Amit Chopra
Amit Chopra.PR Handout

The animation and Visual Effects (VFX) industry in India may be in nascent stage, but it is registering a steady growth, the industry is estimated to grow upswing in coming years. According to a prominent industry report, the animation services market in 2016 dominated by outsourced projects from television and film sectors, which accounted for around 85 per cent of the total animation services turnover in India.

Giving a fillip to the growing industry, US-based Digital Domain, which has worked in movies like Titanic, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and recent blockbusters Spider-Man: Homecoming and Beauty and the Beast, has now set up its first studio in India, with a plan of investing over $3 million in the first phase.

Digital Domain's India studio is the latest addition after Beijing and Hong Kong facility that opened earlier this year. The company has global presences in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Vancouver, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong.

Amit Chopra, the executive director and group chief operating officer, spoke to International Business Times, India about choosing India as his next destination, their future plans etc. Excerpts from the interview:

Why did you choose India as your next destination? Is it because you have your a links with this country?

That is definitely one of the reasons. If you look at the mass population today in India or China, the two big countries ... we see a big push in the mobile industry. People are moving from small phones to smart phones. The younger generation are watching content on phone, laptops, etc. and watching lesser and lesser TV.

We are looking at business today and for the next 10 years. Our aim is to be in the places where the income levels are growing and people have the access to the technology. Our goal is to be a consumer brand. And of course, the factor that I am an Indian will be a big reason.

In India, about 1,000 movies are being made annually from multiple industries. In the next 10 years, what percent of the movies do you think will adopt VFX ?

It is difficult to say. If you look at the US or China industry, the consumer behaviour is the same. It does not matter in which country they are living in and same thing is going to happen in India. The US was like that back in 70s and 80s or 90s.  Now, if you look at the big budget movies, I think 8-9 out of 10 movies are having heavy visual effects. 

The story won't be different in India. It is little bit behind, but the fact that the consumers see products coming in the market and I am sure they will react to it. When they see better quality imagery coming in the US, they will start expecting it here. It is just a matter of time and this industry continues to grow from strength to strength and we will see more and more films made using VFX. Baahubali is a great example. We see it as a growing market for the next 10 years. How big and what percentage of it are hard for me to say.

In India, it is still about star-driven films. Do you think we will be in a situation where content-backed subjects will be given more importance than the stars. 

China and India are brand-driven societies. In Hollywood, the trend has undergone changes and a movie like Wonder Woman made without big names have won viewers' appreciation. It is a matter of time here and you will see the change in next 5-10 years.

Not many theatres in India have the facility to screen movies that are high on VFX. Looking at this aspect, do you think filmmakers will be interested to go heavy on VFX?

When the mushrooming of multiplexes started a decade ago, everybody was like there was no way people would spend more than Rs 80 per ticket. Look at current situation, the multiplex chains are on the rise. Multiplexes are on the expansion in tier I cities and are making inroads into tier II cities. As a society, we are picky about spending money. But consumers will not mind paying more money for better viewing experience.

I think, exhibitors will build better theatres if they want to tap the market. There is a huge population and the market is constantly growing. Even if they don't upgrade their theatres, our aim is to reach people on their smart phones. People are using more and more smart phones compared to three years ago. Look at Apple, I saw an article recently where the sales of iPhone saw a good growth. It is one of the expensive phones in the country, but people are lining up to buy it. For me, it is music to my ears. Because I want to build those content and push through those places.

Do you have plans to expand your branches to other parts of India?

For sure. If there is growth and business happening here, we will definitely expand our operations. We will see how the business will grow and we will flow with that. We keep always looking for a centre that will serve as centre of excellence. I don't know, but Bengaluru might be our future location. However, Hyderabad is turning out to be a big centre in south. We might have more technological developments happening here.

Digital Domain Launch
Amit Chopra, group COO, CEO North America and Sudhir Reddy,head of digital studio, India at the launch.PR Handout

Baahubali may have done wonders at the worldwide box office, but people exposed to international films criticised it over its quality. Is it so difficult to reach that  quality standards in India?

I saw the film and I liked it. Can we compare it with Hollywood films? Look at the budget that Hollywood movies spend on VFX. There are $50-75 million being spent on VFX and if Baahubali 2 was made with so much of budget, I am sure the quality would have been as good as an international film.

In 25 years of Digital Domain history, we have spent a lot of time building technologies and built a lot of assets. We are willing to bring the same technology and knowledge to India. We don't have to start from the scratch here and we just have to begin from much higher level. If I have to do a project like Baahubali you will see a lot of improvement in the price point.

Baahubali 2 and 2.0 are two big budget films made in India which have heavy VFX. Do you think the trend is here to stay?

I believe the trend will continue to grow. Being here, we want to be part of those films and help them build better visual effects using the technologies that we have developed over the years.

How do you rate Baahubali series out of 10?

I enjoyed the movie a lot. I think there were lots of companies that they worked in the project. If I am not wrong, they also took the work outside India. I do believe that they can do better and Digital Domain can deliver a better product in that price point.

The projects that you are working on now?

I can tell you the studios that we are working with. We have projects with Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, Fox, etc. We are working on multiple projects at any given time.