculty in itself and provide funds and support to universities for introducing curriculums to this effect and strengthen the infrastructure required for a successful outcome, as is the world over. Its involvement in the animation industry is going to play a huge role in making this recognized as a serious business. There is also a chance for India as a major English speaking country to create original content that can appeal to worldwide audiences. The art of storytelling is one where massive improvements can and will make the appeal global.

CG Today : Any message for newbie’s entering this industry?

Rahul : Anyone who wishes to enter this industry I just wish to say - learn all that you like but specialize in something that you like the most.

CG Today : What are your other interests apart from the world of CG?

Rahul : Photography, motorcycling - road and track and cooking are my other passions in life. I love to get out on the weekend, and go into the country riding and take pictures of nature and wildlife or stay home and try out new dishes. It may sound bizarre but one day I plan on opening my own restaurant. We will see where I go on that one.

CG Today : Thanks Rahul. It was a pleasure to have you with us. All the very best.

Rahul : Thanks Ranjith.


Rahul Deshprabhu - Technical Director

Dr.D Studios

Website: Dr. D Studios


Ranjith PM

The interviewer, an ardent buff of animated storytelling, digital art and visual effects, is a consultant for animation, design and social media and was the former editor of Animation Today Magazine and Creative Head at Sankranti Creations Mumbai.

Mr. Anukul Kukade is a project director at Maya Entertainment Limited and has an industry experience in excess of 12 years. During this time, he has worked in various capacities including that of a senior graphics designer, 3D artist and HOD of lighting for international animated work. Mr. Anukul has also garnered experience in marketing Digital devices and media along with mobile entertainment and interactive games.

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