Sharmishtha Sohoni, who has brought to life many characters on screen including the lovable Smurfs. Harshikaa Udasi talks to the technical expert

Sharmishtha Sohoni is pleased as Punch. As the senior technical director (colour, lighting and compositing) at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Los Angeles, whose live-action and animation comedy “The Smurfs” released globally over the weekend, she says that “the little blue characters were fun to bring to life”.

With previous credits including “Final Fantasy- The Spirits Within”, “Matrix Revolutions”, “Spider-man 3”, “The Chronicles of Narnia – the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, and “I am Legend”, Sohoni born and brought up in Mumbai has created a name for herself in the world of VFX in LA. She holds a Masters in Computer Art from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, besides a degree in Commercial Art from Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai.

Sohoni steps in for lighting and compositing film material after receiving animated creatures and backgrounds from various teams. Though highly respected for her talent, she is humble. “I am just an artist. My expertise comes in as the final step before the material goes to film but I believe it is entirely team work. My responsibility is to make everyone's work look good. In that sense, it is quite some effort!” she says.

The ‘3 apple tall' Smurfs were quite a challenge to work on as there was no visual reference for them, she says. “My thought was how can we make these comic book characters look believable at that height? The details of their performances had to be clearly seen in the enormous environments in which most of the action takes place. Personally, I hadn't worked on something similar before so it was great to constantly think of new ways to execute it.” Sohoni credits great colour, lighting and compositing tools at Imageworks for encouraging artists to take on challenges and not settle for mundane thinking. However, she would not like to compare the facilities in LA to those in India. “We have an office in Chennai where all our initial animation gets done and our guys out there are fabulous too. I worked in India 15 years ago when the industry there was rather tiny. It is still small as compared to the industry here, but it is growing,” she says, speaking about her stint at Crest Communications in Mumbai.

She rates her own work in “Matrix Revolutions” as her best till date. “I think that was ground-breaking. We had absolutely new techniques and the result was super. Every move has been copied over and over again in various other films and I take that as a compliment!” she beams.

Mother to two-and-half-year-old Agustya, Sohoni deftly manages her work and home. She reports as early as seven in the morning to work and leaves her desk by five to ensure that she's in time to pick up her toddler from school. Currently she's busy with “Arthur Christmas”, a full-length computer graphics movie. Ask her opinion on criticisms of overuse of CG in films and she says, “I think it only enhances the value of a film. Directors have creative ideas that sometimes they might not be able to capture on camera. Graphics can give life to those ideas. That's great, isn't it?”

Well said.

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Arts, Entertainment & EventsMay 14, 2012