National award winning filmmaker Krish’s magnum opus Gautamiputra Satakarni has legendary actor Nandamuri Balakrishna starring as the eponymous lead in what is the 100th film of his career. The film chronicles the life and the glory of 2nd century AD Satavahana ruler Gautamiputra Satakarni, in his quest to unite the entire Bharata khandam under one kingdom thus ending all war and achieving a lasting peace. Prime Focus was brought in as the primary visual effects vendor under the supervision of Rajeev Rajasekharan on Gautamiputra Satakarni and its production pipeline was instrumental in completing the project on time and budget, while delivering on the highly inventive creative vision of director Krish.
An expertly art-directed blend of detailed sets, miniatures, matte paintings and CG VFX were employed to re-imagine the battle scenes of the 2nd century era. For the 7-minute opening sea battle, Prime Focus created fully CG ships which formed the naval fleet of the opposing forces. For the shots of ships ramming each other, collision and destruction simulations were designed. In the climactic siege sequence of the first-half, Satakarni is shown marching with his army of millions towards Nahapana’s fort. The sequence was initially scheduled to be shot on the sets of Hyderabad but Rajeev proposed moving the shooting location to Ait Benhaddou, in Ouarzazate province of Morocco – which he suggested housed ancient structures with walls and fortification as envisioned for the sequence. Interestingly, the same structure was used to represent the trading city of Yunkai in the popular Game of Thrones series. For the combat action sequences Prime Focus created multitudes of digital soldiers and the final shots were a combination of in-camera plates, CG soldiers and additional detailed matte painting.
For the war sequence, Prime Focus devised custom workflows not only to handle complex challenges in VFX, but also to capture meticulously all of the live action production data required to accommodate the rigorous effects and post production demands of this project.
Prime Focus also delivered crucial set extensions and backgrounds, and digitally restructured the entire fort. VFX team created multiple fully-CG siege engines and towers out of a single real structure created by the production team. Being the overall VFX Supervisor, Rajeev also supervised the Rajsuya yagya sequence as well as the climactic battle scenes of Satavahanas versus Greeks shot at Mt. Kazbek in Georgia which featured over 1000 soldiers, 300 horses and 20 chariots.
“Y. Rajeev Reddy’s production team (First Frame Entertainments) was quite supportive which allowed us to explore numerous options for enhancing the war scenes. We conceptualized the entire placement of the siege engines and the formation of the army during the battle sequences. We also suggested launching fireballs instead of stones as a means to breach the enemy walls,” said Rajeev Rajasekharan, VFX Supervisor, Prime Focus. “Delivering quality and realistic effects became all the more challenging, given the fact that all these sequences take place in broad daylight which eliminated any possibilities of employing digital treatment to mask the unrealistic elements in the shots.”
The effects required to be delivered within a short span of 60 days which was a herculean task for any visual effects studio; Prime Focus’ VFX workflow in this regard was ideally suited to this project as the company could address change requests quickly and efficiently. SS Rajamouli took to Twitter to acknowledge this achievement stating, ‘How in the heavens could you make this epic in 79days...Excellent camera work and extraordinary production values make Satakarni a proud telugu film to remember for a long time.’
“We are grateful to Mr. Y. Rajeev Reddy and First Frame Entertainments for their enormous show of support and faith in our VFX team,” said Rajeev Rajasekharan. “It was an absolute delight working with Krish again, as his clear visualization about the style, look and feel of the movie enabled us to deliver a quality result which could live up to the expectations of everyone involved in the project.”
Talking about the VFX techniques pulled-off by Prime Focus, Krish said, “To deliver such high quality effects in such a short span of time was no meagre task and we are extremely thrilled with the output delivered by Rajeev Rajasekharan and Prime Focus’ VFX team.”
Meanwhile, Prime Focus’ color grading work and finishing services were in fact central to bring the entire 135-minute length of the film together. Under the supervision of DoP Gnana Shekar V.S, Prime Focus Colorist Nilesh Sawant incorporated the visual effects into the reels and set the look for the film. As the look developed, the VFX team ensured that the shots were delivered within the color space of the original camera footage and were robust enough in terms of color behavior and dynamic range to be graded to the same extent as any normal footage.
Produced by Y. Rajeev Reddy, Jagarlamudi Saibabu under the banner of First Frame Entertainment, Gautamiputra Satakarni opened to glowing reviews on 12th January 2017.
Project – Gautamiputra Satakarni
Production House – First Frame Entertainments
Director – Krish
Producer – Y. Rajeev Reddy, Jagarlamudi Saibabu, Bibo Srinivas.
Starring – Nandamuri Balakrishna, Shriya Saran, Hema Malini
VFX Supervisor: Rajeev Rajasekharan
VP, VFX Production: Shome Dasgupta
VFX Producer: Shadab Mujawar
Compositing Lead: Debabrata Maity
Head of Production, DI – Nirmal Gala
Colorist – Nilesh Sawant
Producer, Digital Intermediate – Faiz Syed