Hula Post Production Travels the Globe to Serve 'Life of Pi'

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In a project that spanned nearly four years and half the globe, Hula Post Production supplied editorial systems and support for Life of Pi¸ the new 3D film from 20th Century Fox and director Ang Lee. One of the industry’s leading suppliers of editorial systems for film and television production, Hula Post Production set up and maintained editorial operations in Taiwan, India, Canada, New York and Los Angeles.

With Life of Pi, Mr. Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Based on the book that has sold more than seven million copies and spent years on the bestseller lists, Life of Pi takes place over three continents, two oceans, many years, and a wide universe of imagination. Mr. Lee’s vision, coupled with stunning 3D visuals, has turned a novel long thought un-filmable into a thrillingly audacious mix of grand storytelling and powerful and provocative themes.

Hula Post Production set up editorial facilities to support editor Tim Squyres, ACE, and his team at each of the production’s major shooting locations. That included a site in Taichung, Taiwan where the production spent six months shooting open water scenes in a giant, custom-built tank. Other sites included Pondicherry and Munar, India, where the production spent several weeks, and Montreal.

Each editorial operation featured multiple Avid workstations equipped to cut in stereo and Avid Unity storage sufficient to accommodate the enormous amount of data produced by the production. Hula Post Production Senior Engineer Rwaana Barnes, working alongside Squyre’s first assistant editor Mike Fay, supervised the set-up of editorial operations at each site and worked with the production’s technical team to ensure tight integration with its digital laboratory infrastructure. Hula Post Production provided technical support on a 24/7 basis throughout production and post.

Hula’s technical team has extensive experience in supporting editorial crew working on location, including in places like India that pose unique challenges. “We don’t want the editing team to feel any of the effects of working out of the country; everything should be the same as if they were editing at home,” Barnes says. “Our role is to ensure that the editors can get their work done and meet their deadlines with as little stress as possible.”

That experience was important to Fox not only because of the remote locations, but also due to the technical challenges of editing 3D. “There was no infrastructure for motion picture production in Taiwan on the scale that we needed,” explained Steve Barnett, Vice President of Post Production for 20th Century Fox. “They have a local television and film industry, but nothing that could sustain the demands we put on production companies in Hollywood.”

Barnett added that this was the first 3D production for Fox shot with ARRI Alexa cameras and it was essential that editorial operations integrate seamlessly with digital laboratory facilities. In Taiwan, the lab was set up in an abandoned airport adjacent to the production location. “Dailies for editorial were processed and color corrected in the lab, then piped over the internet to the studio,” he said. “It all worked seamlessly.”

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Additionally, Hula Post Production supplied editorial systems for operations in New York and Los Angeles to support the production through post. In New York, Hula provided editorial systems and workstations for an editorial facility in a studio owned by director Ang Lee. That studio was designed and engineered by PostWorks New York, which, like Hula Post Production, is part of Slate Media Group. The editorial facility included full 3D editing and viewing capability.

“It’s very unusual to have a 3D editing suite with digital cinema projection, but that was something that Ang Lee and Tim Squyres wanted—they wanted to edit side-by-side in 3D and project in 3D,” Barnett said. “Hula was integral to making that work. Rawaana worked with engineers from Avid and they were able to push the boundaries of the editing systems beyond what they normally can accommodate. This production became a virtual laboratory for 3D editorial.”

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