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Ang Lee: Vfx Biz ‘Very Hard to Make Money’

'Life of Pi' helmer adds: 'Their research and development fees are so high'

Ang Lee stayed stuck to his awards season line about vfx, praising the artists but condemning the costs, at a “Life of Pi” Blu-ray press event in New York.

Lee, who incurred the ire of vfx artists by not mentioning the Oscar-winning visual effects on his pic during his acceptance speech for director, had an opportunity to expand on his opinions of the biz but didn’t bite. He didn’t have a lot to say about the travails of the visual effects industry even when prodded, other than pointing out the constant pressure for novelty that’s build into vfx.

“This is a business where it’s very hard to make money,” he said. “Their research and development fees are so high, because when you use visual effects in a movie, you always want to see something you’ve never seen before.”

Film editor Tim Squyres chimed in, “If they can’t make money off this, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the business plan between the studios and the visual effects company.”

Lee, Squyres and scribe David Magee all acknowledged the integral part played by the film’s vfx team. “I think they’re artists,” Lee said and added that vfx studios are often eager to work with him. “Normally they do big explosions, but I want to do visual art with them.”

The director did note that the cost of vfx can be an obstacle to production. “For a movie like this (“Life of Pi”) it’s very common for visual effects to take up half the budget. Some of those segments are so expensive. Millions of dollars have to be spent before the studio can see it. How do they approve that budget?”

The homevideo extras on the “Life of Pi” Blu-ray show the intricacies of the film’s 3D and CGI work, including one extended edit of the shipwreck scene that illustrates the various layers of vfx work involved in the sequence.

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