'Life of Pi' relies on Codex gear for 3D workflow
December 13, 2012

'Life of Pi' relies on Codex gear for 3D workflow

LONDON — Life of Pi, the new, epic adventure film from 20th Century Fox and director Ang Lee, relied on Codex recorders as a part of the production’s 3D workflow. The Codex systems (www.codexdigital.com) were used on-set to capture dual streams of data from pairs of Arri Alexa cameras. Additionally, Codex digital laboratory systems were employed near-set to manage and back-up the large amount of data that was generated by the stereo production.

The production of Life of Pi spanned four years and numerous locations across the globe. Shooting locations included Montreal, Canada; Pondicherry and Munar, India; and a giant, custom-built water tank in Taiwan, where open water scenes were staged. All of the live action was shot natively in 3D.

3D specialist Cameron Pace Group supported Lee through the creative process by supplying expertise, equipment, and an on-set workflow for screening dailies. A number of different camera systems were considered for use with the rigs, with cinematographer Claudio Miranda ultimately selecting the Arri Alexa for its sensitivity to details such as light reflecting off water.

“Life of Pi was not an easy film,” notes Cameron Pace Group co-chairman/CEO, Vince Pace. “You had a production crew traveling to India. There was a set up at a defunct airport in Taiwan. As a result, we made a choice to throw the best technology at it in order to support the creative portion throughout the filmmaking process…and that’s where Codex shined.”

The Codex recorders provided a way to record data reliably and without compression. Additionally, they simplified the process of recording 3D through their ability to record dual streams from paired cameras in synchronicity. 

“Codex treats dual streams as if they are one negative,” Pace explains. “That really benefits you when you want to playback scenes in 3D. It is far superior to using two recorders as that would require external equipment to play them in sync.”

During the production, individual Codex recorders were used with each of three camera pairs. When the recorders were full, they were taken to a near-set laboratory and off-loaded to Codex Digital Labs. The Digital Labs were employed to make LTO back-up media and to load media onto a DVS Clipster system that was used to prepare 3D dailies media for review, editorial, visual effects and post production purposes.

The off-loading process was overseen by CPG’s Derek Schweickart, the production’s 3D workflow supervisor. “Codex’s ability to record clips that are the same length is really important,” he says. “It made it very easy to manage the left eye and right eye. When I offloaded the data to the Digital Lab and then onto the Clipster, there was very little data management to do. I simply dropped in the left eye and right eye timelines. That allowed us to focus on other tasks such as color correction and matching the footage to script notes. That was a huge advantage.”

The recorders also allowed scene and take information entered on-set to be used in the file naming for post. “That meant that the footage didn’t need to be logged in a traditional manner,” he adds. “Clips were the same length and properly named when delivered to the lab. That saved us time with syncing and naming.”