Alumnus reveals secrets of Hollywood special effects

Christina Oddo

News Editor

On Jan. 22, Academy Award winner and University alumnus Bill Westenhofer ’90 offered students, faculty and community members information regarding the visual effect process by describing the effects of using both live-action footage and graphics through presenting scenes from “Life of Pi.”

“The event was mostly a visual effect breakdown of ‘Life of Pi,’” Cristiane Teles Maia ’13 said.

Maia invited Westenhofer originally, and helped organize the event with Associate Professor of English Eric Faden.

“[Westenhofer] showed what it took to make the tiger and also the water specifically [in ‘Life of Pi’],” Maia said. “He also explained all the steps they had to take to study them–I believe he spent a few weeks studying the tiger alone and then he spent some time on the ocean, studying the movement and lighting of it. He also had a few videos showing the process from lines to the final outcome of scenes.”

Westenhofer won the Academy Award in 2007 for his visual effects used in “The Golden Compass.” He has a history of working on the visual effects of many successful films, including “Chronicles of Narnia,” “Men in Black 2,” “Elf,” “Stuart Little” and “Stuart Little 2,” as well as “Land of the Lost.” Other successes of his include his experience as a technical director of the Rhythm and Hues Studio, as well as for his supervision of the visual effects in “Babe: Pig in the City,” a 1995 Academy Award winner.

Westenhofer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the University, and went on to get a master’s degree from George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Bill was a great guy,” Maia said. “I got to spend some time with him throughout the day and he had great stories from Bucknell and is very proud to be a Bucknellian. He met with my computer graphics class and talked about jobs in the industry. He also said that he is most proud of the ‘Life of Pi,’ comparing it to all of his work.”

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