Published: 18th March 2019
From Avatar to Manikarnika, here's how ComicFlix is turning your favourite movies into comics
ComicFlix, the world's first automated video-to-comic platform, is on a mission to storify content that we love to watch, we spoke to the founder to know more
Remember that iconic scene in Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met when Geet misses her train because she's busy arguing with a hawker for overcharging her and has to approach the luggage in-charge at the station? Now, imagine the same scene but animated, with colourful speech bubbles and captions to explain the situation. Wouldn't it be great to flip through a digital comic book version of your favourite movie? Olyvia Rakshit sure thought so and that's when, in 2017, she set up ComicFlix, a start-up that turns all-time hit Indian movies — like Rajinikanth's Enthiran and Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay — into comics, deconstructed scene by scene. We spoke to Olyvia about the software, how it works, if they have plans to get into the publishing scene and a whole lot more. Excerpts from an exciting conversation with a fellow Bengali:
What inspired you to convert films and TV series into comic books?
My inspiration was good stories, love for reading and my wonderful kids. I wanted my kids to read more and wondered what if all their favourite Netflix shows were converted quickly into readable picture books. I wanted to create a technology that would inspire children to read more — and I was fascinated by that concept. While it started as something for children, ComicFlix soon evolved into a much bigger idea and enabled fans to re-engage with their favourite content, movies and TV shows. I was excited about re-telling popular stories in this new format using automation. The goal was to build a scalable platform that could generate lots of content for popular fan-based properties — and that's how it all began.
You have developed an exclusive software to create comic books, haven't you? How does it work?
You're right, it's a one-of-a-kind software. The core technology involves proprietary algorithms for video summarisation, machine learning routines for rendering comic art from videos, language APIs for multilingual support and the world's first web-based comic book editor for the finished output. We are also developing an iOS and Android app that will enable end users to generate their own comic strips. My team and I not only work on movies and TV shows but any content that is worth re-telling as a digital comic, including documentaries, advertisements and marketing videos. It generally takes around two to three weeks to turn a feature film into a market-ready graphic novel. They typically come out as two issues of a comic book series, with a total of 50 pages (Pic: ComicFlix)
And I presume you require permission from the producers of the films/TV series as well to create these?
Yes, of course. We are a B2B operation at the moment. The content owner has the rights to their content as well as the ComicFlix version of the content. As derivate content, we also ask for rights to distribute what we create; there are various business models in which we engage.
What has made a start-up like ComicFlix become so successful in a market that is overloaded with digital content?
Creating content is expensive and time-consuming. Fans like to engage with different types of media. For example, a movie takes a long time to make with a huge budget, but creating an abridged version of a graphic novel from that movie, using our technology, does not take us as much time or resources. We stand apart because we have automation that creates content, so we create them quickly and inexpensively while maintaining the quality.
A dream come true: If you love a movie then you'll definitely love to own a graphic novel version or a coffee table book of that movie. That's what ComicFlix does for you (Pic: ComicFlix)
What about creating original content?
Interestingly, some of the deals we are currently working on our original stories. Once we have written the narrative or script, we gather the right images and videos to follow through with the story and then, the process of creating the ComicFlix pages is the same using our platform.
Are these comic books in print or just digital? Also, if there's already a movie version, why would people want to read these?
If you are a true fan of a movie/TV series, you would want to engage with any form of it. Say for example Rang De Basanti — I love that movie and I'd love to own a graphic novel version or a coffee table book of that movie. When you read, you put your brain to work. You enjoy, retain and relive those moments that you loved about the movie, to a greater degree.
For a new movie, here's a format that works well. We call it the 'ComicFlix teaser'. Let's say there's a movie that you have not watched and I give you five pages of that movie graphic novel, (generated from the first 10 minutes of the movie). Once you've read that five-page teaser, you'll be hooked and you'll want to watch the whole movie. ComicFlix teaser serves as a great lead gen tool for any new movie or piece of content for this reason.
Their own avatar: One of ComicFlix's version of the famous movie Avatar (Pic: ComicFlix)
Do you feel that people's reading habits are changing now that technology is getting more advanced every minute?
Yes, absolutely! And we plan to innovate a lot more. We would love to bring aspects of AR into these reading experiences.
Tell me more about yourself and how you went on to start ComicFlix.
I grew up in India but came to the US during the Y2K years. I have a BE in Computer Science from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and an MBA from Boston University. I started my career as a programmer and later, moved to the business side at Dell/EMC. My husband's been a serial entrepreneur and opening companies have been dinner table conversations for us. After a stint at EMC, I started ComicFlix, it is my first venture.