From Hong Kong to Bollywood: Digital Domain opens India studio to expand visual effects business

Hong Kong-based owner of Oscar-winning visual effects house Digital Domain 3.0 opens its 10th studio in Hyderabad

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 10:54pm

Digital Domain Holdings, which runs the world’s largest independent visual effects company, is ramping up its international expansion with the opening of a new studio in India, a market that produces an average of 1,900 films a year.

The Hong Kong-listed firm’s facility in Hyderabad, capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana, marks the 10th studio location for its Digital Domain 3.0 unit – the 24-year-old, Oscar-winning visual effects house originally founded by Hollywood film director James Cameron in 1993.

“The world-class infrastructure and start-up ecosystem in Hyderabad make it an extremely desirable location for innovative companies like Digital Domain,” said company chief executive Daniel Seah Ang.

The latest studio was opened on Monday in Hyderabad’s IT/ITES Special Economic Zone campus, where technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google also have operations.

Its expansion initiative further bolsters the government’s “Make in India” programme, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to encourage more foreign direct investment and to support 25 key sectors – including media and entertainment.

India is the world’s largest producer of films, an industry that online research firm Statista has forecast to be worth 206.6 billion rupees (US$3.2 billion) by 2021.

The country surpassed the United States in the quarter ended September 30 to become the world’s second-largest market for smartphones behind mainland China, according to research company Canalys.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has estimated that about 95 per cent of the country’s 422 million online subscribers at the end of March this year accessed the internet through smartphones.

“Combined with the recent projections for smartphone growth and mobile bandwidth expansion in the region, the people of India are primed to demand and expect premium content, and we are ready to deliver on that need,” Seah said.

That augurs well for Digital Domain’s efforts to expand into virtual reality content and services. Its Canadian subsidiaries, Immersive Ventures and IM360 Entertainment, are involved in creating original virtual reality content.

Virtual reality technology immerses a user in an imagined world, like in a video game or movie, with the aid of a head-mounted display like HTC’s Vive or Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

Amit Chopra, chief operating officer at Digital Domain, said India’s “highly skilled local talent pool combined with Digital Domain’s prowess in visual effects and the interactive content space” would meet escalating demand for premium film and digital experiences.

The company has named Sudhir Reddy and Venkatesh Roddam, former senior executives at media and entertainment firm Reliance MediaWorks, as head of its new Indian studio and senior strategic adviser, respectively.

Apart from its main Los Angeles facility, Digital Domain 3.0’s other studios are in New York, Vancouver, London, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.