“We have progressed and built a full fledged team [here in India] which not only supports our local production but is instrumental in providing global technology support to all DNEG sites.”
Amit Desai is Head of Technical Operations at DNEG in India. With a career spanning the past sixteen years, Amit studied and joined the VFX industry in London before returning to India where he worked at Prime Focus. He transferred to DNEG over six years ago and has been an integral part of our technology team ever since. Keep on reading to find out more about his journey in VFX, what it’s like to be a member of the technology team at DNEG in India, and more!
Hello Amit! What brought you into the world of VFX?
Back in high school I was a big movie buff, and a great fan of Steven Spielberg’s work. My favourite movie is Jurassic Park; I remember rushing to the cinema after school to catch the last screening of the day! My interest in VFX really started developing after I read an interview of Spielberg in a magazine, which was a behind-the-scenes look at Jurassic Park and the VFX that went into the movie. This was a turning point for me. I started doing research, self studying and learning all I could find about the magic of VFX through books.
For my degree I opted for Computer Engineering with no definite career plan as my interest at the time was more towards film production. While I was doing my bachelors, I did odd computer graphic freelancing work in advertising which gave me a boost. VFX was an unknown career path back then in India so I enrolled for a postgraduate degree in Animation in London with technology at its core, and this is how it all started.
After my post graduation, I got picked by MPC London and I started my career as a junior technician there. I headed back to India a few years after to join Prime Focus as a Pipeline TD role. Overtime, through my work and the feedback I was receiving I felt empowered to take on a Pipeline Supervisor role. As a supervisor I was involved in developing the VFX and stereo conversion pipeline for all the Prime Focus studios in India that delivered some of the biggest theatrical experiences in India and abroad. Due to my strong technical background, I was also asked to lead big technology projects, research and set up artist workflows for various departments that included Colour and Render Management.
I transferred over to DNEG over six years ago to roll out the VFX pipeline in India after the merger with Prime Focus. I also made contributions in setting up the feature animation pipeline for our first animated movie project. As my career progressed I took different roles based on business requirements and climbed my way up to lead the technology team in India.
When I was offered the role of Head of Technical Operations in 2020, the technology team in India counted about 20 members of staff… Today we are close to 160, and growing! We have progressed and built a full fledged team which not only supports our local production but is instrumental in providing global technology support to all DNEG sites.
What is your day-to-day like as a Head of Technical Operations in India?
I lead the technical operations of DNEG’s technology division here in India which means that I oversee the line management of all technology teams, from pipeline, research, product development, animation technology, and stereo to core services and project management.
Part of my job is to make sure we have a structure in place and help establish governance, stability and scalability within the DNEG VFX (film and episodic), animation and technology divisions in India. This structure and governance are here to support robust operational models and solutions for our global sites. Not only do I work with our team locally, but also with the global team and our global leaders to draw roadmaps and achieve goals.
What do you like the most about your job?
I like to engage with different people across the globe, collaborate on projects and share some fascinating ideas which opens up new perspectives and avenues to success. Getting to know more people, understanding their thought process and learning from them is my favourite thing.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
I’ve got a few actually! Develop a very strong foundation of the areas you want to excel in; never stop learning, always try to evolve and add new skills to your skillset; set up short-time goals and pace your career by achieving those small milestones; never give up, have patience and remain positive. Last but not the least: join our technology team here in India. We have plenty of fantastic roles which we are actively recruiting for!
What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on?
Certainly when I had to build and structure a full-fledged technology team in India from bottom up, and roll out DNEG’s pipeline over here. Challenging yet very rewarding!
Time for some rapid fire questions – what’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
Books – I do a lot of reading on VFX and animation, I like researching the projects I am working on. This gives me tremendous insight on the subject, and helps lead me in the right direction.
[Here are some of Amit’s recommendations – check them out!]
Special Effects: The History and Technique by Richard Rickitt
The Filmmaker’s Guide to Visual Effects by Iran Dinur
Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible by Pamela Glintenkamp
The Winston Effect: The Art & History of Stan Winston by Jody Duncan
The Art and Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
I would say that I have an excellent understanding of the VFX production pipeline, with strong leadership and people management skills. I think I understand talents, their strengths and weaknesses and how to use them in a balanced way to ensure great results.
What are you most looking forward to every day?
New challenges that can give me the opportunity to test myself and boost my knowledge. You know, if you want to excel in this industry, you need to always invent, develop and be inspired.
How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?
Motivated. I always looked at big studios like DNEG as power houses for art and technology, doing some cool magical stuff for the big screen. Ever since I was a student I’ve always aspired to be part of a big post-production house; so joining DNEG was like a dream come true!
What is your proudest moment to date?
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
An institute which inspires you to learn and test your knowledge, skills and abilities. It motivates young talents and provides them with a platform to build their career and reach new milestones in life.