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So you think you can Dance?

Exactly a week after I joined as a ‘Bot’, Deepak – the CalmBot’ – messaged me, regarding a guest speaker coming over at the office at 11 a.m.  I thought to myself…

“Hmm… Guest speaker? Must be someone from the industry like an Art director or Creative person or maybe even an Actor (Robert Downing Jr.? Wink wink 😉

RDJ

For the past week I have been trying to get in the groove of the work culture at BotVFX. Every day, I expect the monotony of familiarity to seep in, and every day I’m left a little more amazed. Here’s one of the reasons why.

At about 11 a.m. we get a brief about the speaker, Mr. Nipun Mehta – who is also Hitesh aka SuperBot’s friend. I quickly glance through his profile, and I’m instantly in awe of him. You’d be too if you found out that you were going to meet someone who’s received the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Hero of Compassion award. He’s also been on President Barack Obama’s council to reduce Poverty and Inequality. I’ll admit, I was a fanboy already. I head over to the conference room, where I instantly realize I’m not the only one who got the brief.

Dressed in plain clothes paired with ordinary ‘chappals’ was a young yet not so young gentleman sitting across the room.

Preconceived notions had me paint a mental picture of this guy dressed to the nines – tailor-made 3-piece suit, matching tie, Italian leather shoes, the complete jazz. Oh and of course, the American accent.

Cut to reality. I’m looking at this man, and am thrown fully off my train of thought. Introductions are made. Nipun takes a look at all the Hollywood movie posters hanging on the walls. He stops at Invictus and stares at it intently. He asks us if we did any work on this film (yes, we did). Nipun is impressed. He then goes on to talk about how the film, based on Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, shows a nation brought together in times of intense racial tension by a sport. And how potentially vicious issues were easily resolved due to Mandela’s humility.

Nipun is reminded of his own personal experience – he was inspired by none other than Gandhiji to leave behind all his belongings in the USA and start a pilgrimage march in Gujarat. One anecdote led to another, and I just marveled at the way his words managed to strike the right chords, making the brain ponder on thoughts often looked over, giving a whole new perspective on things.

Anecdotes

DANCING WITH THE STARS

When Nipun left all his comforts in Sillicon Valley, USA, he knew that his true calling was volunteering. But, if it really was as easy, we’d have made Florence Nightingales out of everyone.
Leaving everything actually meant EVERYTHING.
No cheat codes, no hacks, NOTHING.

He recalls one incident where he was offered dinner by an elderly lady. Her husband asked from where he had started. Nipun replied, “Ahmadabad”. The old man repeated “Oh, Memdavad”. Nipun corrected him “No, no! Ahmadabad, dada!”. The old man again said, “Haan, Memdavad” to which Nipun corrected him again. This correction-tennis went on for a few minutes. Convinced that the old man was hard of hearing, Nipun finally said, “Ahmadabad, dada, Ahmadabad! 127km from here, AHMADABAD!”. The old man softly said, “You have not truly left behind everything, because in your head you are still keeping track how much distance you have covered”. The depth of these words hit Nipun like a rock hurtling towards earth like the asteroid in Armageddon. What happened next was what we called “An Epiphany”. He realized that he was going to have to leave a lot more than just money and material comforts to really get a deeper understanding of life.

He then correlated this anecdote with Giving & Receiving vs Dancing.
Giving and Receiving are transactional acts. There is an exchange between 2 people. You give something only because you want to receive something.

Dancing on the other hand is not transactional and is best enjoyed when you don’t care who is looking, who is judging, without anyone keeping a minute to minute track of your steps, letting yourself loose – Basically, you do it for the pure love of it and nothing else.

CORPORATE ECOLOGY – GIVERS | MATCHERS | TAKERS

In a case study of an organization, employees were all placed at the same level and could work their way to the top. They were also grouped under 3 categories.

Givers – Generous people who place the needs of others above their own. The ones who only give and give and give – a fountain of generosity.
Takers – Selfish people whose number one (and perhaps only) priority is their own self. Life is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and these folks are here for it.
Matchers – Those who give as much as they take or vice versa. They know that you can only rightfully take stuff when you’ve given stuff in exchange in the first place.

At the start of the study, Takers were at the top, Matchers in the middle and Givers at the bottom. However towards the end of the study there were a quite a few Givers at the top and Takers at the bottom. The study proved that even Givers could make it to the top (defying the notion that Givers are the literal and figurative Losers). Similarly, a Taker could end up at the bottom. Matchers on the other hand saw that giving would transform into receiving more hence they would adapt themselves to be Givers.

Hence a total win-win for the organization.

BORN BANKRUPT, DIE RICH

When on topic of his pilgrimage, Nipun recalls the many days he spent hungry and thirsty. Earning needn’t necessarily mean asking for money.

Once, he asked an elderly person if he could assist the person in carrying his haystack back for nothing. The old man thought Nipun must be asking money to do the deed. However, Nipun clarified that there were no strings attached, and that he would really do it for free. The old mad, though bewildered, agreed.

When the old man and Nipun (holding the haystack on his head) came back to the village everyone wondered who was this new guy helping out this old man? The old man who was now having a 56-inch proud chest replied to all, “Someone was willing to help me without any reason – Godsent in the truest sense!”.

That day Nipun may not have earned anything monetary but he earned goodwill – forming a relationship with the old man. There’s no currency for that sort of stuff.

Nipun’s anecdote brings out the true meaning of life.

When we are born we are born with nothing. When we die, we die with nothing. But, it’s the period in-between that matters and determines what we leave behind.

It really is about the legacy you leave behind for generations to come, for strangers everywhere. You don’t have to reach the saintly level of Nelson Mandela. You can be a hero in your own little pond. The beauty is in taking the first step, and then repeating that over and over. Some people choose to do nothing, and are, thus, ultimately forgotten.

Don’t be one of those “some people”. There are already far too many of those.

There is this lazy, mistaken notion that you earn virtue just by signed a cheque to some NGO. If wishes were horses, am I right?

In simple mathematical terms:
IF to be a Good person = Donate money
We know Time = Money
Replacing Money we can say a Good person is also one who Donates TIME

GIFT HAPPINESS

Once in a company there was a soft drink vending machine. One day an employee decided that he would treat the next person to a free can of Coke. He put up a note on the machine saying that ‘Enjoy your drink, its on me’. He did this everyday. Soon this became an office sensation. Everyone in office was curious who was this mystery Coke can gifter. When the mystery unraveled and the true perpetrator brought to question, he simply said that he just wanted to gift happiness… to anyone.

The joy of receiving a gift is surpassed only by the joy of giving, because the happiness is actually doubled once it serves its purpose.

Youtube it!

Key and Peele – Can you be too nice at the office?

Vinoba Bhave was one such person who believed that ‘Helping Helps Helpers’. People adopted him as their son and gave 1/6th of their land to him. He in turn donated all the land received to the homeless, poor and landless. He helped more than 1000 villages by way of such help and countless lives were benefited solely because of him.

Nipun then went on to explain a corollary that read something to the effect of, “Only Hurt People Hurt Others”, which actually makes a lot of sense. Think about it. Nobody is born a villain. Nor does anybody intentionally want to hurt anyone.  A pertinent question we should be asking ourselves is that should we restrict kindness only to selected people? No.

Take the 21 day kindness challenge and see an intrinsic difference! Everyday make it a priority to fulfill one random act of kindness. Kindness can be in any form. Take someone out, write a note to someone, bring a cupcake, teach a topic – Anything!

Key Take aways and 2017 goals

  • Give > Receive
  • Dance with humility
  • Earn relationships
  • Spend Love
  • Help others
  • Accept challenges
  • Stay Positive
  • Spread Kindness
  • Laugh more
  • Smile

And so Nipun left us with a barn full of fodder for the mind. True to his word he made sure none of us left empty-handed as he ensured he ‘gave’ a powerful hug to every person in the room.

-Vipul Mehta

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Motorcycle Diaries: Balaji’s Soul-Searching Sojourn in The Mountains

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“We ride not to escape life, but for life to not escape us.”

After a whole year of dreaming, planning and deliberating, and six months of mapping out my epic road trip to the magical lands of Leh-Ladakh, I finally hopped onto the train from Chennai to Delhi on the 21st of August, 2016. Choosing the places I would cover on my route was fairly easy, although the North East does spoil you for choices when it comes to views. I shortlisted places based on accessibility by bike, their historic importance, and the fact that many of these places cannot be visited all year.

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My roadmap was something like this.

  • 22nd August, 2016 Rode from Rupnagar to Manali
  • 23rd August, 2016 Made my way from Manali to Keylong
  • 24th August, 2016 Onwards from Keylong to Pang
  • 25th August, 2016 From Pang, I moved towards Leh
  • 26th August, 2016 Spent the day exploring and traveling within Leh
  • 27th August, 2016 Continued my journey from Leh to Diskit
  • 28th August, 2016 Headed from Diskit to Turtuk
  • 29th August, 2016 Rode from Turtuk to Pangong Lake
  • 30th August, 2016 Rode back from Pangong Lake to Leh
  • 31st August, 2016 From Leh to Sonmarg
  • 1st September, 2016 Biked my way to Patnitop
  • 2nd September, 2016 Entered Ludhiana
  • 3rd September, 2016 Made my way back from Ludhiana to Delhi
  • 4th September, 2016 Stayed the day in Delhi, before taking the train back to Chennai

Although, by this point in time Leh-Ladakh has earned for itself some “mainstream” popularity, no amount of Instagram pictures and Go-Pro videos can prepare you for the real deal. Everywhere you turn to look in this pristine land, you will find a view that’s nothing short of an artist’s favourite masterpiece, created to take your breath away.

14556498_1147485405327605_6948865887064649897_oMy seemingly endless series of gasps and sighs began at Keylong, to which I rode from Manali on my trusted Mahindra Mojo. Keylong (pronounced kelaang) is a lovely little place of untouched beauty located in the Lahaul-Spiti region. Although people only pass through Keylong in the dark of the night while on their way to Ladakh, staying back and watching daylight descend on this sleepy town will reward you with breathtaking views of luciously green mountains, historic Buddhist monasteries and a laidback vibe that’s typical of small sleepy towns forgotten by the ravages of time.

Next stop, Pang Valley. I was only passing through Pang en route Leh, but I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the sheer magnanimity of the natural beauty all around me. From the plains of Pang, you can catch a glimpse of the Himalayan peaks. This glimpse into the overwhelming beauty that lay ahead of me, made me nervous and breathless with anticipation. With this restless feeling, I rode on to Leh.

Perched at a dizzying height of 11,400 feet, safely tucked away like precious treasure from prying eyes, Leh is a place that, as soon as you catch your breath and acclimitise to the thin air, will make you ask yourself some serious questions about life and the universe. But, more than anything it’ll humble you. Mountains loom over the Old Town like proud but indulgent parents watching over their precious child. Traditional Ladakhi homes and hotels whimsically woven with gushing streams, narrow lanes, pristine landscapes and heart-warming people will charm you into staying here forever. I, with a heavy heart, instead moved on to Diskit, after spending a whole day exploring.

14372118_1133384663404346_6695240774497365704_oThankfully, the glorious Nubra Valley continued casting its spells of enchantment with every town I entered. Diskit was an experience unto itself. Located some 120 kms from Leh, this town is the headquarters of Nubra Valley, which also makes it a favourite among many backpackers and road trippers. It’s easy to see why. Diskit is home to the largest and the oldest Buddha statue in the valley, is dotted with apricot plantations, pristine streams, looming mountains and the languid and brilliantly turquoise Shyok River.

So engrossed was I in taking pictures and gawking at the vistas, I left behind my camera bag loaded with valuables and original Ids, and obliviously rode on to Hunder. When realisation hit me, I rode back about a 100 kms, to find the bag there untouched, in the exact place I left it. Without wasting another heartbeat, I zipped forward to Hunder village. Hunder is bursting with fascinating sights – from the two-humped Bactrian camels, who were initially native to Mongolia, but found their way into Nubra Valley during the era of silk route trade; to the magical silver-grey sand dunes; to the Leh Berry. Hunder stands like an oasis – a mirage – in the middle of an otherwise barren and imposing landscape.

14379791_1133382986737847_3986505985055944888_oFrom Hunder, I rode through a landscape that seemed to be turning whiter by the minute. Here I was in Turtuk – quietly nestled in the Nubra Valley, on the edge of the Shyok desert. Turtuk – the last village on the Indo-Pak border. A place straight out of an adventure picture book. A land whose name you’ll seek delight in rolling off your tongue over and over again. Turtuk is the last village Indians are allowed to enter, and was initally a part of Baltistan, which was once under Pakistan’s control. It became a part of India only in 1971, while Indians were allowed to enter only after 2010. Turtuk is home to the Balti people, who with their high cheekbones and tall, well-built frames stand in stark contrast to the Ladakhis. Apricots grow with wild abandon in Turtuk, and serve as the village’s main source of income. Wild colourful flowers and verdant green grass cover this village like nature’s favourite blanket. Turtuk’s locals are an amazingly artistic bunch – they’re known for their walking sticks and sculptures carved from the horns of an Ibex,  pressure cookers made out of stone, bronze utensils, and so much more. The villagers are eager and earnest folks, happily letting you into their lives, even if it’s for a short while.

14361409_1133385230070956_1845528052708534665_oAlthough reluctant to leave this slice of heaven behind, I rode further on to Pangong Lake and its unmissable prayer flags. Pangong Lake is located at a height of 14,200 feet above sea level, and its 134 kilometre long shore extends from India, all the way to China. There’s a sense of surreal stillness when you’re standing by the banks of Pangong Lake – the sheet of vivid blue, held in an embrace of majestic mountains and white sand. If you hold still for a minute, you can hear the winds whisper and the mountains sigh, a song only they know.

I made my way back to Leh from Pangong. From Leh I rode to Sonmarg (which translates to Meadow of Gold) and further on to Patnitop – a little hill station that looks like it’s straight out of postcard. Patnitop is surrounded by a dense fence of lush green Pine trees, like solemn soldiers guarding a treasure. From Patnitop I rode to Ludhiana, and before I knew it, I was on the train back to Chennai.

14425344_1133383896737756_8205228588487392828_oThey say the farther you move away from the mainland of the country, the finer the line between life and death gets. Everyday is a battle for survival. Electricity merely lasts a few hours each day. Cell phone reception is borderline non-existent. There are no ATMs. Exotic cuisines and fine dining is unheard of. The bathroom is all but a hole in the floor. And amidst this, live these weather-hardened folks with the softest hearts and warmest hearths.

If you ask me for travel advice, I would just tell you this: stop dreaming, start moving, make new friends, embrace new cultures. You can’t do that from your office desk, you can’t experience that rush via Facebook. My 15-day long adventure felt like a lifetime filled with unforgettable views, humbling moments of self-reflection and the realisation that there is no greater artist than Mother Nature, and we still have much to learn. Nothing changes in these cruel terrains, except those who dare to seek them.

Motorcycle Diaries: Mahesh’s Kaleidoscopic Bike Trip From Chennai to Manali!

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When you get to a certain point in life, you find comfort in monotony, in the predictability, the routine – you know the drill. All’s well until one day, you’re in office, glued to your computer. And slowly, like drums approaching towards you from a distance, you feel it rising – the thumping in your veins, the electricity in the air, the unquenchable thirst for newer sights and sounds. The call of the open road, the pull of the unknown. You know nothing can hold you in your place anymore. That’s pretty much the story of how I ended up in Manali.

I had been planning this trip for nearly two months, and spent about 1 week mapping the itinerary. My aim was to cover the distance between Chennai and Manali on my bike, and explore some of the nearby villages in the area too. Finally, with my Pulsar 150 as my sole companion, I set out on a journey that was equal parts daunting, exhilerating and therapeutic. Over the course of the 8 days that followed, I would see all kinds of shifts in weather, terrain, cultures and views. I was more than ready.

My route went something like this:
Chennai – Hyderabad – Nagpur – Gwalior – Agra – New Delhi – Chandigarh – Manali – Rohtang La Pass.

11893722_1061490243868968_3362034656006847081_oNot mentioned above are the innumerable obscure hamlets and lazy towns that mark this entire journey. Anyone who’s done an epic road trip from any one part of India to another will know just how magical it is zipping through this constantly shifting geographical and cultural landscape. It’s like living inside one big kaleidoscope. Chennai to Hyderabad to Nagpur was smooth sailing. So far so good, no dramatic developments, no hiccups. I was riding at a good speed and making good time. It was on my exit from Nagpur and into Gwalior that I got a close glimpse into the treacherous terrains spread all over my roadmap. The road was too rough, too rugged and I had to struggle to maintain firm control over my bike and keep my sanity in check at the same time. With no place to stop at and no room to rest, I had no option but to continue riding. On this stretch, I ended up riding for 15 hours straight in a single day! It is during these moments I seriously end up questioning my decisions and why I do what I do. But then again, this is exactly why. Would biking bring a self-respecting biker any joy if it wasn’t such a giant terrifying pain sometimes?

Not one to be bogged down so early into my journey, I rallied on like a trooper on a mission. Finally, I touched base at Delhi. After sufficient rest, appeasing the hunger Gods and checking up on my bike, I made my way towards Manali via Chandigarh. I was so close to this place I’ve been dreaming of, I was sure if I stuck my tongue out into the air, I could taste the electric anticipation. Anticipation was soon met with further agony when I was crossing the Punjab border and the rain Gods decided to welcome me with brutally torrential downpour. I had to wait for it to pass, and was further greeted by now slushied roads and a frighteningly slippery terrain, which lowered my speed to a crawl. But soon, all of that cleared and I was came up close and personal with the picturesque vistas that Himachal is so known and loved for.

11896541_1061490313868961_5332947928571265584_oI rode through the tiny towns of Swarghat, Bilaspur, Sundernagar and finally to Mandi. Mandi is a charming little town dotted with innumerable apple trees. The air is crisp, mingled with a sense of sweetness and adventure. I couldn’t help but stop and admire this quaint beauty that we usually see only in the movies! Keeping me company was the River Beas that snaked its way through Mandi. Beas rises from the southern face of Rohtang Pass at about 13,326 feet above sea level, cuts through Mandi at 1,920 feet, divides itself into three in the Kangra District and once again merges into one at an altitude of 1000 feet. Beas eventually joins the River Sutlej at Harike in Punjab. Its foaming white waters gushing forward to meet its destiny, relentless yet tranquil, reinforced my resolve to make it to my destination without further ado. Manali was just two hours away now, and the magnificent Rohtang La Pass was four hours away. My next stop was Kullu, nestled on the banks of River Beas. Serene temples, majestic hills and tall, solemn Pine and Deodhar trees, and sprawling apple orchards weave together this enchanting valley. Life moves at its own pace here – a jolting reminder to us cityfolk that slowing down is a good thing too. Although lured intensely into staying a little longer, I made my way to Manali.

Perched blisslfully between the peaks of Pir Panjal and Dhualdhar ranges, like a precious jewel in a crown, is Manali. Although ridiculously popular and crowded throughout the year, Manali still has its own charm. It’s a real challenge to keep your sanity together when the thin mountain air coupled with adrenaline thumping through your veins, leave you heady and restless. And so, I rode further to Rohtang Pass.

11893829_1061490443868948_4733545317511545164_oThe distance between Manali and Rohtang Pass is 200 kms. But consider traversing these 200 kms as tightrope walking over a valley so deep, you can’t even see the bottom, while in the backdrop a fickle but turbulent weather is set in its ways to show who’s boss. I got on to the legendary Leh-Manali highway which, with its hairpin bends, sharp twists, curtains of fog and whatnot, is pretty much a death-defying roller-coaster ride. Located at a dizzying elevation of more than 13,000 feet. I start from Manali at around 6,400 feet and drive upwards to Marhi, which is at 10,800 feet. The climb is steady and the air is getting thinner by the minute. Finally, I reach Rohtang sitting at 13,060 feet. My intense ride is sprinkled with some rain and light drizzle.

When I finally reach Rohtang is when I finally stop in the real sense. There was no longer anywhere to rush to. This was it, the proverbial and somewhat literal zenith. I get off my bike, take off my helmet, try to catch my breath and gather my wits. All in preparation for the wondrous work of nature spread out in front of me. You can see the most HD images on the internet, you can get all excited listening to your friends’ exciting tales from their trips, you can watch as many films as you like, but the real deal, witnessing the magic firsthand is an experience that’s just downright spiritual. If I had a camera, I had forgotten its purpose. If my jaw had dropped to the floor and shattered, I didn’t really care. The skies are the brightest blue, the mountains stand tall, proud, unafraid and fully aware of their splendour. Where the earth ends and the sky begins, I could hardly tell. I was too occupied being awestruck by this love affair between the mountain peaks and the clouds. Time stood still. The only thing fluid was the and the wind.

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What I was feeling in that moment is hard to put into words. I had made it this far, from the tail end of the country to where I was, at the edge, the precipice of wonder and awe. I could live here forever, or for as long as the treacherous forces of nature would permit me. But I knew it was time to leave. A good guest never overstays. I felt a dull ache in my heart at not being able to go further along all the way to Leh. But, I knew I wasn’t prepared, physically, mentally and even with my resources. However, that only filled me with more optimism – the sweet, sweet promise of return and the thrill of pushing my own limits. Travelling alone through a journey brimming with all kinds of risks and dangers is scary, but it’s also zen. It’s the perfect route to self-discovery – of being your own hero, your own most trusted friend and your own sanctuary.

I braved sun, snow, rain and heat. I was stuck in a forest in an unknown land and made it out unscathed. I negotiated language barriers, high altitude passes, broke bridges, bad roads, hostile weather and the complete lack of luxuries. I ate what I got and slept where I could. And I returned, with newer lessons learnt, a grateful heart, renewed spirit and an enriched soul. This was my longest and boldest bike trip. This was my first bike trip, but definitely not the last. As for my appetite for adventure? Let’s just say, I already know where I’m going next!

..BECAUSE MAGIC HAS NO LANGUAGE!

A cup of coffee, a few BOTs, an incredible desire to be the change and here you have it.. BOT VFX’s latest and perhaps most incredible idea ever!

Over the years while BOTs have been actively associated with several social impact initiatives be it Flood relief work, making a difference to the lives to the less fortunate, providing clean drinking water at schools or more recently with the Beach cleaning initiative, there was always an underlying feeling that we needed to look at something more sustainable and permanent, something with which we can create a small revolution of sorts in bringing about a change.

And so it came, in the form of two of our most talented artists Nithya and Vijay, both of them hearing and speech challenged, yet one of BOTs biggest shining stars for the resilience with which they fought against many odds to today deliver some of the best work for the biggest Hollywood Movies across the world. With over 5 years of experience today both Nithya and Vijay have become the pillars of our Roto and Paint departments, and we thought why not use all their experience and expertise in the VFX field spread this joy of creating magic (VFX) to several others who are challenged like them. So was born what we believe is perhaps one of the most incredible ideas for us – the 1st ever ‘Build-a-BOT Internship Program’ exclusively for the hearing and speech challenged.

“Time and again we miss acknowledging that all this isn’t possible without the trust and support of our amazing clients and the faith, belief and patience of our Sups, Leads, Artists and Support teamsA big thank you to all those who make such incredible dreams possible!” remarks Sreyans, co-founder of BOT VFX

Starting up with a batch of over 7 such Individuals with training done by none other than Nithya and Vijay using sign languages, the Internship is already underway into its 4th week, and if one had to go by reviews, the bunch is doing amazingly well and likely to hit production in a few weeks time.

“When the Idea first came up, I just jumped in joy, because this would perhaps be the most fulfilling role for me ever, I can understand the pain one goes through to get settled in life, however, in its truest sense VFX has been the magic for mine and I just hoped that I could pass on the knowledge to several others who could make a career out here” says Nithya communicating with us by writing on a piece of paper. Vijay her colleague with similar challenges and himself a BOT veteran remarked through a thumbs up “There just cannot be anything better! If we can successfully carry this, this will really make a lot of people who have had challenges in hearing and speech really believe in themselves and their ability to be completely independent”

Deepak, co-founder of BOT VFX quips “Our collective dream is to have India’s first VFX team fully managed and run by the challenged and we are not very far from there” And, we couldn’t agree more, that truly “Magic has no language”- and this drive by the BOT team is sure to create another young generation of independent and amazingly creative artists for the industry!

News coverage by the Deccan Chronicle: Disability doesn’t deter their passion for work, Deccan Chronicle, 30th OCT 2016

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BOTs at THE COASTAL CLEAN UP DRIVE

The early morning chirping of birds, the light breeze, a small drizzle, a rainbow just appearing out of nowhere creating a wow and an exclamation of Joy! While these are things most of us have experienced as Children, it is hard to guess if the coming generation would ever get to experience the bliss of nature, if the current rate of pollution continues unabated.  It’s a given that our kids and the coming generations would be deprived of enjoying the lap of mother nature as we did.

Deepak remarks  that as the saying goes “Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere”, the BOTs decided to give all the pessimism a miss and look forward towards doing our part to make a difference and as is very famously coined term by the great Mahatma Gandhi “BE THE CHANGE”.

On the 20th of June’2016 the BOTs joined hands with the Chennai Trekking Club which organised a massive Cleaning exercise across the length and breadth of the Chennai’s coastal area spreading from the Marina to Uthandi. A sizeable bunch of BOTs gave the early morning blues a big punch of enthusiasm and were up and ready at 6am, to do our bit to conserve Nature.

Allotted the picturesque Besant Nagar beach by the Organisers, incidentally also BOTs favourite venue to play Volleyball, the clean-up began sharp at 6am. From glass bottles to cans, from plastic packets to cleaning up the food waste from the night before, this was one humungous yet satisfying task. As we went about cleaning the wide open area –  a range of emotions stuck each one of the BOTs;

Viswanathan, one of our roto lead quotes “This to me in an indirect reflection or mirror in some ways; As I cleaned, I realised how we commit several mistakes which we could easily avoid to better conserve our nature. The whole clean-up exercise was quite an eye opener and I am glad to have been a part of it”

Whereas Mahesh, Anand, Ganesh, Satish, Balaji and Prashanth who had co-ordinated the efforts from the BOTs side remarked that this activity filled all of us with a sense of pride, that every BOT was upto the task with a smile, a smile of happiness and joy that he or she could be a part of “BEING THE CHANGE” we want to see.

Just for the stat buffs, this amazing exercise organised by the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) meant that more than 4500 volunteers from 140 organisations were part of the exercise and 38 tonnes of waste was collected from 20 kms of Beaches and the great part 56% of this was recycled. Thank you Balaji and the other CTC members for making BOTs a part of this Coastal Cleaning Drive!

 

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Chapman’s Excellent Adventures in Chennai

When a visual effects facility is routinely pushing through work supporting thousands of shots a year for dozens of highly regarded clients, you’d think such a well-heeled organisation wouldn’t be so self-conscious about the inner workings of its production engine. But, that’s exactly what BOT VFX lavishes its focus on, despite its position as a leading provider of supporting services such as roto, paint and matchmove for visual effects facilities.

A few months back, BOT reached out to industry veteran Alexi Chapman — at the time, an independent consultant —seeking his help in assessing and recommending improvements for BOT’s 2D pipeline. Chapman has been “around the block a few times” when it comes to setting up and managing 2D departments. Over the years, he’s worked at numerous facilities in Vancouver, small and large, doing everything from working shots as a roto artist to leading a 2D department.

“I had worked with the BOT team for many years and always thought highly of the creative team that delivered solid work project-after-project and client-after-client as I moved to different facilities,” reflects Chapman. “So when they asked if I was able to come out to India to meet with the team and dive into how they did the work, I jumped at the opportunity. And it’d be an opportunity to visit India – something I always looked forward to.” In briefing Chapman before his visit to India, Hitesh Shah, BOT’s chief was quick to reveal what BOT considered to be key to their success – the three P’s: People, Pipeline and Process. “It’s important that you get an ‘inside’ look at who we are as a team, and understand how our pipeline works and how we go about things. Only then can you glean recommendations that will help us raise our game,” coached Shah.

Not one to shy away from adventure, Chapman landed in Chennai, ready to dive into work, and dive into Indian culture, both with equal vigor. “I was taken aback by the great warmth and excitement with which the team received me,” says Chapman of finally meeting the team members he’d only connected with in Skype sessions, conference calls, emails and chat sessions over the years. “When I walked into BOT’s office, it hit me that despite differences in language, culture and environment, artists are artists everywhere. I noticed that like artists in Vancouver, BOT artists adorned their cubicles with maquette, sketches, paintings and collectibles from their favorite movies. Talking to the team, it became abundantly clear that the stuff they do is more than just a job to them – they’re really into VFX, and they’re stoked by the same things artists I’ve worked with in Vancouver value. Once I understood this, it was easy to understand why BOT consistently delivered solid work.”

Chapman spent time talking to artists, leads, and supervisors in each of the roto and paint/prep departments through the better part of a week. “We conducted ‘a-day-in-the-life-of’ reviews for Alexi to help him understand both the pipeline and processes and to some extent approaches the individual artists take,” reflects Sreyans Bardia, BOT’s Head of Production. “These reviews proved to be extremely useful because Alexi was able to assemble some great insights that have helped our efficiency, reduced some technical issues, and reduce feedbacks from clients.” Many valuable insights were the result of Chapman’s intimate knowledge of how BOT’s clients actually used the work produced by BOT. For example, when client-side compositors find the need to open a Silhouette source file delivered by BOT in order to make some minor tweaks, it becomes awfully confusing when shapes fly in and out of frame. From years of experience, BOT artists have found this technique (of “disabling” shapes for a few frames by pulling them off-frame) to be highly efficient. However, it is also highly frustrating to client-side artists to quickly understand where they need to make the modifications and move on.

Chapman concedes that despite enormous variety of clients and projects, each with their own nuances and expectations, BOT is able to deliver to the individual requirements with relatively few feedbacks. Some clients only care about the alpha mattes for roto, others want the SFX Silhouette source files, and still others want the splines converted to The Foundry’s Nuke. Some projects require separated core mattes and blur mattes, others want blur baked into the same matte. For paint work, there are always the nuances of colorspace and grain particular to a show. Add to that, the projects on any given day can be in HD, 2K, 4K, 30fps, 24fps, 25fps, log, linear, varied film gates and so on. “It’s like the kitchen in a restaurant that serves dishes from 10 different kinds of cuisines from as many menus – the BOT kitchen has to be ready to deliver on anything every day,” Chapman says.

In between all of the deep-dive sessions, dailies reviews, and deep insight gathering at the office, Chapman also managed time to soak in South Indian cuisine, some sightseeing and a bit of exposure to South Indian culture. Chapman said, “I was already a fan of Indian food before this trip, but Sreyans, who’s a foodie himself, expanded my palate to a new level. He and the team were also gracious enough to take me around to see some sights I thoroughly enjoyed.” “Consider it India’s version of Southern Hospitality,” jests Bardia.

Chennai Floods: Rains may have won the battle, but Humanity wins the War!

Nature’s fury, despondency, helplessness, gloom, destruction … if these were the words the #ChennaiFloods started with, nearly a week later after the biggest rainfall in nearly 100 years which crippled and brought life to a complete standstill, every Chennaite would today proudly say that, more than the destruction they wrought, these floods shall always be remembered as the triumph of the indomitable spirit of humanity in face of the most severe adversity.

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Be it risking one’s own life to save many more, sharing our own homes with the homeless or distributing food and essentials in waist-deep water, be it connecting relatives with their missing ones or donating with our hearts wide open, going sleepless for days together so that every single soul out there could be saved, the tales of extraordinary human spirit are endless. While tragedy struck, it brought with it together a response of brotherhood, compassion and love unparalleled in recent memory to any of the younger generation. The city saw in its people in its adversity the biggest example of unity in diversity where the only religion was humanity.

From all of us at BOT, this is just to say we salute the Spirit of this Amazing City and we would sure soon be Alive and Kicking in doing what we do best – creating magic of the highest quality and continuing to make our city and country proud, because the efforts of several unsung heroes of the past few days deserves this and more, truly rains have won the battle but Humanity has won the war!

To all the BOTs: Thank you for showing exceptional courage and resilience in helping out each other. Each one of your accounts shall be credited with an additional amount of ₹ 10,000/- to support your needs in helping recover from the floods. For those who have been unaffected, kindly use this additional amount to help the others or contribute to the BOT Relief Fund. Let us all BOTs be the Champions in doing our bit in bringing a smile back to every Chennaite’s face.

To the World – Vanakkam (Hello in Tamil) – Chennai & The BOTs are Back to Work!


We have set up a Base Camp to support the relief measures and medical camps from our Guindy Office. You can get in touch with our BOT Projects Team by calling on the numbers listed below or by  filling the form below if you are in need of help, or are ready to offer help.

Anandha Iyappan: +91 99443 83960 | Prashanth +91 98845 11603 | Ganesh +91 99621 142588
Mahesh K. +91 90030 35378 | Govardhan +91 98402 54324 | Haribabu +91 90940 30006
Rajesh K. +91 99626 59099

#ChennaiRainHelp

Simple Ideas; Powerful Results: Learning at BOT VFX

“Sometimes in Life, we are never sure if an idea will work, however if we have an underlying current of conviction, which just keeps saying that take the plunge, a conviction which just makes you feel restless till you make the announcement to your colleagues and the world that this is it, and together we will have to make it work; then you know you have an Idea which is a winner”

These were perhaps the exact emotions which the Talent Management Team at BOT VFX went through before launching what was a simple idea of doubling up and using our evening snack time for some fun learning. So was born “The BOT 20min Learning Workshops” that turned out to be quite a little bit of “learning revolution” (albeit for a short one month, yet we’d take pride in calling it one).

What followed was exceptional to say the least. The BOTs (as we lovingly call ourselves) went through a month of Non-Stop Learning in the 20min workshops – a new topic of learning day after day, every day, all through the month of October till early November. We had many topics ranging from Carnatic Music to Google Cars, from learning about the Prod Pipelines to Human Anatomy, from Insurance Basics to Computer Assembling, from workshops on Sign Languages to Portrait Painting. Adding to it, we had Camera and Photography workshops and lessons on Time Management. Not to forget the fun session on cutting Comic Clips and the important session about Email Etiquettes. The list and its diversity were endless and we cannot forget the enthusiastic audience at BOT who ensured that sessions were houseful and seats were getting filled the minute registrations opened.

While some may argue saying that topics were not necessarily VFX-related (except for a few), what stood out was the collective urge of BOTs to learn and share each one’s knowledge and the desire to beat one’s own inhibitions and conquering the fear of addressing audiences.

In all of this, clearly with some extraordinary unstinted co-operation of all the BOTs, we had one more WINNER up our sleeve – “The Bot 20 min workshop”- a simple idea with powerful results. Thank you, BOTs, for supporting and making it happen.

The writer is a part of the BOT Talent Management Team and can be reached on talentmanagement@botvfx.com !

Pictures and Posters from the sessions can be found here: BOT EDITORIAL – LEARNING AT BOTVFX ALBUM 

The BOT Workshop @ Visual Arts Fest by MOP Vaishnav College

“As Knowledge Increases, Wonder Deepens”, perhaps precisely what the BOT Trio of Sreyans, Sankara and Srikant, on invitation from the MOP Vaishnav College for Women, set out to achieve as they spread the word on the magical world of VFX at the Annual Visual Arts Fest hosted by MOP Vaishnav College. An informal session on the Scope of VFX in Films which started with some jaw-dropping videos and progressing to the nuts and bolts of how visual effects is done coupled with some serious talking and guidance on Careers in the VFX Industry that concluded with an interesting (and we might say popularly extended) Q&A Session. While the organizers and students were very inspired with the session, the BOT team was even more inspired – thanks to the guided tour of the display gallery hosting some amazing and creative work of the students.

As we continue to spread the magic of VFX, what is fulfilling is that the vibrancy, energy and enthusiasm of the students rubs on to us and inspires us to continue to do what every creative artist aspires ie., to do the “Undone”.

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HackerBOTs

Like a good Dev-challenge?
Show off your dev skills using JS, HTML5 & CSS.  You make the time for the full day event; we provide the problem and the food. Who knows, it might lead to some exciting opportunities at BOT VFX or help you win some amazing Gift Vouchers! Certificates will be given to all Participants.

You’re free to use your own laptop or we can provide a system if you let us know in advance.
Kickoff briefing will be at 9:30am.

Register now for HackerBOTs on Meetup

(Link: http://www.meetup.com/hackerbots/events/224717271/ )