A few months ago, I saw some advance footage of Ang Lee’s new movie Life of Pi at Variety’s annual 3D Entertainment Summit. It was stunning, to say the least, especially in 3D. Not surprisingly, the movie has been getting rave reviews for its visually rich story about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger.
The film was shot in several international locations, including Canada, Taiwan and India. Lee had his editor, Tim Squyres, ACE, and his team at each of the production's major shooting locations. That included the Taiwan site where the production spent six months shooting open water scenes in a giant, custom-built tank. Hula Post Production worked closely with Squyres to provide him with fully equipped edit bays at each of the locations.
Each editorial operation featured multiple Avid workstations equipped to cut in stereo and Avid Unity storage sufficient to accommodate the enormous amount of data produced by the production. Hula Post Production Senior Engineer Rwaana Barnes, worked with Squyres’ first assistant editor Mike Fay, to set up editorial operations at each site. One of Barnes’ jobs was to make sure the location based edit systems would work smoothly with Hula’s digital laboratory infrastructure. Hula Post Production provided technical support on a 24/7 basis throughout production and post.
Hula's technical team has extensive experience in supporting editorial crew working on location, which was critical not only because of the remote locations, but also due to the technical challenges of editing 3D. "There was no infrastructure for motion picture production in Taiwan on the scale that we needed," explained Steve Barnett, Vice President of Post Production for 20th Century Fox. "They have a local television and film industry, but nothing that could sustain the demands we put on production companies in Hollywood." In Taiwan, the lab was set up in an abandoned airport adjacent to the production location. Dailies for editorial were processed and color corrected in the lab, then piped over the internet to the studio.
Hula’s team worked closely with Squyres, Barnett and the Fox team to support the production through post in both Los Angeles and an editorial facility in New York owned by director Lee. That studio, which includes full 3D editing and viewing capability, was designed and engineered by PostWorks New York, which is a sister company to Hula.
According to Barnett, it's very unusual to have a 3D editing suite with digital cinema projection, but that was something that Ang Lee and Tim Squyres wanted. They wanted to edit side-by-side in 3D and project in 3D. Hula’s Barnes worked closely with engineers from Avid to push the boundaries of the editing systems beyond what they could previously accommodate. “This production became a virtual laboratory for 3D editorial," says Barnett.