Technology is new renaissance in art: Richard Taylor (IANS Exclusive)

Wellington, Oct 13 (IANS) The global filmmaking industry must embrace the potential of digital equipment and technical solutions, which have brought in a “renaissance” in the field of art, says celebrated talent Richard Taylor, whose “insatiable” interest in technology has resulted in stupendous Oscar-winning visual effects, costumes and make-up detailing in cinematic treats like the “Lord Of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies.

In an exclusive interview to IANS at his Weta Workshop — a world renowned design and effects facility servicing creative industries — Taylor spoke about the transition of physical effects in films to digital, its benefits and how India may soon have to follow in the footsteps of China to use 3D printing technology over cheap labour costs.

“There are advancements (in the world of technology). We have an incredibly competitive issue, that digital effects have taken a huge amount of work away from physical effects. But clearly, it’s just a natural progression of filmmaking. Digital effects and technology is really a new renaissance in art.

“It requires us to remain very nimble, cost effective, flexible and also very exploratory around the work that we do, to try and stay competitive with what can be done digitally,” the five-time Oscar Award winner and four-time BAFTA Award recipient told IANS in a sit-down interview after he had met Indian actor Sidharth Malhotra at his workshop.

Sidharth — New Zealand’s newly appointed tourism ambassador in India — sampled the creativity of Taylor’s prosthetic department when he was turned into an elf with the fake (well, almost real) ears, costume and a sword.

It is this knack of turning fantasy into reality that has made Taylor’s 25-year-old Weta Workshop into the marvel that it is.

In a room full of intricately sculpted miniatures of popular characters from some of the notable projects that his team has worked upon, Taylor deliberated over how, at one point, they used to be involved in 100 percent handcrafting of props and such items for films. But a chunk of it has gone into robotic manufacturing now, he shared.

“3D printing is a massively beneficial tool. Indian companies that are making film props maybe more cost effective than those in New Zealand, but just watching the way that China has had to change…I mean, I have a business partner in China, and he has a manufacturing company,” he said.

“Three years ago, he had one machine. Today, he has five, because even Chinese labour cost cannot compete with the potential of these equipment,” he added.

He pointed out how, with 3D printers plummeting in cost, and with their advancements and sophistication, “there’s an amazing opportunity for technical workshops to benefit from this technology”.

The creative mastermind, who has been reaping the benefits of the 3D printing technology at the Weta Workshop since the past 14 years, however still feels the film industry is “nowhere near exploiting technology to its full potential”.

“A lot of people are just not getting to terms with the fact that it can have an impact on the filmmaking industry. Personally, I have an insatiable interest in technology and how it can help you to build better work.

“Our staff was very anxious that we will put them out of their jobs. But in fact, it is absolutely the opposite. Potential work for our staff has increased because now we can take on more work,” Taylor explained, while stressing on how the challenge for his back-end work is “lack of time’.

“There’s never a long pre-production period today, and so we have to facilitate a very fast turnout of work. Of course it has to be of a higher level each time because the audience’s expectation is extremely high,” he said.

“So, with respect to ourselves, we will look forward to technical solutions,” added the towering personality, who has so far worked on only one Indian film — Shankar’s Tamil romantic thriller “I”.

Weta Workshop worked on the digital and prosthetic make-up, and background arts for “I”. And the very mention of Shankar made Taylor exclaim: “He’s fantastic!”.

(The writer’s trip is at the invitation of Tourism New Zealand. Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at

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