The film Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has become the biggest Indian blockbuster ever, cutting across languages. Directed by SS Rajamouli, the second part of the Baahubali franchise has raked in over ₹1,000 crore in box-office revenues.
Much has been said about the film's direction, acting and story line, but the technology and visual effects employed to make it have also played a large part in its success. Baahubali 2's VFX has been applauded by critics and moviegoers alike. This is only the third Indian movie to have been released in IMAX and it is also compatible with the 4K HDR colour format.
Rajamouli has a track record of producing good movies with special effects, starting with Eega (Makkhi in Hindi). He began his association with the Makuta Visual Effects company, situated in Hyderabad, with Eega and has continued it with Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. Raja Koduri is Makuta's chief technical adviser, and also the Senior Vice President and Chief Architect of the Radeon Technologies Group at AMD. The AMD group has also contributed in the making of the two Baahubali films.
"It all started a couple of years ago, when I had the chance to visit Rajamouli's set in India" Koduri said, speaking with HuffPost India. "The filmmakers were re-creating an entire ancient kingdom across 200 acres of land for their film setting. I was blown away by the scale and I immediately wanted AMD to get involved."
"Prior to the first Baahubali film, I showed Rajamouli a demo of the character Ruby from the ATI Showreel to demonstrate the power of AMD's graphics cards," he added. "We decided to integrate Radeon graphics chips into the film from the beginning."
Budget was an issue in Baahubali: The Beginning, with VFX of such scale being incorporated in an Indian film for the first time. After the film's release, Rajamouli visited Los Angeles to learn more about VFX technology. There, he met visual effects expert John Griffith who has worked on movies such as the X-Men series, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The pair ended up working on Baahubali 2's climactic war sequence. Griffith worked on the pre-visualisation part, which is a technique to render some scenes before the movie is filmed.
AMD equipped the team with the latest CPUs and GPUs, specifically using Radeon Pro WX series graphics cards to render larger than life images. Koduri said that these cards are made for creators who want to use detail and geometry to make the scenery look lifelike. For editing, the Baahubali team used Radeon Loom software which allowed Rajamouli to make the edits in real time.
"Since our intent was to go beyond the movie's form and content, I started working on the individual ideas and quickly collaborated with director SS Rajamouli and the companies in respective fields to develop these content about two years ago," Shobu Yarlagadda, co-founder and CEO of Arka Mediaworks, the production studio for the movie, told the Business Standard.
According to Pete Draper, one of the co-founders of Makuta VFX, the total data generated for the movie would have been around 110-115 terabytes.
"In Baahubali 2, there is more emphasis on spaces inside the Mahishmathi and Kunthala kingdom," he said in an interview with FirstPost. "There are a lot more set pieces and way more action and drama in the second part. Plus, we have taken the assets from the first part and enhanced them exponentially for this one." Draper added that that some of the scenes were made during building the VR experience. Also some scenes created in 2013 were reformatted and re-rendered to make them look better.
The VR and other experiences
AMD also worked with the Baahubali team to create a couple of so-called VR experiences as part of the publicity around the films. Last year, AMD released a 360 video of an on-set experience which could be viewed with a simple Google Cardboard viewer.
The AMD team has also developed a 'virtual experience' that lets the viewer determine the story's narrative. For this, it has employed the new advanced Vega graphics card along with Liquid VR technology by Radeon, so there is more fluidity and less stuttering when the user tries it out. A new BB360 camera, with 32 lenses and real-time VR preview, was designed for a better end product.
"During the shooting of Bahubali: The Beginning, Raja who is my cousin, came on the sets and showed me the VR technology," Rajamouli said, speaking with HuffPost India on the phone. "I was really thrilled by seeing such a drastic advancement in the technology. I told Raja immediately that we want to do something around Bahubali. This platform gives a tremendous opportunity to capture the largeness of Bahubali."
There are plans for kiosks to be set up in malls and theatres where Baahubali fans can take a VR ride. AMD will use HTC Vive as its choice of VR headset.
"The VR approach in cinema is very different from gaming or other fields," Koduri explained. "The film requires the use of powerful GPUs that handle enormous amounts of data, transforming it into realistic, 3D creations that moviegoers can interact with."
Other goodies fashioned around the Baahubali franchise include Amazon Prime's animated series called Baahubali: The Lost Legends in partnership with Graphics India and Sharad Devarajan. The series revolves around untold stories about the characters in the movie. Moonfrog Labs from Bengaluru has developed a strategy game called 'Baahubali: The Game'. To develop the game, the studio worked with Mark Skaggs, creator of the infamous Facebook hit, Farmville.
After turning Baahubali into a mega-hit movie franchise, the team behind the films is extending the reach of the content through various technological means. More filmmakers are like to follow suit in an attempt to gain greater audience traction.