Naughty 5

Ajit Nair, a young creative mind behind "Naughty 5" Film was invited by blender foundation for sharing his experience on occasion of celebrating the 10th birthday of Blender as Open Source project! The annual conference was held in Amsterdam, De Balie, 12-13-14 October 2012. 

Organised every year, this conference have a great mix of technical talks, scientific presentations, case studies from studios and workshops by artists and developers. The Blender Conference is really for everyone who's interested in Blender in general. 

The presentation was around "Naughty 5" a feature film of 100 minutes which is currently under production. The whole film has been made using Blender. 

The discussion was around the challenges in running a Blender studio in an industry where proprietary softwares are a norm and Challenges in setting up an open source studio set-up, developing a production pipeline and setting up training (an animation course using blender). 

Ajit who was working as a trainer in an institute teaching 3d softwares like 3ds MAX and Maya, quit in 2008 to start working on his own film as director. He decided to use Blender, because of the need of an open source solution. It’s been 4 years since then, the film is nearing completion. He is now leading a team of 25 people who are currently working on the film. Also by January 2013 he plans to launch a training institute where animation would be taught with the use of Blender as the only 3d software. In a conversation with animationsupplement.com, Ajit shares challenges of using open source software and making a feature film by using Blender!

Ajit Nair at his studio

Ajit Nair at his studio

Hi Ajit, Tell us about Vivify Animation & film studio?

We are an studio based in Navi Mumbai, and from the past 4 years we have been working on first feature film titled “Naughty 5”. 

Tell us about your young team and achievements?

We started with a small team of 7 people which has grown up to 27 people as of now. Its a fairly young team with an average age of 26. With the exception of experimental short films, none of the artists have any major film making experiences behind them. By the end of this project, they will end up having the complete experience of producing and releasing a full length feature film nationally. 

Ajit Nair at his studio


Tell us about “Naughty 5”, how idea of this film came into existence?

Naughty 5 is the title of the feature film we have been working upon. The film is about 5 naughty kids and how a  journey to the past change their lives for the better. The film is the reason the studio exists. A film producer approached me with the prospect of making an animation film. I came up with the story of “Naughty 5” and we started working on it ever since. The initial years involved lot of research and development work, while the script was being finalised. The film is in its final phases now.  

What was motivation factor to start with such kind of project?

It’s a dream for every artist to work on their own project.  There’s always pressure, but we have taken our time to get around it.  

concept artwork Naughty 5

Character Design- Naughty 5

This film is of very limited budget? How you are managing cost and labour?

It would be overly optimistic to think that an animation film would get the same response as any other mainstream bollywood movie in India. It’s nice to be optimistic about the film, but at the same time one should accept the fact that even very good movies don’t make even. So keeping the budget low is essential for survival, simply because you don’t expect a turnaround from a single film. We need enough funds to keep going on, till we find a responsive audience. Settling down in this industry is going to be a painfully gradual process. 

We are a team which have dedicated many essential years for the development of this film. So it’s important for people to sacrifice a bit to keep the budget low. The pay scales are just a bit more than what is required to survive. Also since most of the folks are pretty young they don’t have other financial obligations that come with certain age. The industry anyway is pretty unstable with most people working on contracts, so it was not very difficult to retain good artists. 

To add, working with open source softwares like Blender and GIMP on Linux platforms has brought the software cost to zero. It always helps to be technically alert. The film has been developed 100% in Blender. 

You have used blender software for your project? How you decided about it and what is main reason to go ahead with it? 

The time we started this project was just a few months after Blender foundation had released their short “Big Buck Bunny”. It was surprising to see such a beautiful film to come out of an free/libre and open source software (FLOSS). We tried Blenders 2.48 version at that time. It worked pretty fine and was passed unanimously by all my artists.  Working on a 3d film means you need a 3d application on every computer you have. So if you have 40 machines you need 40 licences (if you go for a proprietary software). Just imagine the cost you have saved by doing the same work on Blender which does it effectively and is free to use. 4 years after working on it we have never felt compromised. 

How open source software can help one to work or experiment and use professionally or personally? 

This is a very vast topic here. Using open source requires technical know-how. For example installing Ubuntu Linux will always be a different for people who have never seen anything else except Windows OS. At the end of the day productivity matters and people will use whatever gets the job done. And since these open source softwares dont find themselves in any educational courses, the people who use it require a special personal interest. But other than this its as good or in some cases even better than their propietary counterparts. 

What are challenges faced during project (hiccups)?

Most of the people in the team comprise of people whom i had good personal rapport with. So asking them to adapt was not difficult. But when we expanded, it was a bit uncomfortable to get artists to work in a small studio that to on software they hadn't worked on before. Also we had to develop our own pipeline so it took a while for a smooth flow of work to set in. 

Blender is open source software with open community project solutions? How it is helping you? 

Blenders Community support is fantastic to say the least. There are hordes of free material on the net offering technical (blenderdiplom.com) as well as high quality artistic solutions (blenderguru.com) or both (cgcookie.com/blender) pertaining to blender. Also all the people involved in the blender foundation are very responsive to anybody who has a query for them. I was surprised to learn that even Blenders' founder Ton Roosendaal takes out time to reply to any relevant mail addressed to him regarding Blender. 

Is the pipeline of blender helpful at each stage of production of film?

 Yes, all jobs pertaining to an animated film is handled well by Blender. The editability of its mesh structure at any stage has helped us a lot. Also Blender has a small memory footprint thereby allowing users to multi-task. 

You recently gave presentation in blender international conference. You mentioned about outsourcing, Intellectual property creation, education and training and about e-learning in your presentation, share your views with us. 

Animation covers a lot of aspects. Most of the boom in the animation-vfx industry in India was created when Hollywood production houses and other companies started outsourcing their jobs to India. India provided them with cheap labour with high technical efficiency. This brought a huge inflow of money in this industry subsequently increasing a demand of skilled professional which led to coming up of various institutes imparting training in animation-vfx. Apart from these outsourced jobs there were always domestic jobs from Indian film and television. Animation is also used for visualisation for training in the areas of medicine, machineries etc., various corporate presentations, product development, architectural walkthroughs, automobile renderings, etc. Studios prefer to do foreign jobs as they pay better than domestic companies. 

We would also like to know how you people are managing training and studio together.

 The training wing has not commenced yet. We will begin training a selected few students early next year, these students will eventually work with us at the film studio. We would like to train our own workforce. 

Where and when you are planning to release this film? 

We plan to release the film between April-May 2013, if its favourable. So a lot of that decision depends on the prevailing sentiment then. 

Have you received any support from community and industry for project? 

Various friends in the industry have been very encouraging and generous with help asked. But we have not been very open about the film at a public level till recent. 

What are your views regarding Indian animation training and cg training in India? 

CG training is a process which requires continuous upgradation every year. Thus making it a tedious process combining art with latest technology. The current scenario in Indian training though continuously developing is average as more focus is concentrated towards teaching software than its art. Thus they end up producing software operators. Also the job driven educational mindset in India doesn’t let a student explore any aspect which might not end up in a lucrative job.  Mostly students make their career through their own hard work with average help from their institutes. But its definitely an improving scenario. Standards today are much better than when I had started off.  

Would you like to suggest some tips for student’s community on using open source software’s and one who is planning to make movie? 

Students should refrain from keeping a software-oriented mindset. They should definitely explore open source softwares just so that they are better informed about their options. Students should focus on enhancing their creativity and art rather than understanding software functions. What you want to achieve is primary and how you achieve it is secondary. For people planning to make a film should definitely give blender a try, there will be some time spent training but it will definitely be worth it.  For bigger productions, opensource works much better if you have developers in your team.  

Making of naughty 5


Thank you for sharing information with us and best wishes for your film.

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