India will become a larger player in the global AVGC industry: Arjun Madhavan, Assemblage

In this interview with Adgully, Arjun Madhavan, CEO, Assemblage Entertainment, discusses the significance of the government’s new AVGC policy and task force announcement and its impact on the animation and VFX industry. He highlights the opportunities for growth in the sector, the challenges faced by Assemblage Entertainment, and their strategies for overcoming them. Madhavan also shares insights into the unique challenges faced during the production of the film ‘Rocketry - The Nambi Effect’, as well as the latest technologies employed by Assemblage.

He also talks about the partnership between Assemblage Entertainment and Cinesite, and his vision for the company’s role in the broader Indian animation and VFX industry. Furthermore, he elaborates on the goals and objectives of AniMela, India’s prestigious AVGC festival, and its potential benefits for the Indian animation industry. Excerpts:

The government will soon be revealing a new AVGC policy and task force. What is the significance of this announcement and how will it impact the animation and VFX industry?

The government’s new AVGC policy and task force announcement is exciting as it recognises the potential of the animation and VFX industry to contribute to the country’s economic growth. Focusing on skill development, training, and education will fuel the industry’s momentum. Over the past two decades, India has invested heavily in honing its craftsmanship and building capacity, aided by the government and capitalising on the nation’s enormous potential. With this dedicated policy, India will become a more competitive and larger player in the global AVGC industry.

Assemblage Entertainment is known for its innovative and high-quality work. Could you tell us about some of the challenges you have faced as a company, and how you have overcome them?

Managing a creative group is challenging. It demands skillfully maintaining creative quality, innovation, and budget awareness while observing deadlines. Success in running a studio involves meeting quality standards, staying within budget, and delivering on time.

We appreciate that Assemblage is recognised for its inventive methods, but this involves hard work. Creative organisations like ours face many obstacles, including talent availability, budget constraints, complicated production processes, strict deadlines, and high creative expectations from partners and clients. We must employ innovative tools, and technology to achieve goals within these limitations. A structured training and mentoring system can make a significant impact!

Each project presents unique difficulties. While there’s no specific guide on how to overcome them, the right attitude can make a significant impact.

The Indian animation and VFX industry is poised for significant growth in the coming years. What do you see as the biggest opportunities for this sector, and how is Assemblage Entertainment positioned to take advantage of them?

As per the latest FICCI EY Report 2023, India’s animation and VFX industry is valued at approximately Rs 107 billion, with projections to reach Rs 180 billion by 2024. Potential areas for growth include rising demand for animated content, international studio collaborations, expansion in gaming, higher-end outsourcing work from global partners, and incorporating animation into advertising, marketing, education, metaverse and adjoining industries.

India’s economic advantage and vast talent pool have led to partnerships with renowned powerhouses like Walt Disney, Netflix, Amazon Prime, DreamWorks and many others. The popularity of digital platforms has increased the need for top-notch animated content, giving the Indian animation industry a chance to create unique content for a global audience. The industry is and will continue to be heavily reliant on India’s supply of diverse talent, the demand for varied content owing to India’s diverse demographics on the back of Internet penetration across India will also propel growth of the industry.

The rapid expansion of India’s gaming industry presents another opportunity for the animation and VFX sector to supply high-quality visuals and animations. The pioneering role of game engines and technology in traditional animation workflows will also yield several opportunities.

Furthermore, the growing global use of animation in advertising, marketing, education and related industries offers additional prospects for India's animation industry to produce animated and VFX content for promotional campaigns.

The vision at Assemblage Entertainment is to establish a family-focused animation studio that brings animation content to children and families within a vast and international ecosystem. The company aims to capitalise on the Indian animation and VFX industry's growth potential by changing perceptions about the sector and the nation. Already known for its craftsmanship, Assemblage Entertainment focuses on delivering high-quality work, effective communication, and delivering on promises. We are striving to dispel the perception that India over-promises and under-delivers, and I believe that India has already proven its ability to deliver. The company is making giant strides towards this goal by setting the right framework.

Assemblage Entertainment has worked on several high-profile projects, including ‘Rocketry - The Nambi Effect’, which received a nomination at the Filmfare Awards. Could you tell us about some of the unique challenges that you faced in bringing this project to life, and how you overcame them?

Transitioning from animation to VFX presented a considerable challenge for the team, as we had a limited and basic existing in-house VFX pipeline. As we embarked on the feature, we concurrently set out to build our tools and technology from scratch. The team’s journey with Rocketry commenced in November 2018, but due to the unyielding grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, the film only saw its release later in 2022.

The growing VFX unit at Assemblage then consisted of 100 incredibly talented artists who, through the magic of storyboarding and pre-visualisation, crafted spectacular and seamless VFX sequences in line with the director, R Madhavan’s vision. The director and the artists at Assemblage dove into extensive research to deliver nothing less than exceptional results. By scouring for ISRO videos and poring over photographs, visiting laboratories to research and see the “engine” samples, Team Assemblage had the mandate to make the CG assets and VFX “believable”. They meticulously crafted genuine-feeling rocket launch and engine testing sequences that are pivotal to the story of the film.

Assemblage Entertainment has recently invested in a new studio facility with new technology to keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of the animation industry. Could you tell us about some of the latest technologies that you are using, and how they are impacting the way you work?

We have made significant strides in advancing our technological capabilities by developing a cutting-edge digital infrastructure specifically designed to accommodate the “hybrid” work model. This has been achieved through the implementation of a pioneering, centralised computing setup and data center, which enables both local and remote operations using a hub-and-spoke approach. This innovative setup provides a fluid environment for our human resources, including artists, to function efficiently whether they are working from office spaces or remotely. Moreover, it ensures effective management of the operational “brain” within a high-tech setting.

The fusion of skilled talent and progressive technology in the animation industry has been dramatically enhanced by these recent upgrades. As a result, our studio can now supply to global distributors, studios, and producers with exceptional-quality content (CG & VFX) that is not only high in value, but also securely and flexibly delivered.

Our Studio is also “TPN-certified” and deploys world-class standards for operations and security.

Assemblage Entertainment has entered into a partnership with Cinesite, one of the world’s most respected independent digital entertainment studios. Could you tell us about the nature of this partnership and how it will benefit both companies?

We are thrilled to join forces with the Cinesite, an independent digital entertainment studio. They bring a vast background in feature animation and VFX, making them a perfect fit for our expansion plans. By tapping into their creative know-how, resources, international reach, and solid talent pool, we can produce top-notch content for our clients.

This alliance opens doors for both companies to work hand-in-hand on a wide array of projects while offering a full suite of services such as visual effects and animation. It also connects us to Cinesite’s worldwide client and partner networks, helping us break into new markets.

In essence, this collaboration lets us capitalise on each other’s strengths and skills to undertake exciting new ventures that will drive our mutual growth.

As the CEO of Assemblage Entertainment, how do you see the role of the company in the broader Indian animation and VFX industry, and what are your goals for the company in the coming years?

The focus is now on bringing the best of the Indian animation industry to the global stage. It is essential for everyone involved to unite and reshape the world’s view of India’s AVGC, transforming it from a service provider to a cooperative partner. Additionally, we should work on expanding the reach of animation to Indian viewers. Industry leaders ought to prioritise offering suitable content, crafted from our rich storytelling heritage.

There is optimism over the next three years, as we have a secured orderbook. This brings confidence, stability, and opportunity for our creative community. In the next five years, I envision Assemblage producing more impressive work and creating even more content for Indian audiences.

You are also on the board of India’s first prestigious International Animation, VFX, XR, Gaming & Comics Festival – AniMela. Could you tell us about the goals and objectives of this festival, and how it can benefit the Indian animation industry?

AniMela’s main objective is to display India’s creative strengths in the Animation, VFX, XR, Gaming, and Comics (AVGC) fields and build a stage for global industry experts, creators, and fans to connect. The event’s purpose is to boost awareness and highlight India as an AVGC centre, exhibiting the nation’s technical and artistic talents on an international scale.

The festival aims to give Indian artists a chance to network with international figures and foster collaborations, paving the way for more employment opportunities, investment, and joint projects. AniMela aspires to raise India’s AVGC sector to new heights and make it a driving force in the nation’s economy.

AniMela will host various activities like masterclasses, seminars, workshops, screenings, and an awards show. It is an ideal setting for professionals to learn, display their abilities and creations, and explore new concepts and technologies. Additionally, the event allows the public to engage with industry insiders and discover the most recent AVGC trends.

In summary, AniMela is a crucial endeavour that can substantially help the Indian animation field by encouraging growth, innovation, and cooperation. It has the potential to bring India’s AVGC industry on the world stage, inviting further investments and creating more job opportunities.


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