The Visual Effects Artists Behind RRR Pull Back The Curtain On The Blockbuster Epic [Exclusive Interview]

Daniel, I’m a big James Bond guy, and they use a lot of miniatures. There’s been a lot of focus on the CGI and the visual effects in that sense in this movie. But can you talk about how the miniatures were incorporated a bit? I would love to know more about that.

French: I’ve always been a huge fan of miniatures myself. I think it’s a great tool to have in your toolbox. Since CG has become such a big tool, everyone’s kind of throwing miniatures out as an old, obsolete tool. But I think that’s a mistake. I think it’s still a viable option for a lot of effects, and especially when it comes to physical effects like fire and explosions and so on. Obviously, you have to build them large enough to hold up in camera. You can’t use small model trains, tabletop size. You need some bigger ones, because you can’t scale fire, obviously.

So, Srinivas reached out to us to get a part of the bridge together with some train cars to explode — that whole sequence with the kid being rescued. A lot of those shots are actually miniature, and then the bridge and everything is extended from there. We’re basically using the best tool for the job in each shot. Some of the shots are a full-size train car being flipped, some of them are miniatures, and in some cases, we use full CG. I think it’s just a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. I see miniatures as a visual effect. If you go back to the ’90s and ’80s, and before that, all visual effects, pretty much, were done as miniatures. To me, it’s just borrowing some of those old techniques that still work and blending it with new ones.

Mohan: Yeah. Apart from the bridge sequence, we have a few other miniatures.

Draper: So I found the date! I found the date. It’s 26 of March 2018.

Oh, wow. Over four years later, here we are talking about it.

Mohan: So the miniatures, apart from the bridge sequence, we have used [them] in some other sequences. One is at the end with the whole building, that glass, the dome and everything, that we had in miniature. Then there is one truck which enters into the visual, the animals come out of the truck, and the truck which goes through the wooden door, that is actually miniature. I always like to do a lot of things in practical as much as possible. That’s why I went to Daniel, because they’re good at miniatures. And then from there, later I extended that some of the way, because they already have a visual effects strength along with the miniatures. So we continued from there.

There’s so much stuff happening in this movie, and so many impressive visuals. Did you guys end up, at the end of the movie, each one of you, did you have a favorite shot or effect?

Draper: It was our opening shot for [Ram] Charan’s introduction. Scene two, shot one. That one specifically. And the second one was Charan’s fireworks dispersal, the big kind of Ram shot when we got that nicely art directed spirals going behind him, and all the fireworks going through shot and that kind of thing. That was like, “Yeah, money.” That was time well spent on those, without a doubt.

What about you, Daniel?

French: Yeah, I think in my case at least — there’s so many nice shots in the film, but I think the most rewarding one was probably the long pullout from the festival area where Charan comes running out and the camera pulls back over the bridge and you see kind of the whole village and that whole scene. That was one of the first shots we started working on, because it defined the whole area for the whole sequence, basically, and one of the last shots to go out the door. We continued working and refining that shot throughout basically the three years we were working on the film. It’s just a long pullback, but it started — the first beginning of the shot is a cable cam move. Then from there, everything is CG, but it kind of defines our whole sequence. After that, obviously, there’s a lot of cool slow motion shots and what have you. But I think for me, that’s the most rewarding one.

Draper: The fun thing about that particular shot is that we were the culprits to actually pre-vis that. As soon as we’d done it, we’re like, “Whoever’s doing this next, I’m really sorry,” because, again, this is a money shot. This is one where you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the amount of stitch work, and the amount our set builder’s got to do. You see this on screen, it’s going to be one of those shots. It’s going to be a “Wow.” Not just go from a cut to a wide. It’s like, no, we’re traveling back, we want to see that distance. We keep going, we keep going. It’s like it doesn’t stop. It just keeps going, going, going.

French: And the seams and everything — it has to be seamless, right?

Draper: As a technician, whenever you see a film, you’re partly going into technical standpoints of like, “Oh, oh, matte issue. Oh ah, rotor issue. Oh, that black didn’t match that black, or that whole lighting on that didn’t match” and so on and so on. But I’m there looking at this, seeing it on the screen. I’m like, “No, can’t see anything wrong. Nothing.” That good. I just turned my brain off. It was nice.

Mohan: It took almost two and a half years to finish the shot.

Draper: It shows.

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