VFX Community Responds to Life of Pi Oscar Wins
HOLLYWOOD, CA – Last night, as had been widely expected, Ang Lee’s stereoscopic 3D feature, Life of Pi, took home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. And in a low moment for the Oscars, the award recipients were drummed off the stage by the orchestra, which played the theme from Jaws over Bill Westenhofer’s acceptance speech just as he mentioned troubled VFX company Rhythm & Hues and the current plight of the VFX industry.
In another low moment, Lee, the recipient of the award for Best Director, managed to thank everyone involved in the creation of his stereoscopic masterpiece -- including the guy responsible for cleaning the pool -- except for the visual effects artists who brought the film’s CG tiger to life and created the incredible “Storm of God” sequence that amazed and delighted audiences.
The visual effects community responded with outrage, including an open letter posted on the VFX Soldier blog from Zoic Studios lead compositor Phillip Broste, shown in full below:
Open Letter to Ang Lee:
Dear Mr. Lee,
When asked about the bankruptcy of Rhythm + Hues, the visual effects house largely responsible for making your film “life of Pi” as incredible as it was, you said:
“I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive].”
I just want to point out that while, yes R&D can be expensive and yes it takes a lot of technology and computing power to create films like yours, it is not computer chips and hard drives that are costing you so very much money. It is the artists that are helping you create your film.
So when you say “I would like it to be cheaper,” as an artist I take that personally. It took hundreds of hours from skilled artists and hard-working coordinators and producers to craft the environments and performances in life of Pi. Not to mention the engineers that wrote all of that proprietary code and build the R+H pipeline. That is where your money went. I’d say, judging from the night you just had, you got one hell of a deal.
Incidentally, those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those artists. And the same animated performances that helped win you the best director statue. Nice of you to mention the pool crew, but maybe you could have thanked the guys and gals who turned that pool in to an ocean and put a tiger in to that boat?