"I would say, though, that for animation it was more performance improvements. Even after getting approval on a shot from Ang, we'd still work another two or three weeks on the tiniest little nuances. We could see the pinky toe fire rotating his hand and you could feel the tension go up through the arm and passing up through the shoulder and film him rolling over just as he shifts. Ang trusted us. He'd see it as a render, but it was important to get that approval first so we didn't spend two weeks working on nuances that get washed away by him saying the tiger's gotta get up a lot earlier."
Lee's mantra was that he wanted the shot to look like he was seeing it for the first time. However, sometimes the director's instructions were overly enigmatic. For example, he would tell Westenhofer that he wanted the clouds to be melancholy, and it would be up to the supervisor to interpret what that meant. Lee's also demanded that the water serve as a character, which was code for the water and skies setting the mood for each scene.
Therefore, getting the water just right was also essential, since most of the movie takes place on water. "We spent about as much time working on the water tools as we did building the tiger," Westenhofer admits. "We would enhance the ocean to get what Ang wanted by increasing the swells or some event in the background. Then we'd marry the fine details together with little wind ripples. The ability to put wind patterns in with the fluid dynamic system was time consuming."
As with everything else on "Life of Pi," the extra effort enhances the believability of the ordeal, no matter how fantastical it seems.