Interview with Varun Hadkar of Studio 51, A Visual Effects Production Studio
Studio 51 is a Mumbai and Beijing-based visual effects production studio, dedicated to the film, entertainment, and advertising industries. Studio 51 offers professional services including VFX, concept design, pre-production, shoot supervision, and post-production. Studio Head, Mr. Varun Hadkar, graduated from Manchester Business School (MBA) and The University of Kent, UK (MSc), and has 19 years of experience in film and TV VFX. He has worked in the production of many famous film and TV blockbusters.
In this interview, Varun shares some of his unforgettable production experiences and future plans for Studio 51 with us. Varun’s love for the film industry started in the early 2000s. He believes that each project that he has worked on has had its own unforgettable moments and challenges during the initial stage, shooting, and also post-shooting. His current role as a supervisor requires team management as well as understanding the requirements of clients and directors.
His team, based in China and India, often uploads and Sync’s large amounts of data. Hence a stable, fast, and long-distance transfer service is vital for his work.
Check out the Full Interview with Varun Hadkar!
Raysync: Hi Varun! Thank you for accepting our interview! Would you briefly introduce yourself?
Varun: I studied commerce and finance during my undergrad years. I also had a keen interest in filmmaking and started in the film/ television industry back then, by doing small jobs in productions like MTV. After doing a few gigs, I landed a job in Rhythm and Hues, which was one of the most highly-reputed companies, over a decade ago.
After gaining a great deal of valuable experience at RnH, I left India and went to the UK to pursue further studies and work. Its was here that I completed my Masters from the University of Kent and a few years later, my MBA, from the University of Manchester. I had the opportunity to learn from and work together with some fantastic people in world-class studios.
From there, I travelled to Asia— worked with Double Negative, in Singapore then BASE, in China for a few years.
I’ve worked on many aspects of film — including producing, partially directing, and supervising. With my combined experience in these areas, I was able to establish Studio 51. We started as a VFX company but have diversified into Film production, AI, virtual production, and film making too.
Raysync: Could you share unforgettable production experiences with us?
Varun: Back when I was working with DNEG on a movie called Bridge of Spies produced by Spielberg, there were about 60-70 shots of VFX which were managed by a small team. In production, we generally do these temp comps to show the director what the shot looks like. Everybody did a version for their own shot, every shot is different. My shot went to the Director, Producer, and Spielberg's comment came in, “this looks great, final”! This was a big highlight for me. First off, this never happens on a shot of that scale. And for me, I got a direct comment from him. This was a great moment. He is a personality a lot of fans, filmmakers, artists look up to.
Raysync: As a visual effects supervisor for Avengers, Salvage Marines, and Wandering Earth, what's the most challenging part, and how did you make it?
Varun: Every project is different.
With Avengers I was with Base, working under ILM. The great thing was that ILM gave us creative freedom. However, that also made the task that much challenging— getting the creative process approved by the director, in our case director(s)! Usually, the process of approval goes through a number of steps until we reach the director's approval. With some luck and with the help of our talented artists, the work that we produced at Base was high quality and was approved by ILM. The director's approval too came fairly quickly.
For Wandering Earth, I think one of my biggest challenges was the language barrier. The entire crew spoke Chinese. Being on the set, trying to get the ideas across in front of the director, ensuring the crew understood each aspect, basically taking massive chunks of work, breaking it down to parts and funnelling it to key people, so that we were all on the same page— that was one of the most challenging things for me. This was a large-scale sci-fi film, so it definitely came with its usual challenges. Creatively, most aspects progressed steadily since the director already had a great vision and we also already had a fabulous concept artist. We had an experienced, talented art director, so that made things smooth. The film did really well, turned out to be one of the biggest blockbusters in China.
Salvage Marines, finished production in early April 2022. It hasn’t been released yet. Our teams in China and India have worked tirelessly on this. It's quite challenging to get the two teams in one pipeline, one workflow, and one structure. We are always keen to produce high-quality work, so we try our best to harness the strength of each artist and that, sometimes means bringing them together on a project, in spite of their physical location. Here it becomes extremely important to manage teams and workflow in an efficient and orderly manner.
The pandemic period has especially been challenging for our industry too. While office premises were locked-down as per government mandates, projects rolled on as scheduled. In order to meet deadlines without outsourcing work, resources needed careful re-allocation and teams required restructuring.
Raysync: Thanks for sharing. May we know your use case in data transfer?
Varun: At times we face a problem of disk space in the company (like all companies!). In 2020, covid issues led us to try out cloud servers. We decided to move ahead with your services for a few reasons. One of them being agility — the speedy response and the pro-activeness displayed, while solving issues was a plus point for us. We felt that we were able to save significant amount of time. The other key aspect that drove our choice was the ability to control user accounts and permissions. Raysync is TPN certified, and you have a vast number of functionalities which is always great. We have a lot of data being transferred between our teams in India and China - for this, we needed a stable service that works seamlessly in both locations. When we tried Raysync, it just worked. The software is light and has all the features we need. We needed quick, efficient solutions and you guys checked all the boxes!