Last May, the Indian VFX industry witnessed a milestone in special effects history with the release of Kochadaiiyaan. A Rajnikanth, Tamil, historic fiction thriller, and already being called the first Tamil animated film, Kochadaiiyaan comes packed with a number of notable breakthroughs in VFX technology.
Video description: Trailer of Kochadaiiyaan
The tech behind Kochadaiiyaan
Soundarya Ashwin, director of the film & Rejnikanth’s daughter, went all out to shoot the entire movie in 3D motion capture, the same technology which was used to film the 2009 James Cameron blockbuster, Avatar. Motion capture technology involves recording actions of actors, and using that information to animate digital character models in 2D or 3D computer animation. Two hundred technicians gathered to complete the project in a record time of two years, which would have taken five years in a Hollywood studio. The studio worked with a modest budget of Rs. 125 crores when their western counterparts were running up budgets of Rs. 3000-4000 crores.
Executed by Centroid Motion Picture Labs, the creators of Brad Pitt’s World War Z, the movie was released in six languages simultaneously, including Japanese, with a multi-star voice over cast, including Deepika Padukone, Shobana and Jackie Shroff. A.R. Rahman partnered with British music engineer, Geoff Foster to mix over 200 tracks of orchestra to deliver the original soundtrack for the movie.
Equipped with Auro 3D sound, 48 cameras were used to shoot each and every scene in performance capture technology, which involves recording motion sequences from actors. This meant bringing in the best talent in dance and fight sequences across the globe. Thus, the shooting was divided between different locations. A large part was shot in London, while another combat scenes involving Rajnikanth were shot at the State of the Arts Gallery, Hong Kong. In Chennai, the Tandav dance in the song Engal Kochadaiiyaan was performed by dancer Yuvraaj Jayakumar and recorded using 3D motion capture technology.
National award winning fashion designer Neeta Lulla worked on the looks of each character, and Saroj Khan was brought in to polish up the dance sequences. To recreate a replica of all the actors, their face was first scanned and then a 3D model was retrieved to get the exact precision of their features. This was the same technology that was applied in the movie Tron.
Phil Stilgoe, founder of Centroid Motion Capture Company told the Indo Asian News Service, “I’ve been in this industry for nearly fifteen years and I have seen the technology evolve. I can confidently say that Kochadaiiyaan is a lot better than several earlier films made using motion capture technology in Hollywood.”