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 Posted:   Jun 12, 2010 - 2:09 AM   
 By:   Grimsdyke   (Member)

The whole problem is what the CGI mentality has done to filmgoers. We used to see a movie and see something that we knew couldn't be real and go, "How did they do that!?!"

Now... We see a "phenomenal" effect and think, "Wow. It was CGI. Good work."


Well, nowadays I usually think "Why did they do that" ??

There is a sequence in UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION were a winged vampire is attacking a truck driving on a mountain road. Well, it looks like a really crappy CGI.
But in the extras it is revealed that it was actually done 'live' with poor Tony Curran in a harness.
So they waste time and money (est. budget 50,000,000) shooting all this stuff which will look like CGI in the end anyway.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 12, 2010 - 3:03 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

Water effects are very good with CGI (The Perfect Storm). Water was very hard to do before, & not that convincing. The new Poseidon had a very good wave, but the rest of the film was pants. In the old film they seemed to be real people, old, fat, & even the hero had a comb-over (oh, & the lovely Stella!). In the new film they're just cyphers; the broken hearted gay, over protective father, the tough loner & a couple of interchangable good looking women, who I kept mistaking for each other, & all with flat stomachs. They introduce themselves & then in no time at all, the wave. I just didn't care about any of them. Over time Hollywood should have got better at making films, not worse.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 12, 2010 - 4:26 AM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)

.....You say this like it's a new thing. Tons of your beloved non-genre golden age films featured sky replacements, roto, matte painting, garbage matte, crowd enhancements and subtle compositing....


Special Photographic Effects is NOT a new thing, of course!

I would argue with your phrase "tons". I can find little in the way of special photographic effects in pictures like NOW, VOYAGER, ALL ABOUT EVE, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN and hundreds more. Remember that we made "tons" of films in the Golden Age, but only limited numbers were focussed "special effects" films like THE GOOD EARTH, GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, REAP THE WILD WIND, THE BLACK SWAN, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, ETC---unlike today, where many, many of the tentpole pix each year are.

As for the effects you mention, in the old days---very few had sky replacements, very few had rotoscope effects, many had matte paintings, very few had garbage mattes, some had crowd enhancements (particularly in the 1930s), and some had subtle compositing (like CITIZEN KANE and BRINGING UP BABY---if you call that subtle. smile )




Not counting all of the endless process shots used for driving scenes and hard to get to locations.

I think it's relative, Manderely, as my point is that you cited this new Juliet film as an example of a modern, non-genre film where tons of special effects were used to tidy as what you implied as lazy filmmaking. Really, they are just made the way the same way as any film from 1930-60, with visual effects compensating for limitations. Gone with the Wind, The Parradine Case, Bringing up Baby or Kane as you mentioned (which must have had most of the film fed through an optical printer), Rope (in-camera) and even Black Narcissus were not films with flying saucers or tidal waves obliterating cities, but they still had visual effects artists making very valid, often extensive enhancements to the visuals. Building on what you said before as well, the 1930s especially was very visual effects geared, with scenic art, matte paintings and process all heavily integrated together in no different a fashion to shooting a film before a greenscreen with live composite playback.





.....the only difference today being that it's a) digital and b) everyone gets credited rather than a department head.....

Do you have any idea how few people were in the special effects departments of the studios in the old days?? We're talking in the 2-5 range here, including the department head. At Fox there was L.B."Billy"Abbott or Fred Sersen or Ray Kellogg who were always credited, and actually DID the dirty photographic work. Emil Kosa, Jr, and occasionally others, usually credited, painted the mattes. That's pretty much it. At Fox, long-time Director of Photography Charles Clarke had a specially built one-of-a-kind Fox-Simplex production camera assigned to him which was rigged for all kinds of photographic effects he might need to do pick ups on location or wherever, as he was shooting the book of the film. Thus he did the work of a second-unit special effects crew as he was shooting the first.



With due respect, Manderley, many of the matte artists, model makers, optical technicians, engineers were seldom credited. More than 2-5 technicians worked on King Kong, for example.

The matte artists were often not credited on the major Hollywood films. I think Gone with the Wind is a great example of that and I don't think you'll argue there.

In England during that period the department head was credited and then a team beyond 2-5 going uncredited behind the scenes. Most effects were done independent of the main unit too, often with no input from the cinematographer. There some of the bigger UK productions like Thief of Bagdad the remake and Black Narcissus had one department head credited but then an army of matte artists and technicians underneath in very specialised capacities. Peter Ellenshaw and company on the films Percy Day was credited for, and that was just for mattes!



.....Look at something like The Parradine Case or even Barefoot in the Park. Albert Whitlock for example worked on many such productions as you know.....

Albert Whitlock.....and Gordon and Devereaux Jennings, Farciot Edouart, Harold Wellman, "Buddy" Gillespie, Irving Ries, Jack Cosgrove, Warren Newcombe, J. McMillan Johnson, Clarence Slifer, Olin Dupy, Paul K. Lerpae, and zillions more.


Funny you mention Olin Dupy, creator of the proto motion control Dupy Duplicator, who doesn't even have an imdb page. How's that for credit?



But 10-15 special effects shots in a film like PARADINE CASE in the old days is a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds in each film today. It would be interesting to count the number of effects shots in THE WIZARD OF OZ. I'll bet there are not more than 50-75 in this iconic "effects" film.



I'd argue that the process shots for cars and such up the numbers significantly, not to mention all of the not so elaborate stuff like basic forced perspective, hanging miniatures and such. I would also argue that there were more visual effects executed by the cinematographer and art director, with forced perspective, lighting and lens filtration tricks too. Hal Mohr's gauze work on Midsummer Nights Dream I think today probably would have had a couple of fully manned digital effects houses to get the same effect today that he achieved just through filtration creativity back then.



I get the impression that you think I'm against CGI, ahem.

You are wrong.

I shot the 2nd Unit Special Effects sequences in vistaVision for MISSION TO MARS and I found it fascinating and spectacular to see how the images I put into my camera each day got manipulated into the final effects scenes on the screen. I think CGI (and I'm defining that as being used in live-action films, not animated films) is absolutely brilliant and amazing and I constantly marvel at the possibilities. In fact, I've often wished that the original camera elements of many old movies had been saved so they could be re-worked today. A few of the shots in GWTW could benefit from this.

On the other hand, I think CGI (and its great expense of dollars and manpower) often substitutes complexity for simple in-camera on-set effects which might be far more satisfactorily and cheaply done or not done at all in lieu of a better and stronger story and character development. But the fanboys want action, crashes, fiery demises, and aerial assaults, so that's what CGI accomplishes for the present.

But I wonder how far we can go in the future with actors in total green-screen sets and strapped into hanging wire rigs secured around their crotches until they become very bored and alienated with their ill-defined and physically difficult surroundings. (Of course, in the future, that won't matter much as actors will be CGI'd and unreal, too. I wonder what SAG contract demands are being talked about behind closed doors even now as we speak. smile )

But onward and upward with CGI. There will always be a a few creative personnel, both above-and-below-the-line who will be thoughtful and use it well in the furtherance of the story and content---and we need to support those types.


Enlightening, Manderley. smile I agree with your comments on in-camera, particularly. Thanks for that! I hope one day I can make an FSM gathering, if only to have a good yack with yourself about all of this. Always love reading your posts.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 12, 2010 - 2:59 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

You'll find that Manderley, like the best movie stars, is even better in person.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 12, 2010 - 3:15 PM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

The only thing I'm currently sicker of than gratuitous CG is hearing film-makers complain and/or boast how expensive it is. I have yet to see any of these toadies produce anything resembling a cost-out spreadsheet comparing CG work to practical effects work, to backup their claims (at least in any literature that would be considered fair and unbiased).

To paraphrase Hugh Cornwell, they (the CG-overdoers) "use science without being scientists and abuse art without being artists".

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 13, 2010 - 11:12 PM   
 By:   mulan98   (Member)

As always, fascinating insight from Manderley. If he doesn't publish a book soon I'm going to have to collate all his posts from this board and print my own. For private reading of course.

Would that be okay by-the-way?

 
 Posted:   Jun 14, 2010 - 10:34 AM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

The whole problem is what the CGI mentality has done to filmgoers. We used to see a movie and see something that we knew couldn't be real and go, "How did they do that!?!"

Now... We see a "phenomenal" effect and think, "Wow. It was CGI. Good work."



I won't agree with the people about the real problem being the writing, at least in regards to this topic. As an example, I'll cite the X-Men movie (I don't remember which one) where during a face-off with Wolverine where a car gets thrown vertically into the air. I was moderately engaged by the writing and characters of this movie (but don't get me started and how the women got shafted in the series!), and I still thought that the car was done by computer and so wasn't amazed. UNTIL I learned later this is done on the set.

Ka-razy said it best above.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 10:23 AM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

GRAVITY was the first modern movie I've watched where I was amazed by the special effects.

I thought "Wow, that was amazing. How did they do that?"

instead of "Yeah, that was CGI. *Yawn*"

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 10:39 AM   
 By:   BornOfAJackal   (Member)

Gravity had some cool CGI mayhem, but is so rife with CGI that it plays as an animated movie with Sandra Bullock's face inserted.

For a look at how a little CG can expand a traditional movie's tableau, take a look at 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Steve McQueen and John Ridley take an already stunning concept and smartly use CG in spots to increase the lead character's isolation. Superb.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:25 AM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

I have a print of a silent Our Gang short called SEEING THE WORLD. There is some truly amazing matte work done to insert the Gang (sitting in a gondola) in a Venice canal (the real Gang kids were photographed in the US while doubles were shot overseas). 1927. That was impressive.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:30 AM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

I admire Manderley's bravery for admitting he worked on MISSION TO MARS.
iF IT WERE ME, i would keep my mouth shut (i am referring to the movie, not the fx smile )
bruce

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:32 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

I admire Manderley's bravery for admitting he worked on MISSION TO MARS.
iF IT WERE ME, i would keep my mouth shut (i am referring to the movie, not the fx smile )
bruce


He worked on a Morricone-scored film. That's good enough for me.

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:34 AM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

I admire Manderley's bravery for admitting he worked on MISSION TO MARS.
iF IT WERE ME, i would keep my mouth shut (i am referring to the movie, not the fx smile )
bruce


He worked on a Morricone-scored film. That's good enough for me.


ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
bruce

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:39 AM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

.....But I wonder how far we can go in the future with actors in total green-screen sets and strapped into hanging wire rigs secured around their crotches until they become very bored and alienated with their ill-defined and physically difficult surroundings. (Of course, in the future, that won't matter much as actors will be CGI'd and unreal, too. I wonder what SAG contract demands are being talked about behind closed doors even now as we speak. ).....


Sorry to quote myself from a few years back, but my comment still seems relevant: Have any of you seen the cartoon in the new New Yorker issue of October 21, 2013?

I can't post the drawing, but it is of a large green screen in its frame, in front of which is a studio camera on a tripod and two 2K lamps on stands.

Standing by the director's chair (and megaphone) are two figures, one of which is probably the director.

There are NO props, NO set, and NO actors in front of the screen waiting to be shot.

The director is speaking to his friend, "We'll add EVERYTHING in afterward."

smile

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:43 AM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

.....But I wonder how far we can go in the future with actors in total green-screen sets and strapped into hanging wire rigs secured around their crotches until they become very bored and alienated with their ill-defined and physically difficult surroundings. (Of course, in the future, that won't matter much as actors will be CGI'd and unreal, too. I wonder what SAG contract demands are being talked about behind closed doors even now as we speak. ).....


Sorry to quote myself from a few years back, but my comment still seems relevant: Have any of you seen the cartoon in the new New Yorker issue of October 21, 2013?

I can't post the drawing, but it is of a large green screen in its frame, in front of which is a studio camera on a tripod and two 2K lamps on stands.

Standing by the director's chair (and megaphone) are two figures, one of which is probably the director.

There are NO props, NO set, and NO actors in front of the screen waiting to be shot.

The director is speaking to his friend, "We'll add EVERYTHING in afterward."

smile


Brian DePalma should have taken that road in MTM
lol!
BRUCE

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 11:56 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

I admire Manderley's bravery for admitting he worked on MISSION TO MARS.
iF IT WERE ME, i would keep my mouth shut (i am referring to the movie, not the fx smile )
bruce


He worked on a Morricone-scored film. That's good enough for me.


ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
bruce



No, pal, it didn't sound like that.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 12:01 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

.....But I wonder how far we can go in the future with actors in total green-screen sets and strapped into hanging wire rigs secured around their crotches until they become very bored and alienated with their ill-defined and physically difficult surroundings. (Of course, in the future, that won't matter much as actors will be CGI'd and unreal, too. I wonder what SAG contract demands are being talked about behind closed doors even now as we speak. ).....


Sorry to quote myself from a few years back, but my comment still seems relevant: Have any of you seen the cartoon in the new New Yorker issue of October 21, 2013?

I can't post the drawing, but it is of a large green screen in its frame, in front of which is a studio camera on a tripod and two 2K lamps on stands.

Standing by the director's chair (and megaphone) are two figures, one of which is probably the director.

There are NO props, NO set, and NO actors in front of the screen waiting to be shot.

The director is speaking to his friend, "We'll add EVERYTHING in afterward."

smile


Brian DePalma should have taken that road in MTM
lol!
BRUCE



When I first read it, I thought the script for MTM was sorely lacking---and the finished film wouldn't make my 1000 best list, either.

But I have to give credit to De Palma for agreeing to step in to direct it for Disney at the VERY last minute, based on nearly completed pre-production work on the film by the departed director and his team. It's highly unusual to have a director do this and not want long delays and massive changes in EVERYTHING before production starts.

De Palma had only about a week or two to prepare before the picture started---a picture that was complicated to shoot, nearly every shot needing special effects, and not cheaply budgeted. But he pulled off a workmanlike production, and I respect that.

His direction was efficient, as was the crew's work, and the film came in about 10 days under schedule. Disney could have made MISSION TO MARS 2, 3, and 4 for the price of one JOHN CARTER! smile

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 2:28 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Oh, so there were oceans on Mars?

One of the really interesting 'puzzles' concerns the two Prisoner Of Zenda movies. One black and white, the other in colour.

I freeze framed and stared and using nothing but information gained from armchair reading, pondered the question - how? I thought, hey, these were really well done for the time because there was no obvious solution. Then I noticed that both Colman and Granger were absolutely still in the shots where they appear to shake hands with their respective 'selves.' Then it became clear why the actors were like statues. You don't notice that they're absolutely still when watching the films for what they are. The actors are talking in synchronisation all the while, so that detracts a little from the visual sleight of hand. The simple fact is that the frame has cutout areas or windows betwixt the subject and the surrounds. It's the split screen solution, but done extremely well. The other thing that made it hard to 'spot' was the jiggle you get between multiple exposures is generally not uniform between subjects. For instance, I remember seeing an effects shot the first time I saw the original version of Clash Of The Titans. You had actors on a stage mixed with a scenic miniature where the passes were combined in an optical printer. No matter how well your optical 'lineup' personnel get it right, the simple fact is that each of the separate exposures being combined had their own respective 'jiggle' in the machine on which they were exposed and no amount of optical alignment can change pseudo random jiggle from two sources being exposed onto a third, where the unmistakable telltale sign is horizontal, or lateral displacement of both subjects being optically magnified and quite obvious to boot! In the Granger version, the actor is seen to walk behind the king, who is sitting in a chair. He pats the king's right arm while traversing the frame from behind the chair from left to right - then back again. It's another actor's arm that Granger is patting. His 'sitting' self is in the same locked down but precisely overlaid position in which the mystery actor who was playing him was also sat, but with his arm stowed out of frame. The 'sitting' Granger must have occupied a small window which I figure may have been, broadly speaking, 'square' in shape. There was duping in the shot which was the main thing giving it away as an 'effects' shot. The only thing I'm not sure of is wether the whole thing was done 'in-camera' or in a printer. I suspect it was done in-camera because that way, frame jiggle or jitter is kept minimal between passes. The mechanical tolerances and precision engineered sprocket configuration of the same camera means repeatability is going to be that much tighter. It's never going to be ideal to run a film frame through the same gate more than once, but there you go. There was also no visible matte line. I think there must have been a plate of clear glass in between the camera and the king's chair (there was a dining table interposed between the chair and the camera) but with the central matted area being painted deepest black. A counter-matte would then have been employed for the second pass. Having said all that, the shot was probably finessed in an optical printer - it's just the romantic in me wishing it was 'in-camera.' smile

 
 Posted:   Oct 24, 2013 - 3:45 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Missed this thread first time round...interesting reading - thanks!

It is a big beef of mine - not so much about quality of effects, but how they are used...and a prime example of this (for me) is the first half-hour of Captain America - The First Avenger where I was so completely lost in the marvelous film that I completely failed to realise that the main character was a CGI'd composite....I just didn't care.

Another example I have used in the past is George Pal's The War of the Worlds...hanging things with Piano Wire was really a bit of a cop-out and it could have been done differently, however people (including me) are so wrapped up in the fury being unleashed on-screen that it just...passes by unnoticed...though when we get a Blu-Ray release I wouldn't object to a touch of wire removal wink

I had a similar problem with PJ's King Kong as an earlier poster...the CGI was well done, but it was clearly and obviously CGI and gave me nothing to "relate" to...no grounding in reality...for much of the film...and it left me cold...I enjoy watching the move and all, and the DVD is a good time filler, but it just leaves me empty...

 
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