"Life of Pi" film is set to release in India on 23rd November and will be also opening GOA film festival 2012. Film's trailer draw attention of everyone due to its insignificant story and characters. 


SYNOPSIS: Adapted from Yan Martel's Booker Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi is set in Pondicherry, India and centers on Piscine Molitor Patel (Suraj Sharma) - known as Pi - a well-to-do zookeeper's son who leads a rich life acquiring a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. However, political changes in India cause the Patel family to choose to move to Canada where Pi ultimately finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The rest of the story chronicles Pi's 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi.

One of the key characters in Ang Lee's forthcoming adaptation of Yann Mantel's bestseller Life of Pi is a 450-pound Bengal tiger called Richard Parker, who shares a small boat with the titular character. In the below video, Lee, Mantel and VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer from effects studio Rhythm and Hues discuss how a mix of CG and – where possible – a real tiger was used, and the pressures this put on the VFX team to create a CG tiger that seamlessly matched the real beast.

Creating Tiger 

For the digital version of Richard Parker, Mr. Westenhofer’s team studied reference footage of an actual tiger, top. And real tigers were used for a few important shots, including one with Richard Parker swimming in the ocean. Four tigers along with a trainer, Thierry le Portier, were brought in, and the crew set up a movable “boat” inside a tiger enclosure to shoot some scenes.

“We used them for single shots, where it was just the tiger in the frame, and they’re doing something that didn’t have to be all that specific in the action that we were after,” Mr. Westenhofer said. There was a debate about whether to include a real tiger at all, but Mr. Westenhofer pushed for it. “By doing that, it set our bar high for CGI,” he said, referring to computergenerated imagery. “We couldn’t cheat at all. It pushed the artists to go and deliver something that’s never been done before, something as photo-real as anyone has ever done with an animal.”

Mr. Westenhofer said some animators have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals, giving them more human qualities. But the “Pi” crew was careful not to do that and to keep the digital tiger, bottom, fierce and spontaneous with animalistic instincts.

Building a Predator by Bone, Muscle, Flesh and Fur

These images take a progressive look through the meticulous process that went into constructing the digital tiger. Artists developed each layer of the animal’s physical makeup almost as if they were working on a biology experiment.

They started with the skeleton, which they used to control basic movements (segments with common colors, top right, move together), then added muscle, skin and fur. More than a dozen artists were assigned to the fur alone, focusing, for example, on how light shimmered on it.

“We studied the reference and dialed up the muscle flexing,” Mr. Westenhofer said. “Tigers are really a mass of solid muscle surrounded by loose, baggy skin. And the way it moves and shakes and bounces around is really important to see.” He added that they got to a point where, in most animation projects, they would have considered their work done. But they continued for three more weeks, further refining the creature’s mannerisms. (In all the process took about a year.) Among the details fine-tuned were how his paws twitched as he shifted his weight and how he swallowed. 

Photo: 20th Century Fox via New York Times

“It was these tiny things that, combined, made this really genuine, lifelike animal,” Mr. Westenhofer said. “But if you look at the individual things by themselves, they seem insignificant.

A version of this article appeared in print on November 18, 2012, on page AR14 of the New York edition with the headline: A First Mate Bares His Fangs.

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