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<I>Two Brothers</I> DVD Shows How to Work With Animals

11 Nov, 2004 By: Fred Topel

W.C. Fields said to never work with animals, but Jean-Jacques Annaud has cast animals as his lead actors twice.

The director of The Bear brought a story of tigers to screens this past summer with Two Brothers. For the film's Dec. 21 DVD release, Annaud has behind-the-scenes features showing how he filmed the tiger action.

“You will see how the technicians were in cages, while the animals were roaming freely in those vast compounds,” Annaud said. “How the cameras were displayed, how they were controlled, motion controlled. We recorded almost every single scene and showed how it was done.”

Thanks to computer technology, filming animals is no longer about just prompting them and waiting for them to get it right. Trainers can get right in the shot to direct specific action and be removed later, thanks to motion-control cameras. Computers record the exact camera movement of a shot, so that the director can shoot the empty background the exact same way. Wherever the trainer shows up in a shot, he can then paste the clean background over him, since the computer has already matched it to the main shot with the animals.

“Every movement the camera does — lateral, vertical, pan, tilt, zoom, focus — when you've got your right moment and you've been doing all those kinds of elegant movements, you then can clean the set of all the unwanted elements,” Annaud said. “Very often in the background, I would have a trainer or you would see a part of the camera. Therefore, I had to clean all that. You erase the unwanted elements later on.”

To capture close, intimate actions of the wild tigers, Annaud took advantage of remote-control technology to keep the operators safe.

“I insisted to shoot the tigers the way I shoot a star, meaning lots of close-ups, the cameras a few inches from their jaws to get inside their eyes,” Annaud said. “My cameras were inches away. This is why they were all remote controlled as you can imagine, although on a few occasions, my camera operators would beg me to use the camera with a long lens and have contact with the flesh of the camera. So, in those cases where they were in heavy chicken wire, we would cut the chicken wire around the lens. But sometimes the window was a bit too big and tigers — believe it or not, they love cages because it's like a den — they liked getting in. Fortunately, we always had a trainer with a large piece of meat.”

The DVD will also include a documentary on tigers, storyboards and extended scenes.

Annaud noted the deleted scenes would include “the first cuts of some scenes that were very, very adorable with the young tigers, but were too long to be edited that way and wouldn't make sense in the movie, but are very, very cute to look at.”

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