Noah Set 1

That Noah, a historical epic about a man on a boat with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different kinds of animals, would require lots of effects work is no surprise. Particularly when the director behind it is Darren Aronofsky, whose striking visual sense has made him a favorite among cinephiles. But even so, you may be surprised to hear just how much work went into creating this thing.

All of Noah’s animals are digital creations, and because there’s so many of them the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic had their work cut out for them. According to Aronofsky, one shot in particular earned him the “badge of honor” of having the most complex effects shot in ILM’s history. Hit the jump to read his comments.

In an interview with DGA Quarterly, Aronofsky reveals that he wanted his Noah’s Ark tale to look a bit different from earlier, more cliched depictions of the event. So with the help of ILM, he set out to create animals that wouldn’t look too familiar.

We had to create an entire animal kingdom. All the animals in the movie are slightly tweaked; I didn’t want the clichéd polar bear, elephant, and lion walking onto the Ark; I didn’t want the shot of a giraffe’s head looking over the rail. I wanted to respect the storyline and think what would have been involved if it all really happened.

We basically went through the animal kingdom and pinpointed the body types we wanted: some pachyderms, some rodents, reptiles, and the bird kingdom. We chose the species and they were brought to life with different furs and colors. We didn’t want anything fully recognizable but not completely absurd either.

This led to what Aronofsky says ILM told him was the most complicated computer rendering that ILM had ever worked on.

It was a nice badge of honor. I don’t think it’s the most incredible shot, but I think because of all the hair on the animals it was incredibly complicated for them. They said, ‘We can only render it two or three more times so make sure those are exactly right because they take so long and are so complex.’

And yet, despite the intense labor that went into digitally crafting these animals, CG was actually the easier option here. As Aronofsky explains, it would have been harder still to use real animals.

I think we’ve learned from people who have done it before that that’s a really bad move. Politically it’s not a great thing to work with live animals and that’s becoming more apparent to people as time goes by, but also, technically, it would have been extremely difficult. And we’ve learned from lots of other films how hard it is to bring different kinds of animals together.

Aronofsky’s comments about the effects are intriguing, but mostly this story just inspires pity for Noah himself. If even Aronofsky couldn’t handle the logistics of working with trained animals and their professional handlers on a big set, how hard must it have been for this poor guy to be stuck inside a rocking ship with wild creatures for 40 days?

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