Editor Tim Squyres Talks Challenges of CG Tigers and 3D for Life of Pi

Tim Squyres has worked as director Ang Lee’s editor for two decades, helping Lee to create films such as “Hulk,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Caution,” “Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and most recently, the 3D spectacle “Life of Pi.” The Academy Award nominated editor spoke to The Verge about the new film as well as technological advances in editing. Squyres says he’s seen the finished “Life of Pi” 30 to 50 times because movies are produced in so many different forms: “3D, 2D, IMAX, film, 2D digital, 2D film, and for audio there are 7.1, 5.1, Dolby Atmos, near-field for TV speakers, and more,” he said.

Visual effects are much more challenging to create in 3D, according to Squyres, because the editors have to account for both eyes and make everything match perfectly. In “Life of Pi,” some of the tiger shots were a real tiger and some were a CG tiger. Squyres says this forced the editing team to work even harder to make the effects perfect.

3D films and films shot in 48 frames per second reduce the level of abstraction film creates, he notes. As technology advances, it makes the film seem more real, something which the Chinese embrace, but Americans have been slow to adopt. “It’s doable, but the hardest part is the face,” explains Squyres, when discussing digital actors replacing human actors. Editors have done well to master body movements, but the face has more muscles and subtleties than other body parts.

“Things should go underappreciated,” Squyres responded when asked if he wished people appreciated behind-the-scenes artists more. “You should just be able to watch the movie.”

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