FutureWorks Delivers on Indian ‘Ray Donovan’ Adaptation

FutureWorks has shared with AWN their work on Netflix India’s Rana Naidu, an adaptation of the popular Showtime drama series Ray Donovan, about a celebrity fixer who takes care of his client’s problems, including everything from bribes to crime scene clean-ups.

Directed by Karan Anshuman and Suparn Verma, the action crime drama features Telugu movie stars and real-life uncle and nephew Venkatesh Daggubati and Rana Daggubati. Rana plays his namesake, Rana Naidu, a professional fixer to the Bollywood elite, while his uncle, Venkatesh, takes on the role of his troublesome father, Naga.

FutureWorks worked on all 10 episodes, delivering 1,800 VFX shots. The company’s work included action clean-ups, greenscreen sequences, and CG elements. In addition to visual effects, the studio contributed to concept and previsualization work for the project and provided camera rental services to support the production.

One key scene required the creation of a realistic CG snake, which appears during a sequence where one of the characters has taken hallucinogenic drugs. The snake, a vital part of the storyline, needed to look photorealistic. After working on the initial concept and previs, the FutureWorks VFX team created the snake’s model using Autodesk Maya and sculpted it in ZBrush. The team used Maya to complete the rigging, Maya to complete the animation, and Katana for the final lighting. Compositing was done in Nuke.

“This was one of the most difficult aspects of the show,” noted FutureWorks VFX Supervisor Vinay Chuphal. “As part of the sequence, the snake has to appear around a character’s neck. Perfecting the serpent’s interaction with the character’s hair, body, and clothes while making it look realistic was very complex. I was really proud when the direction team saw the finished shots and believed that it was a real snake.” 

During the hallucination sequences, the team also created other complicated effects, including a devil on a poster coming to life and a wall-mounted lobster decoration starting to move around.

Vinay added, “Conceptually, the lobster was interesting as well, but as it wasn’t supposed to be real, it didn’t need to be hyper-realistic, like the snake.”

Although shot on location, specific scenes required the creation of additional buildings and environments – the FutureWorks team used a mix of CG and matte painting techniques to create set extensions for integration into the live-action footage.

“This helped to create a more immersive and believable world for the characters to inhabit,” continued Vinay. “There was a lot of camera motion to deal with, which made the extensions especially challenging.”

FutureWorks’ VFX work on Rana Naidu involved greenscreens and chroma-keying techniques to merge live-action footage with CG elements. The team completed 400+ chroma shots for the show, compositing in Nuke with 2.5D techniques.

Many of the chroma sequences revolved around car chases and other action scenes. A challenging aspect was getting the lighting right. In practical filming, the actual movement of the car allows for natural sunlight to interact with the interior, creating dynamic lighting effects. The shifting position of the sun, combined with the car’s motion, produces changing shadows, reflections, and highlights, adding realism to the scene. 

However, VFX car shoots in a controlled environment, like a chroma key studio, can be more problematic. Without the actual sun, the Futureworks VFX team recreated the interplay of light and its impact on the car’s interior, simulating the sunlight’s direction, intensity, and color temperature to match the desired time of day and weather conditions. Seamless integration between the virtual elements and the live-action footage is crucial for a convincing result. Advancements in VFX technology and the team’s expertise enabled the creation of visually stunning and immersive car interior scenes, even without real-world references.

“Matching the light is hard to master and absolutely key to realism,” explained Vinay. “Seeing, in person, how the light behaves and how it falls on the car is crucial. But when shooting in chroma, you have none of that. This makes the VFX difficult because you have to simulate light and match it to the time of day and the weather seamlessly, without the real-life reference.”

He continued, “We created a CGI model of the cars and put them into Nuke to create a dome for the reflection projection. We then used the low angle 10mm lens to shoot the environment, which was projected on the windscreen, enabling us to achieve a high degree of realism for the reflections.”

The studio shared that Rana Naidu was a complex project, requiring a team of more than 40 artists working on comps and about the same number working on clean-up. FutureWorks delivered on time and within budget. With its camera team on set, the workflow benefited from the on-set crews’ ability to get and share the data needed by the VFX team. To maintain an effective workflow, the team used the project management tool ShotGrid to track and review shots throughout the process.

“We had a high number of shots to deal with, which made it a time-consuming project, so this was a significant achievement for us,” says Vinay. “We did everything possible to streamline the workflow and make every stage as efficient as possible. As a result, the VFX seamlessly integrated with the live-action footage, and we were able to achieve a high level of realism”.

FutureWorks’ CEO Gaurav Gupta added, “We’re thrilled to have worked with Netflix on the adaptation of such a popular show. In addition to completing our VFX brief to a high standard, it’s really rewarding to work on a show from start to finish, further streamlining the production pipeline with our end-to-end solutions.”

Watch the trailer for Netflix India’s Rana Naidu:

Source: FutureWorks

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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