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VIDEO ESSAY: LIFE OF PI and the CGI Animal Kingdom of Rhythm & Hues

Press Play By Kevin B. Lee | Press Play January 22, 2013 at 12:22PM

Rhythm & Hues has made a fortune getting animals to realistically talk in the movies. With Life of Pi, it has now achieved not only an animal but an entire CGI world that could easily pass as the real thing, with every pixel manipulated in such a way as to stimulate specific responses in the audience.
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I made this video essay last month for Sight & Sound magazine upon the release of Life of Pi in the UK. Going into the making of this video, I wanted to address one criticism that was made upon my previous contribution to Sight & Sound, the video essay on Paul Thomas Anderson's camera movements. The criticism was that the piece was too narrowly focused on exploring Anderson's auteurial vision and did not sufficiently acknowledge the contributions of the cinematographer in devising the shots. That made me think more about focusing on the work of non-directors and in what way they contribute to the overall artistic vision of a film.

I found a perfect case study with the work of Rhythm & Hues, a CGI effects company that has won two Oscars and made a fortune creating computer generated animals for Hollywood movies, specifically those that can talk. They practically enabled a new subgenre of "Talking Animals" children's films that have made billions of dollars and turned the company into an internatonal operation of animators and computer engineers. But they're not nearly as household a name as Pixar, since they mostly don't produce their own fllms and work behind the scenes as technicians enabling the visions of other directors and producers to come to fruition. However, I argue that, in the specific nature of their work, one can trace a highly focused creative throughline, one that has major ramifications for how we are and will experience reality and living beings on screen.  In this context, Life of Pi can be seen as their masterpiece, one that was 20 years in the making. 

Just watch the first two minutes of this video and see where it takes you. 

You can read the full article accompanying the video, as well as some snazzy infographics illustrating the impact of CGI animals in Hollywood movies, at Sight & Sound.

This article is related to: Life of Pi


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