India Special: Stories from the 3D Industry

For over two decades, India has been a growing power in the 3D sector; in terms of technical proficiency, the number of Indian studios associated with major projects, and the sheer growth in numbers of professionals and consumers, India has increasingly been making its presence felt. 

We wanted to learn more. In November 2019, the Substance team set off on an adventure. An Indian adventure, to meet with a range of studios and to speak face to face with active members of the Indian 3D community, in order to gain more insight into India’s rising 3D prominence. 

From Bangalore to Mumbai, with stops in Hyderabad, Kochi, and Pune, we discovered a vibrant ecosystem of large and small studios, working in a diverse range of fields: VFX and animation, AAA, indie and mobile games, architecture and product visualization, and AR/VR. 

We met up with the heart and soul of Indian 3D art, the people, at events such as Unite and India Joy, where we were blown away by the enthusiasm and passion of so many talented artists and aspiring students. We had the privilege of peeking behind the curtain of Framestore/Anibrain, an established studio, and trailed in the offices of a (for now) lesser-known indie game studio Nodding Heads Games. 

It quickly became clear that the 3D sector in India merited a special series of interviews in the magazine, to spotlight this group from whom we wanted to hear more. Two events, five cities, 25 interviews, and way too much spicy food later, we compiled these interviews in a series of articles to share what we witnessed there. 

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“Today all roads lead to India”: The Rise of VFX and Animation in India

Anibrain/Framestore offices in Pune, India.

The VFX and animation industries have been at the forefront of CG in India. Historically, 2D animation was already big in India when 3D animation raised its head in the mid-90s. It was a difficult endeavor for freshly starting CG studios to transition 2D artists to doing 3D, as there were virtually no available 3D artists at that time. Eventually, VFX and animation studios became more proficient in their art, often by hiring trainers from overseas and building up in-house training courses for joining artists. 

Nowadays, many have surpassed their traditional status as outsourcing companies, becoming partners who can carry out work at the same level of quality as the overseas studios they work with. In this article, we interview some industry veterans, including Jesh Krishna Murty, founder and CEO of VFX studio Anibrain (who merged with Framestore in 2018), and P. Jayakumar, CEO of 3D animation studio Toonz Animation. We’ll also look at the Substance pipeline implemented at Anibrain/Framestore in our on-location filmed interview. 

“India has a variety of 3D studios of different kinds and sizes catering to the industry. These include 3D generalists, studios who are the service providers of end to end services.  Other studios are more specific in nature and cater to animations or lighting & rendering or asset building requirements outsourced to them. In addition, there are studios who have their own IPs (Intellectual Property) and do everything in-house and produce original content”.
– Samit Shetty, 3D artist & technical solutions manager at Autodesk India.

Tech Legends: India’s Growing AAA Game Rep

Artwork Courtesy of Lakshya Digital

The gaming industry in India has grown over the past two decades and is now on the map as one of the major creative destinations for game development in the world. Many studios, such as Lakshya Digital and Sumo Digital, provide art services working on large international franchises. The output quality of these studios has grown over the years, to the point where international companies now want a presence in India, such as Technicolor Games in Bangalore, and the acquisition of Dhruva Interactive by Rockstar Games in 2019. 

Finally, many smaller studios are opening, with eager creatives working on their own IP, such as Lifelike Studios and their game Rogue Heist, or Nodding Heads Games with Raji: An Ancient Epic

Get an overview of the gaming industry in India as we interview Rajesh Rao, founder of Dhruva Interactive, Bhanu Prakash, technical director at Technicolor Games, and get to know more about the art pipelines of Lakshya Digital, Sumo Digital, and Lifelike Studios. 

“Outsourcing has allowed Indian game developers to get exposure to work with some of the best creative talent in the world, pick up new skills and work to international standards, which has helped in creating a solid base for  the  future. Top international studios such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Rockstar and Zynga have already set up development centers in India, which only goes to show the quality of the game development talent present in the country. ”
– Pradeep Kumar, Associate Art Director at Lakshya Digital

Raji: An Ancient Epic – Enter the Realm of Indian Mythology

Image courtesy of Nodding Heads Games

Raji: An Ancient Epic is not just the story of a young girl chosen by the gods trying to save her brother and the whole of humanity from the grasp of a demonic invasion. It is also the story of a small indie studio, Nodding Heads Games, working on their first ambitious title from their apartment studio in Pune, India. Discover their story and the rich world of Indian mythology as they share the ups and downs of indie game development and how they used the Substance toolset for their art pipeline. 

“Our dream is to create a game that represents the myths, the stories, and the culture from India. This was one of the reasons why the team got together. As gamers, we never got to experience a game like ours. We’re extremely passionate about wanting to portray the rare beauty of Indian culture and mythology, which was rarely explored within the video game industry.”
– The Nodding Heads Games team

Mayhem on the Move: Mobile Gaming in India  

Image courtesy of BornMonkie

Mobile gaming has spearheaded the game development industry in India. The mobile gaming community in India is massive, and many small mobile games studios have set up to cater to that demand creating their own IPs, such as BornMonkie and their outrageously India-themed game Tuk Tuk Battlegrounds, and Hypernova Interactive with their War Tanks franchise. How are these games made and how do these studios use Substance? Find out in our article on mobile gaming in India. 

“In the past half-decade or so, we’ve seen a rise of indie studios making their own games like Asura and Raji in 3D with in-house artists, and the production quality has increased every year. People are being exposed to global trends and industry standards, and there’s a rapid rise in the quality of the upcoming talent in the Indian 3D industry due to that.”
– Biswajeet Barman, Art Lead at Hypernova Interactive

Digitizing Lowe’s Entire Catalog for Virtual Shopping Experiences

Image courtesy of House of Blue Beans

House of Blue Beans operates in the rapidly developing field of product visualization. Their work is of such high quality that they partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvements to digitize their entire product catalog. In this both filmed and written interview, find out how a small Bangalore-based team uses the Substance toolset to texture hundreds of assets every month for photo-real results. 

“Creating 3D images, by contrast, is cheaper and faster than a conventional photo shoot, and has the advantage of creating future-proof assets that open up the possibility of augmented and virtual shopping experiences, as such technology gradually becomes more mainstream.”
Keshav & Kaushik Vijay, founders of House of Blue Beans

19 Million Polygons! A Theme Park Entirely in VR 

Image courtesy of Sunovatech

Sunovatech is a New Delhi-based archviz and urban development studio. Recently, they worked on re-creating an entire theme park in VR, the soon to be opened Quest theme park in Doha, Qatar. Check out how they used the Substance toolset in this article. 

“In the coming 5 years, I expect virtual reality will be the next big revolution in the entertainment sector. I believe we will meet and greet one another in the immersive world.”
Aditya Tuknait, Production director at Sunovatech.

Raising the Next Generation of 3D Artists in India

Artwork by Armaan Kumar

We all know how important education is to train the next generations of 3D artists. Virtually non-existent two decades ago, education in fields such as game development, VFX and animation has come a long way in India since then. Courses in these fields have rapidly developed but are still to be perfected. This is mirrored by the fact that many studios have in-house training programs to bring freshly graduated students up to date with the newest tools and pipeline practices. Find out more in our article focusing on 3D education in India.