Inking the Bling: In Conversation with Bodhisatva Datta

Inking the Bling: In Conversation with Bodhisatva Datta
Meet Bodhisatva Datta, a.k.a Bodhi, Founder and Director of Ink Bling Designs Pvt. Ltd., who is a seasoned Creative & Technical Director working in the Broadcast and Visual Effects Industry for almost 20 years now, with projects spanning across Hollywood/Bollywood feature films and the Indian Tv and advertising industry. As an alumnus of NID Ahmedabad, Bodhi’s career has been nothing short of big risks and bigger rewards. He had started his career with Rhythm & Hues Studios – a multi award winning LA based VFX and Animation company, moving on to UTV to set up their Film DI & CGI pipeline and later joined 9X Media, launching their GEC Tv channel 9X, NewsX and music channel cluster 9XM. Over the last 10 years he has been running his independent design studio Ink Bling, a full service animation and visual effects company catering to advertising, films, TV and OTT projects.
NID was a lucky accident for me and while I had absolutely no idea whatsoever about the institute or the potential of Design and Media related academics. I soon developed a keen interest in design & technology and the campus had enough inspirations, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet of the best of resources, helping shape up our sensibilities and persona.
From being a student of animation to experiencing how the VFX Hollywood blockbusters actually get post-produced was an invaluable experience. I had the best time at Rhythm and can vouch that I have never seen such an amazing set of people. The overall work culture and vibe was what inspired me to set up my own Visual Effects studio eventually!
When he jumped ship from Rhythm & Hues to UTV, Bodhi had the opportunity to be a core part of launch of their Kids Channel Hungama TV. This was where he had first experienced the world of broadcast design, promo packaging and short-format content production.
This was an invaluable experience where I got to learn about writing short-format
promo scripts, organising shoots, voice-overs, music, audio design while working
with a wide variety of creative talents.
“Tookidoo” – An animated pre-school IP being developed by Ink Bling Designs Pvt. Ltd.
When Hungama TV was acquired by Disney, Bodhi had an offer to be a part of their creative team in India. Although joining Disney would have been a no-brainer to any animator, he took offer of staying back at UTV to revive the post-production division USL.
I was excited to risk staying back and try to get the facility back up and running, though going to Disney seemed a much more lucrative and safer choice it did not excite me much in terms of new learnings and challenges.
The following years were both challenging and rewarding for Bodhi. At a very early stage in his career he had to opportunity to build the CG team ground-up, managing the online and offline edit tasks, as well as providing broadcast design solutions for the launches of channels like Fashion TV and Neo Sports. The success of the studio eventually led to the decision of setting up an in-house CGI & VFX studio to manage UTV Films and the Digital Intermediate pipeline.
Some of the films delivered by the UTV-USL VFX & CGI setup and the DI Pipeline
These experiences were instrumental for me to trust my instinct and take chances
without the obvious fear of failing, treading some very unknown territories. My
learnings at running teams and managing facilities along with creative
responsibilities of media projects gave me the much-needed knowledge of
understanding commercials and project cost viabilities, it helped me to respect
client decisions and understand the fragile nature of the business of media.
Post UTV, he had the opportunity to join 9X Media to be a part of the core team to launch their Hindi GEC channel 9X and a range of Music channels. It was the start of the digital TV revolution, with multiple new players like Colors, 9X and NDTV Imagine being introduced. He managed and set up the broadcast design team, managing the complete promo packaging, Vfx and CGI requirements of the network. It had been the biggest launch in the history of Indian television and the team won multiple Promax awards for the campaign and 9X was soon one of the leading Hindi GEC channels.
It was a life of excess, at the time it seemed all my hard work finally paid off and honestly, we were at the brink of getting spoilt by the corporate good life!
However, the global economic hit of 2009 and changes in the management reeled in tremendous losses. The company had to terminate more than 60% of the staff in the coming months and it was a bloodbath across the industry amidst the global economic crisis.
Our new CEO had just been on-boarded and I had a summon from him! I walked into the meeting with the expectation that maybe I would be asked to pack up the division, instead we had a freewheeling chat about what was my solution to our current crisis. I had suggested we build up an animation team ground up, utilise all the hardware and software which was available post the sackings, start producing animated short format content in-house and monetise the same, since at the time our free to air music channel 9XM was starting to get traction.
The USP of the concept was its ultra-quick turnaround, keeping the jokes and
conversations topical. The technical pipeline that Bodhi had developed utilised
pose and animation library-based systems in Maya, to manage the production and
timelines while maintaining the output quality. Being the earliest adopters of
Digital IPs to launch music channels, 9X was back in the business and later
established as the No.1 Hindi Music Channel.
We devised a chat show,‘ Bakwaas Band Kar ‘ ,where our animated IPs would be interviewing celebrities, a live-action meets animation format. We had also developed a small shooting facility and a Chroma floor to cost effectively manage promo and celebrity-byte based shoots, managing all VFX/CGI in-house.
After 10 years of working across films, TV and advertising, Bodhi started his own
company, Ink Bling Designs Pvt. Ltd. as a boutique creative agency, providing
Branding, Broadcast & Motion Design and Animation services to his clients.
Full CGI environments | VFX & CGI for TV commercials
Over the last 10 years, the studio has grown organically and currently it specializes at providing complete turnkey Visual Effects & Animation solutions across TV, Films, OTT and advertising. They are based in Mumbai, with a 65 seater office with dedicated teams of Animators, 3d asset developers, Compositors and Creative producers to manage projects.
They have been developing their own animated show pilots and set a Motion-Capture facility in-house to optimize the pipeline. Some of their clients include DisneyStar, Colors, Zee Tv,Sony, Balaji Telefilms and have formed collaborations with multiple Ad-film production houses.
Marker-less Motion Capture Setup | Our hybrid Animation Pipeline
We have an in-house 3D animation team and also developed our motion-capture pipeline using performance capture suits, which is fully integrated within the traditional Maya animation setup. This helps us greatly to plan pre-visualisation and get some suitable production quality animation out at a very short turnaround timeline.
Ink Bling has been focussed on the potential of creating digital and virtual IPs. Their IP ‘ Teetar Mausi’ is the channel mascot for Colors Rishtey Cineplex and they have been producing short-format snacking content with the asset, including trivia, promos and brand integrations.
They have recently collaborated with Zee for creating a virtual character to promote the film “Bullet Train” on the network. They have also produced the ‘ Anime Fan Fest ‘ event campaign for Zee café, a fully manga styled promo with characters and assets developed with the intent of promoting the genre on the network.
We have built a whole extensive library system of assets, effects, scripts and animation, which help us manage timelines. Upgrading to the latest hardware and storage systems to ensure the best render times and being 24/7 across multiple forums finding technical solutions! We start the prep work way before even a project is greenlit, without even the clarity of commercials, helping us in having a head-start.
Full 3D Avengers Campaign | Broadcaster & Flix
The kind of work that Indian studios can produce is mostly at par with the best in the world. The biggest catalyst is the democratisation of technology and softwares becoming open source, the speed of development is unprecedented. Blender is a case point, also Unreal Engine is an absolute game changer. There has never been a better time, if you like to continue to learn and un-learn.
At our studio, we have been upskilling our teams and continuously encourage them to be multitaskers in order to be relevant in these changing times. From the Silicon Graphics machines at USL to the current RTX led workstations at our studio today, change has been the only constant. Continuing to support teams through the various lows and always being hopeful for a better tomorrow has kept us going.We had ventured into animatronics and practical FX and enjoyed it thoroughly, developing a set of horses and a life size elephant for the film Manikarnika. However, with increasing digital realism we have decided to focus more on hyperrealistic digital assets and moved out of Practical FX currently.
With the advancement of post-production technologies and digital realism, the biggest challenge today is an increasing callousness in production with the assumption that everything can be managed in VFX and post. Additionally, as AI video generation is developing at an unfathomable pace, clients believe it is simply a one click solution and the oversimplification of the craft sets a dangerous precedent….as they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!
As for the industry today, Bodhi believes that the future of VFX is bright, with receding production budgets and shrinking timelines, the dependency on VFX is bound to increase to turn around shows and create the big-visual magic. VFX is more of a necessity rather than the luxury that it used to be in the yesteryears.
I am excited to be living in these times, there has never been a dull moment especially in the last 4 years, ever since the advent of the RTX cards and access to AI and real time graphics. For our clients, we are gradually shifting them to adapt to the virtual sets and assets. With more hyper-realism, it is now absolutely impossible to distinguish CG from real assets.
On that optimistic note about the VFX & CG industry we conclude this feature with
Bodhisatva Datta. We wish him and studio Ink Bling all the best for the future.
Bodhisatva Datta