How Did This VFX Company Win Seven Oscars

Metaverse will help create an alternate universe in which everything is going to be more of an experience
DNEG Animation
Listen to this story

One of the Hindi film industry’s most extravagant projects—‘Brahmastra’—released a few weeks back. Even years before its release, the film was widely discussed and anticipated for two reasons—the massive budget that it was created on (estimations suggest over INR 400 crore) and the spectacular VFX effects. The movie reportedly had 4,500 VFX shots, higher than any movie made. 

Double Negative (DNEG), a British-Indian visual effects and computer animation company, was behind the VFX of Brahmastra. This is the same company which worked on Dune, Ex-Machina, Blade Runner 2049, Interstellar, and Inception and won seven Oscars.

Analytics India Magazine caught up with Namit Malhotra, the chairman and CEO of DNEG, to talk about the animation industry, how evolving technology has affected it, and the future course.

Hailing from a film background (his father, Naresh Malhotra, a producer-director and his grandfather MN Malhotra, a cinematographer), the influence of cinema on his life was immense. “My aspiration was to become a filmmaker. I grew up on movies like Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump, and this kind of cinema really enthused me. As I grew up, the idea of helping filmmakers tell stories and create great cinema by bridging the gap with technology really got me on this journey,” said Malhotra. 

Malhotra started his journey in this field in the 1990s when animation was seen as a mere correction tool; cut to 2022, VFX and effects have become the crowd pullers. When we asked Malhotra about this transformation, he said, “To be honest, it is also dependent on how things develop with time. Back then, there was a lot of limitation on what technology could do—it was also very expensive and time-consuming. With time, animation has become more than just a tool to fix a scene; it has introduced a new way of doing things which have truly changed the grammar of filmmaking. We basically say to filmmakers, if you can dream it, we can do it. And that’s sort of the power of the technology and the capabilities that we have.”

What role is AI playing

Continuing the talk on how technology has changed the animation industry and cinema in general, we could no longer ignore the elephant in the room—AI. For all the industries that we can think of today, AI has been a source of transformation—big or small, notwithstanding. The same is true for the animation industry too.

“AI, for sure, has started to play a bigger role in what we do; today, we are relying on AI to drive different sorts of capabilities. For example, if we are working on creating a model of a tiger walking, AI has made that easier and faster  for us. All you need to do is to feed the AI system with a bunch of behaviour and intelligence,” said Malhotra. He added that AI helps in cutting down on a lot of laborious work.

We were tempted to ask him the very obvious question of whether AI would replace human animators. To this, he responded that while AI can help with redundant work, it would not be replacing human animators. “AI can help in bringing greater consumption in different places or in a different way; for example, people would be now able to create things that only a big film can afford. Like, people would want to create things that only a big film can afford. Suddenly, there will be more types of projects and other applications benefitting from the use of AI. I don’t see the overall demand for human animators going down. But, it would definitely help those with limited resources.”

About the future

Malhotra told us that at the end of every project, accolades notwithstanding, the team spares no time and quickly gets back to the drawing board and starts again for the next project. “Your years of experience gives you a lot of confidence in some perspective on things, but to be honest, every project we work on, you almost kind of go back, start over, and rechalk the plan and vision so that audiences this time around are not gonna get fatigued or bored by it,” he said.

He proceeded to tell us that metaverse offers a major opportunity for this industry, and his company is uniquely positioned to bring that to the fore. “Metaverse will help create an alternate universe in which everything is going to be more of an experience—it could be taking the audience for ‘a trip to the moon’, or ‘discovering the underwater world’. I think it is going to be very powerful in terms of how we can start to impact the human experience more than just entertainment. And, I think that’s where I feel we have a great opportunity to go beyond what movies have done till now,” he said.

Moving beyond the technical aspects, Malhotra feels passionate about the role that Indian cinema is set to play globally: “In a more philosophical sense, we want to continue to produce content from India and show it to the world.” In the recently released ‘Brahmastra’, Malhotra was also one of the producers.

Beyond this,  Namit Malhotra is keen on nurturing artists coming from underprivileged backgrounds. “These kids should be given opportunities to be part of this industry. Given the right resources and tools, I think these talented children would be able to undertake several artistic pursuits,” he concluded.

Download our Mobile App

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our editors every weekday evening as they steer you through the most significant news of the day.
Your newsletter subscriptions are subject to AIM Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

Our Recent Stories

Our Upcoming Events

3 Ways to Join our Community

Telegram group

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Discord Server

Stay Connected with a larger ecosystem of data science and ML Professionals

Subscribe to our Daily newsletter

Get our daily awesome stories & videos in your inbox