|The Taiwan water tank in which Life of Pi was shot
Even as Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Donald Elliott and Erik De Boer were holding aloft the golden statuette at Dolby Theatre, 150 Indians were cheering their lungs out on Monday morning some 8,700 miles away.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, visual effects firm Rhythm and Hues were the wizards who created Richard Parker the Royal Bengal Tiger and plonked Pi in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to roar away with the Best Visual Effects Oscar for Life of Pi.
“Life of Pi is actually shot in a water tank in Taiwan and we had to create waves and the various movements of the boat. The devastation that the boat suffered in the storm is something that we worked on. But our major work was creating Richard Parker as well as the orangutan and hyena that make their way into Pi’s boat. We at Hyderabad are as integral a part of the visual effects of Life of Pi as our LA office,” lead digital compositor Arnab Sanyal told t2 over phone from Hyderabad.
The 12-year-old firm, with offices in Kuala Lumpur and Vancouver too, had also worked on the Oscar-winning visual effects for the Nicole Kidman-Daniel Craig starrer The Golden Compass.
About 150 people in the Hyderabad office slogged for more than a year on Life of Pi. “The brief from Ang Lee (the film’s Oscar-winning director) was simple: ‘Replicate God’s work’. He didn’t want a ‘hero’ characterů he didn’t want anything glorified. The movement of the tiger had to be real. Ang would frequently visit our LA office and through conferencing, we would brainstorm with him too,” said Sanyal.
“Our team worked on several complex shots and even tackled multiple departments like tracking, lighting and compositing,” he added.
In coordination with Westenhofer and his team in LA, they spent over a year perfecting Richard Parker — the refraction from his eyes, every single of the 10 million furs, paw movements and the balance on the boat.
One of the bigger challenges in Life of Pi for the Rhythm and Hues team was to create the special effects in 3D. “This was a film driven so much by visual effects and 3D that it meant double the work for us,” said Sanyal.
With an Oscar under its belt, the team is now working on Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and R.I.P.D. starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.
Strangely, work in Bollywood hasn’t come the firm’s way, with Sanyal insisting that they are “waiting for the right project”.
But Rhythm and Hues has already forayed into the desi ad space. The crocodile in the Alpenliebe ad starring Kajol is their handiwork. Gulp!