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Mind the Gap – BOTs travel to London

BOT’s continual efforts to nurture existing client relations and build new ones face to face took Studio Co-Founder Sreyans Bardia and Senior Producer Frederick Lissau all the way to Europe’s VFX centre – er…center – London, in the month of June.

While in Germany it was all about planes, trains and automobiles; BOT’s latest travel was through London’s famous Tube.

“From Hammersmith and City to Bakerloo to Central to Victoria to Piccadilly to Jubilee and District & Circle – I think we rode through them all during our week long stay!” mused Frederick, who is very familiar with the city, having spent some years (2006 -2008) in London while doing a film for Universal.

Reflecting on the trip, Frederick further added that, “The industry here is just in a state of continuous growth as films, TV series and commercials continue to use London as a hub for their biggest and most complex works.” As they continue to expand and build relationships with clients in the UK, BOTs feel immensely excited about the immense possibilities London has in store for them. Frederick continued, “The breadth of talent in this city is simply staggering. We were very grateful that many clients and friends took time out of their hectic schedules to meet with us and exchange ideas!”

“It is always a pleasure to meet up with our old and existing clients & partners and engage with new ones. There’s always something new to learn from them on what works, what doesn’t and what we need to do to make it work, which is always great!”, gushed Sreyans, who spent his sabbatical in London in 2008, and has subsequently often visited the city as a part of BOT over the past few years.

The wise words of good old Paddington Bear come to mind – “In London, everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in”. Well, BOTs have already carved a little space for themselves in this city! Thanks to all the love the client’s shower on them.

 

 

BOTs in Germany

When you think of traveling to Europe, you have grand thoughts of enjoying quiet afternoons sipping a latte at a street-side cafe table, strolling lush gardens, visiting museums, or having a plate of a thousand different types of cheeses – what you don’t expect is a whirlwind of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

BOT founder and CEO Hitesh Shah and Senior Producer Frederick Lissau set out on BOT’s annual sojourn to Germany the first week in May with the goal of visiting BOT’s many Clients there – in addition to taking part in the yearly FMX Conference.  FMX – www.fmx.de – brings together thousands of professionals from VFX, Animation, VR and Games from across the EU to Stuttgart, Germany.  

“We knew it was going to be a challenge to see everyone, but we made it a point to see all of our Clients, no matter which city they were in,” affirmed Shah.  

This inspired the team to do some sophisticated logistics planning to navigate to clients in Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Stuttgart.

“It was great having the chance to see everyone face to face and have some truly in-depth conversations.  We made some really great human level connections that you simply can’t manage through calls, Skype sessions, emails and texts,” Lissau recalled about the trip. “The warm reception by our clients and the brief immersion into German culture more than made up for the absence of quiet street-side cafe moments.”

Winning hearts and awards, the CHAPPiE way.

Image Engine along with BOT VFX win this years Best VFX in a Motion Picture Award in the International Category for their work on CHAPPiE (2015)  at the FICCI FRAMES BAF Awards 2016. Its a moment to rejoice for BOTs as this recognition is yet another testament to the numerous hearts we have won over the years, doing what we love the most  – delivering great quality of work!

Chirag Shah, Sr. Production Manager at BOT VFX receiving the award on behalf of BOT VFX & Image Engine. Image Credits: Animation Xpress

BOT Enables Robot’s Digital Existence in Chappie

As if to extend the plot line of the film into the real world, BOT (a.k.a. BOT VFX) provided supporting work that enabled the digital existence of Chappie the robot in Neill Blomkamp’s fascinating Sci-Fi flik.  In the film, Chappie, a robot equipped with newly developed AI programming, discovers his self-identity inspired by human traits.  So the irony was never lost on the BOT team that a creative crew of humans drew their inspiration (and their name) from the precision and efficiency of robots.

BOT provided supporting visual effects services for Image Engine, the venerable visual effects house in Vancouver that has become Neill’s go-to place for VFX for nearly all of his films. BOT also provided supporting work for Neill’s other film, Elysium, released last year.

“We’ve had a long standing relationship with Image Engine so when Shawn Walsh, their EP, asked us if we can provide care and love on some particularly tough paint work in an aggressive timeline, we told him there was no way we could say no to such a worthy robotic cause” says Hitesh Shah, BOT’s humanoid leader.

Neill wanted to avoid using motion capture techniques to ensure authenticity to the acting and interaction with real characters, so all of the shots with Chappie were acted out by an actor in grey marker-suit, and then the actor’s motions were hand animated onto a digital Chappie.  Of course this meant that for nearly 70 minutes of the film in which Chappie is in frame, the human stand-in actor had to be clean-plated out so that the digital version could cleanly take his place.

This is where BOT’s stellar paint team rose to the varied challenges of removing the actor completely from these shots.  To make the stand-in human Chappie completely disappear in these plates so that Image Engine’s team can cleanly place the CG Chappie was a monumental feat.  The more agonizing shots to get to look just right were the ones with close interactions between the human actors that were to stay on the plate and Chappie’s human stand-in.  The delicate art of generating a believable background in areas with large dynamic motion and lighting changes was akin to creating a small constellation of animated matte-paintings for the shot in just such a way that no one even questioned that something else existed there before.

Artists who slaved over these cleanplate shots have a bitter-sweet feeling watching it in the movie.  They were ecstatic to finally see it on the big screen, but sad that no one except the craftsmen would even know that something else was originally there in the plate shot on camera.  But as any good VFX artist knows, the ultimate complement that an audience can pay to a digital paint artist’s work is to say they didn’t see anything.

Looking at BOT’s role in supporting the digital existence of robots in Chappie, perhaps the old adage that “truth is stranger than fiction” should be updated to “truth in support of fiction is stranger than fiction”.


About BAF Awards
The Best Animated Frames [BAF] Awards was started in 2004 by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FICCI] to recognize and honour students and professionals in the field of Animation. This first ever Animation Awards in India grew over the years to encompass awards not only in Animation, but also in the VFX and Gaming fields. The contest now receives top-notch entries from across the globe. In fact, the last BAF Awards held in March 2015 received 400 entries from across 12 countries. This was the 12th edition of BAF Awards which took place on March 30th, 2016 at Hotel Renaissance, Powai, Mumbai as a part of FICCI FRAMES 2016, a three day global convention covering the entire gamut of Media & Entertainment like Films, Broadcast (TV & Radio), Digital Entertainment, Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects, etc. with nearly 2000 Indian and 800 foreign delegates encompassing the entire universe of media and entertainment who attended the event.
Links
To know more about FICCI: http://ficci.in/about-ficci.asp

Women in VFX! Coffees, Conversations & More!

On Aug 6th, the LA Chapter of the Visual Effects Society held their first-ever Women in VFX coffee talk in Burbank CA. Along with the two esteemed ladies that co-chair the VES LA Section Events Chair, Hetal Jain, Executive VFX Producer at BOT VFX hosted about half a dozen women from varied walks of Visual Effects.

In attendance were veteran VFX Producer Susan Zwerman, VFX Supervisors, Animators, Look Dev Artists, Pipeline TDs and Nuke compositors.

We gathered to exchange stories about the challenges faced by women in this industry as well as developing mentorship and supporting and sharing in camaraderie.

There were floating conversations about challenges in the industry –
Not enough women in the work place, the mutual feeling of the challenges faced by fellow artisan women while starting every project with having to prove their abilities and talents all over again and interestingly  moving on to talk about the joys of wearing whatever, from sweats and flip-flops to suits and heels to work! The most coolest part of the conversations was about being accepted into the male-dominated world for liking horror, science fiction, anime, and essentially being just as much of a super-fantastic nerd as any of those guys!

I believe this will be a great forum for women to mentor each other, while supporting and bringing balance to the world of Visual Effects.

The next ‘Women in VFX’ Coffee Talk is scheduled for Sept 3rd, 2015 to be held at Akasha in Culver City. Get this on your calendar now and BE THERE.


 

The Nerd Festivities continued with Siggraph 2015 and the VES All Sections Party at the J W Marriott, next to the LA Convention Center, with approximately 150 VES members from across the lands in attendance.  Even though most of Hetal’s time was spent as a volunteer at the check-in desk, She got to meet some of the BOT clients including Refuge, Resistance, Framestore, and our dear Jeff Barnes.

I also met some very interesting people who are developing amazing experiences in the Virtual Reality space.  There was even a live VR Demo set up with an oculus for people to experience the Rings of Saturn.  Overall a really fun event. Looking forward to the next one in Anaheim. – Hetal