Delivering quality from across the world

By CHAITRA SHETTY | 23 December, 2009 - 17:26

Establishing a work flow and culture for working seamlessly from various locations and still delivering world class quality and cutting edge output was the crux of Animation & VFX Global Production Pipeline session by Rhythm & Hues’ Prashant Buyyala.

Prashant shares, “Rhythm & Hues is a unique company, privately owned and not publically traded. It was formed by artists with the objective of delivering best quality work and providing a great working environment for our employees. The goal is to have happy employees who in return can deliver some of the best quality work possible”

About 10 years ago, when Rhythm & Hues was relatively smaller, they recognized that the industry was becoming more and more global. Talent was not just a LA domain any more and was coming from all around the world and competition was rapidly growing at various international destinations like the UK and Canada.

“If we wanted to grow and be viable in the next century we realized we needed to transform ourselves into a global company with a global mindset. Initially we looked to outsourcing work and looked for the right companies abroad. We went to many countries searching for a good partner but didn’t find any company matching our value system nor our quality benchmark. After much introspection, we made the difficult decision of starting something of our own from the ground up.”

Rhythm & Hues set up its first international office in India at Mumbai in 2001, followed by Hyderabad and in 2009 it set up its Malaysia facility. Prashant says, “People ask why India, it was simple; Bollywood is there clubbed with rich cultural heritage, cost effectiveness and passionate individuals. Though at that time the industry was very new in India, there was lack of exposure to high quality work. But from day one we had decided that it was not to be an outsourcing facility. We wanted to do work in all facilities at an equal level.”

Prashant shared that R&H has always strived to build an environment conducive for creative work for its employees. “When we came to India we didn’t know how to get started, so we started small. The initial team was of 3-5 artists working on simple tasks but maintaining the same level of quality. We started off with wire removals and roto’s, progressed to simple compositing and then to 3D camera tracking. As we learnt more on each production, we took on more responsibilities and more complex tasks. Today we have 300 employs in India (In Mumbai and Hyderabad office) and we work on all levels and disciplines.”

R&H operates from four facilities in different parts of the world but all facilities are integrated with shared network and asset management tools along with identical technology infrastructure. An individual shot is split between facilities depending on where the artists are available and assigned to the shot. All the facilities are constantly communicating with multi point video conferencing and various other forms of real-time and time-offset communication.

Prashant says there was a lot of negative perception and myth about what R&H was trying to do with its international expansion. “Especially coming to India from America it was perceived that we were stealing jobs from America and also moving them to India. But the reality was exactly the opposite because our India facility made us more competitive globally and allowed us to get more work. During the same time frame we grew in India we more than doubled the size of our employees in Los Angeles by adding new jobs. Lot of productions that were going to other countries for lower costs came back to us in Los Angeles.”
After experiences in India, R&H wanted to continue growing and looked to go to the South East Asian market and adapt successes of India there. This led to the establishment of its Malaysian Studio this year. Prashant says that the support of MDeC was one of the key factors for the selection of the location. Malaysia also has an amazing infrastructure and great set of schools and Universities, which made it an easy place to setup. In the end though the primary reason for choosing Malaysia was because it was the best choice for the employees. “We went with the best choice from the perspective of the employees. In Malaysia, the cost of living is relatively lower and our employees can afford a home and raise a family in a great environment. We felt Malaysia was much more family friendly and that is why we came here.”

The R&H Malaysia office currently has a team of 40-50 members and the company plans to eventually grow to around 200 employees. And the team here as well would be working in tandem with other facilities on the same Hollywood projects as the other facilities. The Malaysian team has already started production and they have delivered a small amount of work for Alvin and the Chipmunks-The Squeakquel.