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Once in a while, we are lucky enough to get a movie that provides an experience like no other. Last year, for me, that was Hugo. This year it was Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee.

Apart from being a great story of spirituality and adventure, the movie contains what must be among the most beautiful images ever seen in the cinema, and some of the most awe-inspiring visions of the ocean in all its moods and variety. Like Hugo, it can't be fully appreciated except on the big screen, and like Hugo it really needs 3D.

Not to be missed!

BTW...

If you're interested in the technology of film making, Scot Byrd of Rhythm & Hues Studios corrected an article in Time Magazine as follows:

Just to be clear, motion capture was not used in "Life of Pi." Key frame animation was the technique employed by the digital artists at Rhythm & Hues, the visual effects company responsible for production of the computer-generated animals in "Life of Pi." (R&H also created the photorealistic skies and oceans during the open ocean scenes. London's Moving Picture Company - MPC - was responsible for the shipwreck sequence.)

Motion capture technique uses sensors to capture a single performance, usually performed by a human being. (Imagine putting motion sensors on a living tiger!) Key frame animation works like puppetry inside the computer. The animator sets a pose, which the computer remembers as a key frame. The performance is created as the artist sets a multitude of key frames/poses and the computer moves the character rig from pose to pose to pose.

The origins of key frame animation go back to traditional 2D cell animation, as seen in any Disney animated feature going all the way back to Steamboat Willie, followed by most Saturday morning cartoon shows and the modern animated incarnations up to and including those produced by Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, BlueSky, et al.

For Rhythm & Hues, the actual line of ascension runs from the Coca Cola Polar Bears to "Babe", "Cats & Dogs", "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", "The Golden Compass", "Alvin and the Chipmunks" to "Life of Pi."

While it may seem an academic distinction, in the world of animation, the key frame technique has a long tradition, and the artists who have spent a lifetime developing their craft deserve their recognition. The added challenge and critically acclaimed success of melding photorealistic, computer-generated characters with photorealistic computer-generated environments demonstrates just how groundbreaking the technology and artistry of "Life of Pi" is.



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