Rourkela lad Mandeep Singh brought laurels to Odisha as a member of the VFX team of epic American sci-fi Avatar 2: The Way of Water that bagged an Oscar this year for Best Visual Effects. According to him, staying committed to one’s vocation, having a clear vision, and being willing to take chances are all essential to success.
Though the Oscars success has made him rather busy these days, Mandeep took some time off from his work to speak to Sunday POST via e-mail from his Wellington home.
What motivated you to seek a profession in visual effects, and how did you come on board of Avatar 2?
Having an older sister who works in the IT industry made it challenging for me to decide between programming and animation. But finally, zeroed in on the latter as I didn’t enjoy the other one. I made a few daring choices to pursue my passion. I would quit unsatisfying jobs to work on personal projects and eventually, I landed a job in James Cameron directorial at Weta when they were hiring. Timing and my willingness to take risks played a role in my journey to success.
What value did you add to the project?
My contribution was to transfer the artistes’ performances to the computer-generated characters. The work was collaborative. We worked on some details for days making sure we got those emotions and body language exactly how our director wanted, after all it was his vision.
What, in your opinion, distinguishes the best VFX work from the rest?
Avatar 2 stands out as 90 percent of its content comprises computer-generated characters, which is rare in VFX films. What distinguishes this project is the unity of vision between the director and artists, striving for something extraordinary rather than solely focusing on making money.
Can you share a challenging visual effects sequence you worked on for Avatar 2?
There were so many of them, and each sequence presented unique set of challenges. One of them is working on the shots when Jake and his family moves out of their hideout and are heading towards the water tribe to find shelter. Animating those Ikrans and knowing how a bird glides – studying those technicality and details so that they did not look wrong was a challenging as well as learning experience.
How being part of an Academy award winning movie has impacted your career?
Well I am still at Weta. So, nothing has changed and we continue to work on other amazing stuff. But yeah I have received a lot of attention from my hometown which surely has made my friends and family proud. I’m also getting offers from different studios but I am happy where I am.
What makes working on Avatar 2 different from the other films you’ve worked on?
Here, attention to detail played a crucial role in creating a visually stunning world. The digitally created forests, oceans, animals, creatures, and Na’vi appear real. For instance, all scenes were shot in a tank, requiring actors to learn to hold their breath for extended periods and act underwater. This translated into believable underwater scenes, unlike other projects that relied on ropes and added water digitally.
What words of wisdom would you offer budding VFX artists?
For new artists, it’s important to be true to their craft and clearly understand your objectives. To gain alternative viewpoints, they must consult other artists and even those outside the field. The industry can be difficult, with instances of unexpected layoffs and inadequate recognition and compensation. But persistence and commitment have been crucial for success. Work hard, prioritise personal growth, and ignore distractions.
MADHUSMITA SAHU, OP