Ang Lee: 3D is the Future, But Shooting ‘Life of Pi’ is a Learning Curve

Ang Lee told Martin Scorsese at CinemaCon that he had to teach himself a new way to think visually for 3D

 

Ang Lee knows 3D is the future, but that didn’t make it any easier to shoot his forthcoming “Life of Pi” in the format.

“I’m dealing with a kid, a tiger and water … so the learning curve is enormous,” Lee told theater owners at CinemaCon on Wednesday as part of a panel discussion with Martin Scorsese.

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Lee said that he had to teach himself a new way to think visually because he had been used to shooting in two dimensions.

Then there were the technical challenges of using the larger cameras required.

“It’s like operating a refrigerator,” Lee said.

Scorsese, who already wrapped his first foray into 3D with 2011’s “Hugo,” seemed to have had an easier time of things. He said that consigning the film to a sprawling Parisian set helped when it came to manipulating cumbersome equipment.


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Inspired by 1950s films that used 3D like “Dial M for Murder” and “House of Wax,” Scorsese said he really wanted his film to shatter boundaries.

He said he told his crew, “Let’s push it. Let’s see what happens. We’ll keep pushing it and when you complain, we’ll stop.”

He said the major hurdle was working with a young cast that could only be shooting for four hours a day, not the new technology.

“The biggest obstacle was really the child labor laws in England,” Scorsese said.

Lee’s “Life of Pi” is an adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel about an Indian boy who is shipwrecked in a boat with a Bengal tiger. Like “Hugo,” it’s a bold departure from the typical superhero and action films that are usually shot in the format. 

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Lee said that given the enormous costs involved, it is difficult for studios to justify shooting other genres of films in 3D. He said that a quarter of a film’s budget is usually devoted to the technology required to give the film added dimensionality.

“We still need an excuse to watch it [in 3D], a fantastic scene,” Lee said.

Both Scorsese and Lee said they thought that in time the format will become the rule, not the exception.

The “Mean Streets” director said that the transition could be permanent if the industry is able to develop 3D that can be seen without wearing glasses.

“That would open it up completely to any film,” Scorsese said.