Posted Oct 27

From renting movies on VHS to The Mill’s Head of 3D in India

by Jane Bracher
From renting movies on VHS to The Mill’s Head of 3D in India by Jane Bracher

It started with renting a video cassette player, some VHS tapes, and watching Jurassic Park. Now, Gaurav Mathur has established a career in visual effects and is the Head of 3D for The Mill in India.

The Focus spoke with Gaurav to learn more about his journey to his current role as well as his day-to-day duties. He also shares his thoughts on the future of visual effects and content creation.

If you’d like to pursue a career in VFX or are interested in taking the next step, apply for jobs at The Focus here.

Read The Focus’ Q&A with Gaurav below.

What sparked your interest to work in the creative industry? Tell us a bit about your path to your role now and the hurdles you encountered along the way. 

The VCR/VHS revolution in India. It made cinema accessible as a personalised experience to mass audiences during the late eighties and early nineties. I was hooked on Hindi movies from my childhood. In those days, average households in smaller towns (where I grew up) could rent in a video cassette player for 30-40 rupees per day along with a couple of Hindi movie videotapes. Nobody minded the patchy quality and interference noise on a massively overused VHS tape for the price. 

Things began to change with the liberalisation of the Indian economy in the early nineties. Hollywood blockbusters started showing up in local video cassette parlours. Eventually, I saw Jurassic Park and it captured my imagination. That experience pretty much sealed my decision to pursue a career in computer graphics. Before the era of the Internet, exposure to filmmaking or animation was nearly non-existent in smaller cities or towns in India. After graduating, I moved to Mumbai to follow my dream and found Animagic, to my incredible luck. 

Animagic Special Effects is one of the pioneering classical animation and special effects boutique studios in India. They allowed me to absorb and learn as much I could. It was kind of a film school experience on steroids.  

I’ve worked in various roles in visual effects pipelines throughout my career. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best people and teams in the business at Prime Focus, Rhythm and Hues, Dreamworks Animation, Animal Logic, and DNEG before finally landing at The Mill. 

It’s like coming full circle. I started as 3D generalist in advertising and here I'm back with the opportunity to be part of a global studio at the forefront of advertising VFX. I’ve completed 3 years at The Mill Bangalore studio and recently got promoted to Head of 3D. It’s an absolute honour. 

What does a typical work day for you look like?

Commercial advertising work is anything but predictable. Things change very rapidly; one must adapt fast. I have been supporting project teams in various roles from shot execution to leading projects, debugging, troubleshooting tech or engineering related issues, managing artists and project teams, conducting training sessions, engaging with global studios and building relationships, etc. Of late, my time is split between CG, realtime and group FX needs at Technicolor India, with a focus on improving the quality of 3D services delivered to our clients.

What is the most challenging part of your job as well as the most fulfilling aspect of it? 

Mill Bangalore office works with 5 different Mill studios globally. The most challenging part is trying to manage different time zones. 

Every day, I look forward to engaging with highly passionate individuals and teams delivering high-quality work on the most demanding timelines. I get to learn a lot from this group. It’s a very fulfilling and rewarding experience on both professional and personal levels. 

What is one misconception about your role or something that most people don’t know or understand about it? 

I don’t know yet. I’ve stepped into the head of 3D role very recently; it will be interesting to find the answer. 

You’ve worked on all manner of shows throughout your career in FX. What excites you about the future of visual effects and FX in particular? 

The future of visual effects and its growth lie in the future of content creation. It's important to look at the use of VFX outside of the context of traditional filmmaking. 

Today, computer graphics hardware and technologies coupled with artificial intelligence are changing the landscape of the way content is being created.

Deep fake videos, realtime effects filters on social apps, augmented reality on mobile devices or technology frameworks and ecosystems such as Unity and Unreal engine have made content creation much easier and more accessible to many people. To me, visual effects are just another tool supporting the narrative. However, I feel it’s yet to see the kind of explosive growth photography saw after the digital camera revolution.

What is a particularly memorable project you worked on or a show you’re proudest of and why? 

Raju & I. It’s a National Award-winning animated film raising awareness about the plight of underprivileged children in society. This was my first project as a generalist at the start of my career and to this day it remains my proudest work. –

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