Visual Effects Industry Does a Disappearing Act

The Oscar for best visual effects on Sunday is widely expected to go to Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which uses a digitally created tiger so realistic that it serves as the main character’s sole companion for most of a journey across the Pacific.

But there may not be much celebrating at the El Segundo, Calif., offices of Rhythm & Hues Studios Inc., the 26-year-old company that served as lead effects producer for the film. On Feb. 13, just eight days after “Pi” won four prizes at the annual Visual Effects Society Awards, Rhythm & Hues filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The same week it laid off 254 of its 718 employees in the Los Angeles area, according to court documents.

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