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yFX: A journey of evolution, understanding and pushing the envelope. How a dedicated team led by Sherry Bhadra changed the face of visuals in Bollywood

en Bollywood News yFX: A journey of evolution, understanding and pushing the envelope. How a dedicated team led by Sherry Bhadra changed the face of visuals in Bollywood

Will the rise of AI and ML change the face of visuals in Bollywood? yFX head Sherry Bhadra has a positive outlook… “I think AI and ML are reshaping our industry”

In 2016, India's cinematic landscape witnessed a ground-breaking shift as one of the leading film production houses, Yash Raj Films, unveiled yFX - a dedicated division solely committed to the artistry of visual effects. With a vision to revolutionize storytelling through seamless and captivating visuals, Yash Raj Films embarked on a journey to redefine the boundaries of cinematic immersion. Fast forward to the present day, yFX stands as a towering presence in the industry, boasting over 30 projects, 48478 shots, and a team of over 250 passionate individuals. Through a relentless pursuit of innovation and creativity, yFX has not only established itself as a premier visual studio but has also set new standards for collaboration, ideation, and inspiration.

yFX: A journey of evolution, understanding and pushing the envelope. How a dedicated team led by Sherry Badra changed the face of visuals in Bollywood

yFX: A journey of evolution, understanding and pushing the envelope. How a dedicated team led by Sherry Bhadra changed the face of visuals in Bollywood

From the blockbuster spectacle of Pathaan starring Shah Rukh Khan to the adrenaline-fueled action of Tiger 3 featuring Salman Khan, and the high-octane thrill ride of War starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, yFX has consistently delivered awe-inspiring visuals that blur the line between reality and imagination. Under the leadership of Sherry Bhadra, yFX remains committed to its evolution, with an unwavering focus on the core essence of cinematic storytelling - visuals that captivate, inspire, and leave audiences spellbound. Bollywood Hungama caught up with the visionary to gain a better perspective on the future of VFX and how the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect the overall growth of the industry.

THE JOURNEY
YFX was established in 2016, which is almost a decade ago. How has the journey been so far?
We were set up to handle the VFX for Yash Raj Films and being a part of the production company works in our favour with all teams valuing VFX requirements, inputs, and collaborating with us right from conception. The early involvement aligns all HoDs creatively and technically while streamlining the budget and schedule.

At YFX, our team is composed of creatives who possess a passion for VFX and the whole gamut of filmmaking. The artists are driven to embrace challenges– constantly seeking opportunities to explore and enhance their skill sets in diverse areas. With the films getting bigger, we’re always excited to explore, test, and incorporate new technologies and methodologies to deliver content at par with the best in the world.

Over the years we have seen an increase of VFX in film, from using it in the background to now developing full-blown storyboards and scenes that are VFX driven. How has the journey been?
It’s been interesting to see the growth of the industry worldwide and in India over the years. We’re seeing the perception in filmmaking shift from finding solutions in post-production pipelines to better planning in pre-production. This is important for various reasons. It allows VFX to deliver higher-quality iterations faster and simultaneously keeps filmmaking budgets and timelines in check. The advent of new technologies like game engines in VFX production has also been something that we have been excited to use in projects allowing us to get better, faster, and smarter.

THE WORK BEHIND THE IDEA
We have to mention one of the biggest money-spinners of 2023, Pathaan. The VFX in Shah Rukh Khan starrer was impressive. How challenging was the whole process considering the high need of VFX in the film?
Sid (Siddharth Anand) wanted Pathaan to embody dangerous, large-scale action and visuals which required heavy investment and development in the pre-production stage. We had very little time to deliver the shots and were hit with the pandemic in the early stages of the shoot. There were restrictions on travel and shooting outdoors and we had to change these plans and come up with creative alternatives that worked within our tight timeline. The shoot for many scenes was incomplete or had not even begun. We braced ourselves to create a lot of additional heavy-duty assets, like the canyon in the Pathaan-Tiger sequence, in addition to re-working a lot of the major actions that had been planned like in the Moscow sequence. We managed to deliver all the shots in under 9 months with additional builds, workarounds, multiple creative iterations and re-shoots.

Today, looking at what has been accomplished; can we say that the Indian VFX standards are now matching Hollywood?
It is apparent that a lot of the work from India is at par with Hollyowod, just seeing some of the latest releases from India. Filmmakers are now informed about the leverage VFX can bring to their vision, in scale and epic style action. This translates into better budgets and better planning. Because of this, we have cutting-edge tech, artists get more training and studios can invest in structured pipelines increasing efficiency.

THE RISE OF AI
Artificial Intelligence is in vogue these days. How do you look at AI's involvement in VFX and post-production process?
I think that AI (Artificial Intelligence) has the potential to expand on what’s possible in VFX. Processes are becoming faster and more inclusive. We are a very small studio and want to keep it that way. But our projects are getting increasingly complex, and we have to find ways to get efficient. So using AI and ML (Machine Learning) for routine, manual tasks allows us more time and energy to focus on the more creative aspects. We invested the time between our last and current project to test and train various AI and we’re already reaping its benefits.

There are also concerns raised about the misuse of AI and its dangers. How do you look at this?
I think AI and ML are reshaping our industry. For e.g. with generative AI, we are seeing things like digital recreation of actors who aren’t with us anymore. But remember there is always an artist behind the process. Human creativity and abstraction cannot be replaced. We can also see how in the future using ML and AI without guidelines and regulations in place could spiral into uncontrolled proportions and compromise the craft.

FUTURE FORWARD LEARNINGS
Going forward, in 2024 what major changes do you envision VFX will bring to film?
I think the industry’s roadmap is to focus on pre-production planning to avoid the cascading effects of unplanned shoots and VFX’s role to ‘fix it in post’. VFX having a seat at the table is making the process of filmmaking more iterative, collaborative, and creative. With the complexity and quantity of work increasing, so is the need for HoDs to adopt new processes in filmmaking, which allow them to explore and use VFX to its fullest intent. We’re diving deep into exploring the realms of virtual production, robotic cameras, motion capture, virtual sets, digital doubles etc., all in the pursuit of enhancing the realism of the story.

From 2016 to now 2024, what have been the key learning and understandings that you have received over the years in terms of VFX usage?
Today, VFX is used across the board from advertisements, commercial content, OTTs, films and theatrical releases. In some form or the other there is a better understanding of the art and its advantages for increasing scale, pushing the boundaries, and reaching new heights with better planning and budgeting. With the advent of international studios in the country, the market has exploded, and we now have more training institutes and more young students are pursuing VFX as a career choice. The latest AVGC draft policy outlines a focused and strategic growth path for the industry. So, we’re seeing a trend shift from a highly unregulated industry to becoming more regularised. Smaller studios were previously dependent on their survival from one project to the next, but now they’re able to sustain themselves because of better planning, resources and a more robust industry.


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