Life of Pi: Grabbing the CG Tiger by the Tail
Still, it's hard to believe that nearly 90% of Richard Parker is CG in Life of Pi. "I would say, though, that for animation it was more performance improvements," Westenhofer suggests. "Even after getting approval on a shot from Ang, we'd still work another two or three weeks on just the tiniest nuances. He'd see it as a render -- he could judge the character and the general gist of that without the nuances put in yet. But it was important to get that approval first so we didn't spend two weeks working on nuances that [were off track]. Ang trusted us."
Even with the best of intentions, however, it was hard not to anthropomorphize Richard Parker. "The fact that you know what the shot is supposed to mean, it's tempting to hold the tiger's gaze too long. Then you lose some of the animal qualities. What we did was we went through our reference clips on every shot and found something representative of what we wanted to convey. Certainly you'd have some happy accidents with the tiger making a twitch that you might not have thought of, but it kept us honest in the animal quality of the performance."