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Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51

Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51

Studio 51 is headed by Mr. Varun Hadkar, who graduated from Manchester Business School (MBA) and the University of Kent (MSc) in the UK. He has 19 years of experience in visual effects for film and television, working on many famous films and TV blockbusters.

Studio 51 is a Mumbai and Beijing-based visual effects production studio, dedicated to the film, entertainment and advertising industries. Their team offers professional services including visual effects, concept design, pre-production, shoot supervision and post-production.

As a leading cloud rendering service provider and render farm, Fox Renderfarm is committed to helping 3D artists create their amazing works faster and better with fast, safe, and cost-effective cloud rendering services, thereby promoting the development of the whole CG industry.

Studio 51 is a long-term customer of Fox Renderfarm. This time, we had the great honor to interview Mr. Varun. In this interview, Varun shares with us some of his memorable production experiences and future plans for Studio 51. Varun's love for the film industry began in the early 2000s. He believes that every project he has worked on has its memorable moments and challenges during the initial stages, shooting phase and post-shooting. His current role as supervisor entails team management as well as understanding the requirements of clients and directors.

Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51 4

Image via Studio 51

Fox Renderfarm: 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.

Fox Renderfarm: Could you share your unforgettable production experience 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.

Fox Renderfarm: 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.

Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51 1

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.

Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51 2

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.

Meet with Varun Hadkar, The Head of Studio 51 3

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.

Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about the cloud rendering service of Fox Renderfarm?

Varun: Fox Renderfarm is being used by a lot of people now. It is so smooth for us and the support is so good. Sometimes, I feel like it is better to have Fox Renderfarm, I mean using a render farm rather than rendering on the company. Even if it is a small thing, you just feel free to send your assets there.

The service is also good. One of my colleagues wanted to render at 1 a.m., and your technicians can also reply in time. You guys managed the render farm quite well.

Now we have a project running on Fox Renderfarm. We put a lot of shots on it, and the process is so smooth, including the downloading and uploading. We have lighters and TDs submitting shots in Beijing, and the others would download them in Beijing and India. The download speed between them is similar, so the process is quite smooth.

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