Malaysian visual effects team expands horizon with ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Malaysia is en route to becoming the preferred destination for overseas film production and postproduction works, including high budget Hollywood films and television series.

This includes streaming platform Disney+ series The Mandalorian and also Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which was outsourced to Base Digital Production Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur and had also received 30 per cent rebate under the Film In Malaysia Incentive (FIMI).

The rebate is given for post-production or filming work done in Malaysia.

There are around 78 visual effect artists from Base Digital Production who worked on the postproduction for The Mandalorian and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and over 40 of them involved local talents.

Base Digital Production lead animator Edmund Wong said although Malaysia did not have enough experience in visual effects, the gaming industry in Malaysia was established.

Wong, who has experience working with one of George Lucas’s visual effect companies, the Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in Singapore, said that they had hired a few people from the local gaming industry to work on visual effects.

“They are actually quite capable in terms of animation, so we just need to give a few pointers on the transition from games to visual effects.”

“They are pretty much on par with the rest of the world although they still need guidance here and there,” he said.

Besides that, Base Digital Production producer, Nicole Maria Nonis pointed out that even though it was fun working on high-budget television series and films, there were challenges.

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From trying to achieve the directors’ visions to just providing the highest quality possible for the production and not forgetting that all of the work must be completed on schedule.

“I would say the most difficult part is how to do the shots most effectively because a lot of the shots is CG heavy so there’s a lot of rendering power that’s needed.”

“But we need to be able to optimise all the elements in there and reduce the time that we need to produce the shots and still have the same studio quality as well,” she said.

Apart from that, Nicole expressed her excitement at getting the chance to work on such huge projects.

“The fun bit working on The Mandalorian and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is that they’re an A list television series and movies.”

“We get to work on some awesome shots, especially iconic ones you know, that are becoming trends on social media, that have become memes, those are the things we’re really proud of, we can always tell our friends we worked on those shots.”

“Also, obviously seeing the final product on screen, because you worked all day on your monitor and seeing it on the big screen, it feels entirely different as well,” she said.

Base Digital Production has also work on the ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’ apart from other high budget Hollywood films like ‘Six Underground’ and ‘Aquaman’. — Picture courtesy of Base Digital Production

Base Digital Production has also worked on several other high budget Hollywood films such as Bumblebee from the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay’s Six Underground and also DC’s Aquaman.

According to their general manager, Sailesh Kumar, a lot of their success came into being because of the support from the National Film Development Corp (Finas) and the Communication and Multimedia Ministry.

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“They have given a great sense of support and go the distance in showing how the FIMI rebate works.”

“It’s available to anyone and everyone and they’ve given a platform for companies in Malaysia to exercise and get involved.”

“As in terms of sustainability, I think the answer here is yes, because we’ve been here for two years and looking at the kind of big numbers shows that we’ve already done and it’s just going to get better.”

“Even though Covid-19 has slowed down things for us this year and it’s going to be a slow first quarter, we’ll pick up, live action will come back soon,” he said.

To date, Base Digital Production has worked on six episodes of The Mandalorian from both seasons which cost around US$1.5 million (RM6,090,450).

Ministry deputy secretary-general, Shakib Ahmad Shakir said over 100 Malaysian talents had been given the exposure and opportunity to contribute to Hollywood blockbusters through FIMI.

“This is an investment tool that has attracted international studios to approach Malaysia to base their production here and to produce stunning visual effects.

“FIMI provides 30 per cent subsidy to international studios that outsources postproduction operations and choose Malaysia as the location.”

He added that it was important for the government to ensure that the industry could be sustained in such trying times.

“The ministry will be working with related government agencies in training Malaysian talents to ensure they are well trained and proficient in this digital era,” he said.

“The ministry together with Finas will contribute by utilising our resources to bring more jobs to Malaysians.” — Malay Mail