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Hollywood Turning Against Digital Effects ( 232

An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest complaints to lob at a modern film is that the special effects look bad. It's been over two decades since Jurassic Park; the novelty is finally wearing off. The New Yorker puts it this way: "It's as if directors—especially the reboot generation—have finally become self-conscious about CGI; 2015 was the year they got embarrassed by the digital miracles of the movies." Both the new Star Wars film and Mad Max: Fury Road were lauded for their use of "practical effects" — not abandoning CGI entirely, but using it to embellish scenes, rather than creating them from whole cloth. "Movies are a faddish, self-quoting business. At one time, the stark lighting effects of the German Expressionists were the visual rage. Later, it was the helicopter shot or the zoom. Any new tool, once used promiscuously, becomes a cliché. As time goes by, a director rediscovers the tool, and what was once cliché becomes an homage to a distant and more cultured time. This is what has happened to the last, pre-digital wave of effects. They are now happily vintage." It also counts as marketing, when you consider that audiences are turned off by too much CGI: "Touting your movie's wood, concrete, and steel is an implicit promise of restraint. I didn't go totally wild, the filmmaker is telling the audience, not like Peter Jackson did in the Hobbit trilogy."
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Hollywood Turning Against Digital Effects

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:23PM (#51366837)

    Digital effects aren't bad.

    Half-assed digital effects are bad

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Frigga's Ring ( 1044024 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:32PM (#51366903)
      Agreed. I encourage folks to check out Rocket Jump's video Why CG Sucks (Except it Doesn't) []. If you don't, here's the short version: we don't notice the good digital effects because they're so good or so subtle. We usually only notice the bad stuff.
      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by azcoyote ( 1101073 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @02:36PM (#51367505)
        Good link. He makes a lot of good arguments, especially at the end where he points out that good movies are forgiven for bad effects, which means that what makes a movie good or bad is not really so much the effects but the storytelling. However, there is one important link between the effects and the storytelling today that can be overlooked in this argument. The problem today with effects is not the failure of the artists but often the failure of directors, writers, producers, etc., who specifically insert superfluous effects in order to rely on them in lieu of a decent story. Hence bad or superfluous effects can be an indicator of a bad film, but they themselves do not of themselves make a movie bad. They are mere symptoms of a deeper problem.

        (If the reader lost attention during this comment, I guess it was because no superfluous 3D CG objects flew at the camera or exploded in an over-the-top way that adds nothing to the meaning of what I'm saying...)
      • Agreed. I encourage folks to check out Rocket Jump's video Why CG Sucks (Except it Doesn't) []. If you don't, here's the short version: we don't notice the good digital effects because they're so good or so subtle. We usually only notice the bad stuff.

        One of my favourite movies, Master and Commander, uses CG, but it is not obvious that it does. I think that is the best use of CG, when it is largely invisible and not flaunting itself in your face. Mad Max, Fury Road is another great example.

    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:34PM (#51366931)

      And, CGI is growing instead of decreasing like the article claims. I worked on Mad Max, and out of about 2,400 shots there's about 2,000 shots that include CGI. Also, do you really believe Disney made a lightsaber for Star Wars?

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:46PM (#51367053)
        A lot of the stuff done for Mad Max was just adding matting to enhance the look of the landscape to better suit the tone and feel of the movie or combining effects from multiple shots. They still had real vehicles and a lot of stunt work, which several videos [] showcase. Of course they're going to use the standard editing tricks, but other directors would have put even more CGI into the film in place of those practical effects. In Mad Max the CGI was there to enhance the film, not to make big chunks of it.
    • I just watched a recent Antonio Banderas flick called Automata. It is kind of a slow paced more realistic version of i-robot. What was striking about it was that they used robots. Not hollywood robots. I think they were actua lhuman shaped robots. That is to say extremely limited robots and not actually capable of their alleged uses. They shuffle a bit. Are very clunky. In a few places they are not clunky so I think some deft CGI or men-in-robot suits was spliced in.

      Anyhow what I'm getting to is thi

      • reflecting on why it worked, I think it's partly because for the tone of this movie you sort of read like an enhance play. real world sets but you percieve it as an acted drama not as a hyper realistic. So your mind adapts to the format. And it's something of a relief. You appreciate the drama more without the glitz. the CGI is used so sparingly you can't tell where it exactly is (except for one particular robot with a short screen time).

      • Here's a short youtube showing the effects in Automata. The robots were a combination of real robots and puppeteers. The puppeteers were in green suits and removed by standard green screen subtraction. In breif moments where their arms move in a complex way the arms were CGI added to the puppet robot chasis without arms. []

    • by Tx ( 96709 )

      Exactly. I'm not sure why the summary mentioned Jurassic Park as if it started an era of gratuitous CGI. The CGI in Jurassic Park was *impressive* in 1993, and there are a lot of movies now with CGI that doesn't look as good. But more importantly, Jurassic Park used physical animatronics for the close up dinosaurs, the CGI was used for stuff that couldn't be done any other way, i.e. large flocks of dinosaurs etc, it didn't use CGI just for the sake of it.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @05:01PM (#51368895)

        Who knew the Jim Henson company was right. Well, practically anyone who paid even the slightest amount of attention. CGI is fine when it's used to touch up or create things you can't reasonable do with practical applications but when you have the actors interact with the creature in question you want something that is adequate for the actor to act with. Ian McKellen interacted with a ball hanging from a stick when dealing with the Balrog in Fellowship.

        I will say that Farscape was probably one of the best examples of why you want puppets or animatronics for your non-human entities rather than CGI. You can see so many more levels of interaction between the cast and Rygel and Pilot. The cast could not only touch pilot but could interact and emote with pilot in ways that would seem far less believable if it were CGI. This is what helped bring these two characters to life. The actors were able to react in believable ways so not only were we subjected to the persona of the puppets we were also subjected to how the non-puppet characters reacted to the puppet characters. Life was given.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @02:51PM (#51367651) Homepage

      This all is completely predictable, happens in every area of art, craft, engineering, etc.

      1. A new hamer becomes available. Everything suddenly looks like a nail
      2. Turns out most things aren't nails. Everybody stops using the hamer, because it's so often the wrong tool.
      3. Some things turn out to actually be nails, and people start using the hamer for what it was made for.

      Digital effects are only now entering phase 2, because phase 1 just kept on going so long with ever more powerful technology.

  • Hopefully this means that the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is going to bring back the 80s-style turtle suits instead of using CGI ...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hopefully this means that the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is going to bring back the 80s-style turtle suits instead of using CGI ...

      A return to normalcy would mean that Hollywood would stop assuming that all anyone ever wants to see on the big screen is yet another fucking sequel.

      Fat fucking chance of that.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        A return to normalcy would mean that Hollywood would stop assuming that all anyone ever wants to see on the big screen is yet another fucking sequel.

        Fat fucking chance of that.

        When that eventually passes, and everyone looks down on sequels, then is the right time for a TMNT sequel., at least to be in the original satirical spirit of the comic.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Or maybe create something new. That is, new genre or a new story, sorry don't ask me as I have no imagination. But there are brilliant people out there, just need to reimburse them for their efforts. Instead of usual budgeting $5000 for writers and $5000000000000 for special effects.
      • Instead of usual budgeting $5000 for writers and $5000000000000 for the marketing hype-train.

        Fixed that for you.

        • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
          thanks! this makes much more sense, explains everything (including why I rarely go to the theatre)
    • You're assuming that movie studios invest hundreds of millions of dollars because they're collectively dumb. They aren't. Studios fund sequels, franchises, and certain actors and directors because they more reliably attract audiences than films that don't have these properties.
  • I would call a movie made by someone who hasn't done action movies since the computer age started, and a movie that was promising fan service due to the hated use of special effects previously a trend. Don't get me wrong, I think Mad Max was one of the best action movies I've seen in a long long time, and I hope to see more of it. They seem like outliers to me.

    • Actually, I watch a LOT of special features and commentaries on Blu Ray films. What a lot of directors have realized is 100% CGI looks unreal, and 100% practical isn't possible for some of the things they want to put in film.

      So what they've started doing is filming much of the sequences with actors in green screens, but otherwise actually acting the scene as much as possible .. then they combine the CGI and practical to produce a much more realistic looking thing.

      Mad Max took this to some crazy levels, and

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        I assume you're not talking about Netflix Daredevil, as that was VERY realistic. Ben Affleck just makes everything look fake.
      • You want to make anything an actor interacts with as real as possible. I still think that Farscape really showcases just how much of a better performance you get out of actors when dealing with decidedly non-human creatures that cannot use makeup and costumes to create. There is an attachment that you can find between the crew of Moya and the Rygel / Pilot puppets that you simply could not replicate with a CGI creature.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:30PM (#51366889)
    One nice thing about practical effects is, if done right, they age extremely well. The dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, the aliens from Aliens, even set pieces like the sinking Titanic built in a giant pool or a model White House blowing up in ID4 all look just as good now as they did when their respective movies first premiered. But look at movies even just 5-10 years old that relied heavily on green-screen and other similar technology: they look horrible. The difference in quality, clarity, and movement between live actors and digitally added characters or backgrounds can now be incredibly jarring, and as technology (both in terms of creating/processing digital effects and the technology to display it) improves, what was once cutting edge and extremely lifelike or realistic feels completely outdated only a few years later.
    • For bad CG I would agree 100%

      CG done right though? Just look at Final Fantasy: Advent Children. It came out in 2005, is 100% CG, and still looks damn good even though it is 11 years old now. Guess that is what happens when you literally have to make advances in the fields you are using to make a movie though, you get something that holds up pretty well.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        I actually never saw Advent Children. I did see The Spirit Within and never really experienced the uncanny valley with the animation there. It just needed work on the story.
      • CG done right though? Just look at Final Fantasy: Advent Children. It came out in 2005, is 100% CG, and still looks damn good even though it is 11 years old now. Guess that is what happens when you literally have to make advances in the fields you are using to make a movie though, you get something that holds up pretty well.

        Or Gravity [] where something like +80% of the 91 min running time is CG. Sure it's only 3 years old, but the CG will probably hold up well over time.

    • incredibly jarring

      Or incredible Jar-Jaring.

    • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @02:02PM (#51367187) Homepage

      One nice thing about special effects is, if done right, they age extremely well.

      There, fixed that for you. It doesn't matter whether it's done with CGI or not, if it's done where it truly looks real then it will age well. Looking at Jaws or even the original star wars trilogy, there are scenes now that look terrible today. Guess what?, they looked terrible then too but it was the best they could do so people gave them a pass. If you are limited by technology then it will eventually age the movie but if it's done where it is indistinguishable from reality then it doesn't matter what technology you use whether practical effects or CGI. The only reason that practical effects have aged a little better in certain areas is because many times it's easier to make it look truly realistic with practical effects but we're now there with CGI if people are willing to put in the effort. CGI actually has surpassed many practical effects like animatronics.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        The only reason that practical effects have aged a little better in certain areas is because many times it's easier to make it look truly realistic with practical effects

        I don't think that's quite it, they fail in completely different ways - this is a rubber mask vs this looks grafted on with a computer - and once you've seen good CGI it's so much easier to spot the flaws in bad CGI. You just don't have that contrast with practical effects because they've mostly stood still. Modern CGI, well these days you mostly don't notice unless they want you to notice.

      • This. There is some very old CGI that still looks great. It's CGI that you did not even notice as CGI the first time you watched the film.

      • For this I offer up the original Kink Kong (1933). Basically it was the original special effects movie for those who haven't seen it. Now over 80 years later it still holds up fairly well. Granted most of things were brand new and look a little rough but then watch Terminator 2 and the more advance effects there are also a little rough by today's standards. While King Kong may have rough edges today it wasn't really until T2 that we saw a substantial improvement in effects, yes stop motion got better as did
    • Um...the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park /were/ CGI.
      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        Um...the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park /were/ CGI.

        As someone mentioned, the Gallimimus herd and some of the other parts (such as the raptor leaping onto the T rex, as well as the running T rex) were CGI. But the sick triceratops, the full T Rex, and the raptors were practical effects.

    • That said, I happened to be watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade pretty recently (made before Jurassic Park, but after Aliens), and the scene where the tank falls over the cliff and explodes is pretty cringe worthy...

  • The authors have a point, but "Hollywood Turning Against Flashy Digital Effects You Can See From a Mile Off as Being Artificial" would be more accurate. The VFX industry will definitely not shrink, it will just shift focus a bit. There are some things we are only now getting the hang of, and which were simply not possible before. And these will be the shiny new toys of the next decade.

    Consider the necromancy that Weta Digital pulled off with the likeness of the late Paul Walker for "Fast and Furious 7". For some of the shots in that movie, even the chaps on the VFX team could no longer tell what was real, and what was not. That sort of thing is going to be a considerable part of the future: it's VFX alright, but of the more subtle sort.

    Think a new movie with Marilyn Monroe, or something like that. A totally normal, Woody-Allen-like movie, with zero visible special effects, and scenes that are implausible from a physics viewpoint. Not even any stunts. Ordinary human beings acting in some normal, run-of-the-mill story. Just with a totally convincing, resurrected Marilyn Monroe (or some other iconic star of the 1950ies) playing one of the roles, together with current stars.

    But I fully agree that Gigantic Explosions in Space With Lots of Tentacles, Vol. XXVII, is no longer the hottest thing in movies. That is indeed getting a bit long in the tooth.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jason777 ( 557591 )
      Yeah, did you see Ant-Man? They scanned Michael Douglas in and created a younger version. Completely CGI, but I didnt even know until I watched the special features behind the scenes. Great movie, BTW.
  • I though "peak CGI" had to be Transformers 4. That movie was sooo bad, but if you really like explosions, I guess that's who liked it.
    • Well, and what you have to remember is the "summer action blockbuster" exists independent of what critics say.

      Love it or hate it, there's always going to be that segment which will go see anything with enough giant robots, explosions, car chases, fight scenes ...

      That market segment isn't looking for insightful social commentary and sophisticated allegory about the human condition. And there's always going to be that market.

      Because that market is very profitable.

      So, I won't eve talk about Transformers 4 ...

    • The one that drove it home for me was Avengers - I was really enjoying the movie until the climax battle scene when they went from augmentive CGI to immersive CGI, and it was just another giant snake-ship destroys NYC romp for fifteen minutes. I checked out after five. Any competent outsider could have saved them twenty million and turned out a tighter film - I was really disappointed Joss went in that direction. The trailer for #2 was so full of frenetic junk I just skipped it - friends say that was th

  • As long as it looks better than the semi crash seen in the 2nd Matrix. What a suspension of disbelief breaking pile of rubbish that was.
    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
      The crash scene, the agent jumping between cars, the fight with multiple Agent Smiths, pretty much every scene that had a CGI'd Neo in it. The multiple Agent Smith fight was so awful - it was a huge mistake to do the first half of the battle with actors and the second half with CGI.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      That was bad. But the summary is correct. The Hobbit river barrel scene is the worst CGI scene ever.
      • by GTRacer ( 234395 )
        ...pretty sure there are some sharks in that river.

        That entire setpiece was just awful. Overlong, overwrought, and just too much of everything. Move the sliders to 50 or 60 percent and we have a deal...
  • Thank you! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:39PM (#51366971) Journal

    As I happen to be someone who loves to tool around with CG artwork, you would think that I'd have no problems with it. If you think that, you would be wrong.

    Unless the entire movie is CG from opening to credits, CG should always be used sparingly, like one could use a spicy sauce or pepper; enough to get the job done and enhance the flavor, but no more. Seriously - a little here and there to show things that would otherwise be impossible or prohibitively expensive to show is great if it's done right. If you just go for an all-out CG-gasm (*cough*Transformers*cough*), then expect to have your movie panned, or at least forgotten within a couple of days by the viewer.

    I say this for two reasons:

    1) The Uncanny Valley [] awaits, eager to trap any producer that over-does the CG in a live film (or goes crazy for 'realism' in it). Most folks just don't want to be revolted by the stuff unless the CG itself is central to the story (you know, movies about androids and stuff).

    2) A good movie is not just the suspension of disbelief. Acting quality, Storyline, Plots, Chemistry, and more all factor into a great movie. Most of the best movies of all time contain no CG at all, and some even have no special effects... because the acting, story, and flow of the movie produce an inherent quantity of awesome. CG is not going to make up for any shortcomings in any of it.

    Sure, some movies are going to need more of it than others. SciFi, Fantasy, and even horror flicks will demand a lot of eye-candy to help the flow. That said, CG should be secondary to the story, not the brain-whoring centerpiece of it.

    • Actually, you can even have CGI in every single shot without it looking bad. The key is in using it discreetly. The Truman show is a good example: CGI was extensively used... to render the upper halves of buildings. They built the ground floors as a real set and then digitally added the upper floors, which nothing ever interacts with. Yes, it's just a glorified animated matte painting. But it works very well to turn an unimpressive set into a nicer one.

      CGI can be used well for three things: Unobtrusive ba
  • People don't realise (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @01:40PM (#51366993) Homepage

    People just don't realise how many practical effects were in The Phantom Menace, for example.

    Shit-tons of practical effects. More practical effects than in the entire original trilogy combined.

    Then slapped a whole bunch of CG-"retouching" on top until everything looks like a 3dCg model.

    • On the flip side, many people don't realize how much CG they're actually seeing: []

      • I had no idea that most of what you see on Monk wasn't filmed on the streets of San Francisco (which I only found out about because of a breakdown video like the you linked to). It just never occurred to me to even consider the idea, so I never noticed. If I went back now, I might spot something about it. Or I might not.

        Seems to me there's a world of difference between "What can we do with CGI?" and "Here's what we would do if we had an unlimited set/production budget - now how do we achieve it with CGI?"

        • Dude - it's astounding how much CG is used in period dramas as well (as a big ferinstance.) The PBS series Mr. Selfridge [] (based on the real-life, err, way-too-eccentric exploits of an American who plops a department store in London) was incredibly heavy on CG for the external shots.

          I've noticed it showing up on a lot of these shows, usually when they want to portray a city/landscape in some historical time, or to amp up battle scenes, etc.

    • The whole 3D thing just doesn't work for me. I find it distracting, and generally doesn't add value to the movie.

      And most of the time, it looks like "hey, lets 3D this movie!" afterthought.

      • A lot of the time, it is a "let's 3D this movie" afterthought, with most of these movies not even being filmed stereoscopically.

        Watch a movie like Hugo in 3D and you can see it used artistically without a gimmick.

      • 3D is slightly different.

        For purely CG stuff (e.g. Pixar), I'll pay for the 3D. It definitely adds something intangible to my viewing experience. Can't speak for everyone else, of course. I enjoyed Avatar, which was filmed in 3D.

        But "post-processed 3D"? Not worth it.

        I ended up seeing "Guardians of the Galaxy" in 3D. The problem that I had was that all the human characters looked flat--like a picture painted on cardboard--whereas all the CG stuff was beautifully rendered. It was particularly bad in Got

  • instead of just listening to your computer play music - the thrill of human achievement and accomplishment. When you're watching real people to real stunts, its exciting and fun. When you're watching someone's drawing of a stunt, it's boring.
  • Remember when image morphing was cool? (Like Animorphs or those cheesy effects from automan (I think)).

    And then remember when it was horrible?

  • CGI technology and video game rendering have merged to the point that large sections of CGI-heavy films have the rhythm and look of a video game. This may be pleasing to those weaned on video games as their visual storytelling medium, but to those brought up on physical visual effects, it's distracting.
  • Best article I've read on an "everything old is new again" technique making a comeback and why, The Return of Deep Focus? (AKA Shallow Depth Of Field is not the only way...) []. Personally I love both Hitchcock and Kurosawa's use of Deep Focus (the article gives examples of the former) but of course once it became the "mark of cheap video recording" it fell out of vogue. Now it's making a comeback, much like practical effects are. - HEX
  • I am infinitely more impressed by someone performing a stunt, once, for real, after a thousand takes, by chance, with the help of cleverly-chosen camera angles, than anything that CGI can produce. Fuck, Jackie Chan movies and the like basically give you a broken-bone count in the outtakes over the credits.

    Why movies haven't lauded "No special effects or post-production - everything you see was captured on video in real-time" for the last 20 years, I can't fathom.

    When everything is fake, anything is possib

  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @02:01PM (#51367175) Journal

    I thought that using CGI would be less expensive overall. Between material/storage costs, labor costs, available physical/practical vs. computer modeling/rendering skillsets, desired visual style and/or realism, time, and other considerations, are we at a sort of intermediate point before either practical or CGI becomes a clearly better choice?

    • There are many stories of film crews waiting around all day for that perfect sunset glow. Much easier to hire one guy to fix it in post.
      The parent might have mentioned that the Dogme 95 [] movement was way ahead of the game here and that although I would love to see an Avengers sequel directed by Lars van Trier it ain't never gonna happen.

    • Depends...

      *Good* CGI can cost a mint. This is because it takes a metric buttload of time to render each frame on a rather high-powered render farm, especially at 4k resolution... enough that most studios usually just rent the time on a farm as opposed to buying the mega-CPU-intensive servers to grand it out.

      Even with top-end render engines optimized like crazy, you can expect a decent 6-core server CPU to swallow an entire day to grind out one frame (a still image) at 4k - one second of runtime will take 24

  • I'm all for this, really. It's easy to pick on the Star Wars prequels for egregious use of digital effects (and justified, in my opinion) but it wasn't just that. The technique was genuinely being overused in the industry, and I'm really glad to see a return to practical effects.

    That said, I have to wonder if at least part of the motivation for the return of practical effects is that the cost of digital tools and render time has gotten so low that pretty much anyone can do it. You've all seen web series

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      That's true. I've seen some AMAZING homemade effects that look better than many live-action movies.

      My daughters LOVE watching Zack King on Vine and Instagram and he's putting out better digital effects than many studios these days, with almost zero budget.

  • But it was not the main fault with the Hobbit movies

    • If you watch in in HFR 3D the CGI jumps to the forefront of problems. Live action is hard enough to get used to at 48fps, especially with closeup shots. But they really didn't get the motion right in some of the battle scenes and it just looks like a video game.

  • by belthize ( 990217 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @02:37PM (#51367511)

    This is why it's taken so long to make a World of Warcraft movie. They spent the last decade genetically altering babies to make them into very fast growing orcs so they wouldn't have to rely on CGI. Similar work was done with dogs, lizards and birds to create the fauna.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      This is why it's taken so long to make a World of Warcraft movie. They spent the last decade genetically altering babies to make them into very fast growing orcs so they wouldn't have to rely on CGI.

      Well, what did you expect? I mean, Blizzard did promise that they would release the movie soon [].

  • And have the action scenes serve the script, not the other way around.

  • Shooting on location is very expensive and prone to unexpected costs while CGI effects are well understood- any overruns would be due to poor management.
  • I find that usually the biggest problem with CG isn't the CG itself, it's the fact that it removes actors from the scene. It's much more difficult to convincingly act when you're stuck in a green room talking to a character that doesn't exist yet, or sitting on a chair strapped to some kind of steampunk-esque machine that captures your every muscle twitch.

    We've been making significant progress in that area, giving actors more surrogates to act with, going back and reintroducing real scenery in the foregro
  • Cartoons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jetkust ( 596906 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:10PM (#51367851)
    Overuse of CGI and unrealistic camera movements are turning live-action movies into live-action cartoons. There's a difference in your brain thinking you are seeing something real vs. seeing an impression of something real.
  • I guess this further emphasizes the great merit in filming The Revenant, that cost greatly cause Gonzalez Iñarritu and Lubezki insisted in using no artificial lighting.

  • I dabbled in a bit of acting at younger ages and have some close friends still heavily involved in theater. Movies that rely heavily on CG take away the emotion and reaction of not only the actors but also the environment. When filmed in front of a green screen, it becomes much more difficult to get lost in the character. For me, it is similar to running on a treadmill.. I lose motivation to continue going because no matter how hard I run, I still am not going anywhere.

    I'm glad movies have taken a step
  • If this trend away from using CGI also means Hollywood has more budget left for higher quality scriptwriting, then I'm all for it.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @05:07PM (#51368961)
    It's true that Mad Max in particular had lots of genuine stunts but it was also filled with CG [] - digital composition, green screening, added flame / explosion effects, matting, removal of of wires / safety equipment, CG sequences such as the sandstorm shots. Same too of Star Wars - lots of location shooting, but plenty of CG in there too, enormous amounts for all the battles, droids, creatures.

    It might be better to say that particular directors are better at striking a balance between traditional and modern filmmaking. They know what bits look best filmed for real and which bits should be done later in a computer. J J Abrams can afford to build an external millenium falcon set (used about 4 times in the movie) but he still digitally sticks in the surroundings every time they run up and down the ramp.

  • by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @02:43AM (#51371883) Journal

    It's fun re-reading the questions and my answers on Slashdot [] back in 2002.

    Back then somebody asked how to get into the field -- I said it was a bad idea (and it was at the time!) -- and perhaps that's true again. I left the biz a couple of years ago.

    That said, as people note about Mad Max: Fury Road just about every shot of complex films is a VFX shot. Mad Max had insanely complex, aggressive, and unique practical effects, but there were still 2,000 VFX shots -- and there had to be!

    When I started in VFX back on movies like Terminator 2 I told my friends that the one of the big points of VFX was safety. You can support stunt people with heavy cables, and remove them in post -- or replace the heads of stunt people with the lead actors so that they won't be in danger. This is still true, and will always be true.

    One of the most interesting films nominated for VFX this year (not mentioned in the article) was the spectacular Ex Machina. Hundreds of beautiful VFX shots, that were a vital part of the story. Among the things that makes that movie special is that the VFX team was integral to the design of the film -- the budget was so small, that they had to work together with the director, set designer, etc to come up with a way to tell the story beautifully and inexpensively. The VFX budget was only $1.5M, probably 2% of the VFX budget for Avengers: Age of Ultron (not nominated!) The VFX Oscar winner a couple of years ago, Gravity was similar in that respect, the VFX team helped plan, and then shoot, every shot -- and then shooting the movie was incredibly quick. Perhaps this will happen more in the future of VFX, I hope so -- as it allows the VFX team to participate more intimately in the filmmaking.

    Another thing that's not mentioned in the article is that a lot of filmmaking is about cost. VFX is these days often a heck of a lot cheaper than practical effects. Not just the cost of building things, but the time it takes to shoot them (a typical movie these days costs on the order of $300K/day)

    CG VFX are not dying, not by any means. They may get to be more seamless (I hope so!) and more about telling the story and less about flashy hoo-haw. Every significant budget movie has a huge VFX component, and that's just not going to change.

    Again, reading my questions and answers from my relative youth were interesting -- and foreshadow a lot of what happened in the last 14 years. One of the questions, though, was curiously wrong. I had thought that patents would rip through the industry, as it did to early effects work back in the 60's and 70's, but that didn't happen. What did happen was the studios have found ways to convince foreign (mostly) governments to finance VFX work in those countries, this has pretty much wiped out a huge portion of VFX in the US.

    A bit of sadness is that my old company Hammerhead Productions that I started (and discussed in the article) is closing down after 21 years...but most of the questions and answers bring a smile. Thanks Slashdot!

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson