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 Posted:   Jun 10, 2010 - 11:06 AM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

I remember learning that

a) some of the squirrels in the new Willy Wonka movie were real, and



b) that Angel's first flight in that X-Men movie was done by the actor on a wire



I was amazed that

a) they WEREN'T done by CGI
b) I was blase about the special effects when I saw the movies because I thought they were done by CGI.

Am I experiencing CGI burnout? Do special effects have to be ramped up beyond infinity for me to be amazed now?

I guess I can remember a time when I saw Superman float onto Lois' terrace and being incredulous, when the Death Star exploded and it looked phenomenal. Now.... ho-hum.

Hmmm.

 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2010 - 11:14 AM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

Trouble with CGI movies....is that the directors who use them to the greatest advantage use them in films with stories that have no value. No amazing characters, no memorable story lines. Just CGI for CGI's sake.

"Avatar" was the same old stereotypical "bad military machine" vs. "idealistic nobility". Infused with risible dialogue.

In most of these films, there's no "there" there!

 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2010 - 11:27 AM   
 By:   Accidental Genius   (Member)

Absolutely well put, gents. Having gotten LLL's The Poseidon Adventure recently, I picked up a copy of the movie and watched it for the first time. And while it might have some of those things that date it, the effects were wonderful. It reminded me that even an fx-heavy flick that's not exactly considered a great movie draws me in with its model and photographic effects far more effectively than the CGI of today. That and, as you mentioned, the story was better. Yep, sorry, but for me Avatar is exactly what can be wrong with movies today.

 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2010 - 12:52 PM   
 By:   TominAtl   (Member)

CGI is just another tool that has gotten out of control in Hollywood and has been abused by no talent hacks.

Just remember this movie that really, truly first showed just how amazing and awe inspiring CGI can be:

Jurassic Park

While the actual merit of the film can be debated, no one can deny that for a film as old as it is, shows that when done properly CGI can be a magnificent tool in propelling a story that needs it. I can without a doubt that if Jurassic Park had been done with "go-motion" that it wouldn't have had nearly the appeal and realism that it had. I remember reading a local Atlanta reviewer who said that the "creatures looked as real as if in a petting zoo". Spot on. The T-Rex scene is still one of the greatest show stoppers in movie history. It was a seamless combination of CGI and animatronics.

But today, CGI is used so much and so cheaply that one can spot it immediately, whether it be for a commercial, TV show or a theatrical showing. And by using it so cheaply and so frequently , I feel it takes away from the immersiveness of the film as a bad matting shot or shaky green screen effect. I strongly feel that model shots of ships in space looks more real than CGI creation.

I have no problem with CGI that is used seamlessly, creatively and professionally. That is, CGI shouldn't be noticeable. If you going for a "money shot" or shots using CGI only, then put the time and effort to make it spectacularly real. For my money, the CGI dragon "General" used at the end of "Reign of Fire" is spectacular and frightening. The filmmakers spent time, money and effort on the creature and it paid off.

I too am surprised that they used as many real squirrels as they did for "Wonka" but it shows. Combining CGI with live animals/actors, looks great. In "Braveheart" they used a simple CGI trick when showing the armies marching into battle and it looks like thousands of real live men and not hundreds.

 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2010 - 8:38 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

I am soooooooooooooooooo bored with CGI. Especially when they accompany completely bland writing. Story story story. Character Character Character. Dialogue dialogue dialogue. I am completely unimpressed by the neverending accomplishments of computer nerds. I would much rather experience real people sharing real ideas. Which is why my favorite movie last year was CRAZY HEART.

As my late friend Don Hewitt put it, "tell me a story".

PS. I recently watched the remake of THE WOLF MAN. The remake was titled THE WOLFMAN. Can someone please tell me why a movie made 70 years ago for $180,000 should be ten times as literate, ten times as engrossing and have ten times the genuine emotional impact as a movie made in the age of enlightenment for $85,000,000? The new picture had no moral questions, no intellectual discussion, no torment on the part of the protagonist or his family. It was just a parade of thoroughly unlikeable and unsympathetic characters with absolutely nothing to say for themselves. And what's with this new propensity for CGI figures moving like The Flash!?

And, pps. Every time I turn XM Radio to Cinemagic, all I hear are dark thundering chords announcing the doom of the hour. Are today's film composers as depressed as their music?

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 5:21 AM   
 By:   MikeP   (Member)

CGI isn't the problem.

It's in the writing, the creative spark. On one hand you have something as lovely and touching as "Up", which was last year's best picture, for me. Then you have things like Shrek. See the difference?

I'll watch anything with endless CGI if the film is well written and has solid performances. Blame bad writing and brain dead executives who think they know what audiences want.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 5:54 AM   
 By:   Charles Thaxton   (Member)

All of it...LORD OF THE RINGS...KING KONG....INDIANA JONES/CRYSTAL SKULL...looks like moving oil paintings. Well done magnificent oil paintings to be sure...but still paintings. It lacks the realism that used to be present when special efx were done in real time. And badly done CGI (see just about any SyFY Channel movie) is just pathetic. Almost at the level of Kirk Alyn's cartoon SUPERMAN serials.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 9:14 AM   
 By:   drivingmissdaisy   (Member)

All those computer effect that look so cool, they still don't have gravity correct. Like when someone falls or jumps etc. They seem to fall to Earth faster and the eye can catch it. Least I catch it and it makes me sad.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 9:19 AM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

All those computer effect that look so cool, they still don't have gravity correct. Like when someone falls or jumps etc. They seem to fall to Earth faster and the eye can catch it. Least I catch it and it makes me sad.

This drives me nuts, too -- when they don't have the gravity, the mass, the basic physics correct. Unfortunately, the 3D fad seems to be making this worse instead of better -- they now deliberately forgo physics in favor of 3D effects. See Zemeckis' Beowulf or the trailer for the new Resident Evil movies for some particularly egregious examples.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 10:50 AM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

All those computer effect that look so cool, they still don't have gravity correct. Like when someone falls or jumps etc. They seem to fall to Earth faster and the eye can catch it. Least I catch it and it makes me sad.

This drives me nuts, too -- when they don't have the gravity, the mass, the basic physics correct. Unfortunately, the 3D fad seems to be making this worse instead of better -- they now deliberately forgo physics in favor of 3D effects. See Zemeckis' Beowulf or the trailer for the new Resident Evil movies for some particularly egregious examples.


There IS an exception to this comment about the use of 3D -- and that is PIXAR!!

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 11:41 AM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

Several weeks ago I saw LETTERS TO JULIET, a predictable, but lovely, charming, sentimental, and simple film for oldsters like me. (If it had been made in the 60s it would have starred Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, Olivia de Havilland, and Rossano Brazzi. smile )

There are no comic book chases, frantic and fiery action sequences, other-worldly creatures, or anything that resembles them in the film. There seems to be one simple matte shot in the finale.

Yet the end credits boasted many CGI effects technicians and artists.

I can't imagine what kept them busy. TV antenna or parking meter erasure? Cloud enhancement? Car driving process? I'm always astonished when so much CGI appears to have been used in these simple kinds productions that we used to do in 30-40 days with virtually no special effects other than fades and dissolves.

From my own experience I suspect much of the CGI work being done is "correctional"---to enhance the real locations which are now overbuilt, messy-looking, or mechanically difficult to shoot in.

Universal has just spent $200 million (they claim), rebuilding the backlot streets which were burned in the vault fire of several years ago. But in addition to re-building those they have now added more streets and internationally-set scenic areas in which to shoot, including major enhancements to their New York streets to make them look more contemporary with glass and steel, instead of those '20s and '30s-looking New York streets so beloved of backlots for so many years.

Perhaps one day, Hollywood studio management will once again realize that they can recreate almost anything "at home", with CGI, green screens and sets, etc.....at a fraction of the cost of dragging 50 support vehicles, dressing rooms, honey-wagons, caterers with them to a location, paying police and fire supervisors, drivers, hotel accommodations, plane fares, per diems, etc.---and still cut their costs by massive amounts without sacrificing any visual quality on the screen. Something is going to have to be done, financially. They can't continue to afford $200 million failures like PRINCE OF PERSIA in a changed economy.

(I still marvel at the budget print-out for AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, in which one of the interior sets---I believe it was Kelly's corner studio apartment on the left bank---came in at something like $29.52!!! Even with actual inflation, you couldn't build a major set today at that cost, but then, of course, that set might have been re-dressed from a previous Walter Pidgeon film, the costs of which had previously been written off, and were essentially then "free" for PARIS. )

We are loathe to reuse sets, locations, props, costumes today---something about the "artistic vision and originality" of the directors---and yet the films all look and sound the same way anyway. Hmmmmm. The tremendous economies, with very little artistic sacrifices, of the old studio system are pretty much forgotten today, I'm afraid.

I think CGI in the right hands (and minds) can be amazing, near-indetectible, and creatively invaluable, but those "hands" are often few and far-between these days.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 1:15 PM   
 By:   ahem   (Member)

Several weeks ago I saw LETTERS TO JULIET, a predictable, but lovely, charming, sentimental, and simple film for oldsters like me. (If it had been made in the 60s it would have starred Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, Olivia de Havilland, and Rossano Brazzi. smile )

There are no comic book chases, frantic and fiery action sequences, other-worldly creatures, or anything that resembles them in the film. There seems to be one simple matte shot in the finale.

Yet the end credits boasted many CGI effects technicians and artists.

I can't imagine what kept them busy. TV antenna or parking meter erasure? Cloud enhancement? Car driving process? I'm always astonished when so much CGI appears to have been used in these simple kinds productions that we used to do in 30-40 days with virtually no special effects other than fades and dissolves.

From my own experience I suspect much of the CGI work being done is "correctional"---to enhance the real locations which are now overbuilt, messy-looking, or mechanically difficult to shoot in.


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

I do agree about back the backlot possibilities of Hollywood, though.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 3:38 PM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

Jaws had an unconvincing rubber shark, it's a great movie. The Thing From Another World '51 had the worse monster ever, James Arness with a white face, what a great movie. It's actors that bring film to life & make you care, plus a good script & director.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 5:20 PM   
 By:   manderley   (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 )


.....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.

.....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.

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 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.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 5:44 PM   
 By:   Nicholas_DW   (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."

All effects look fake. The trick is to mix up the fakery so it's not so damned easy to spot. Now that everything's digital, there's rarely a moment when something actually looks realistic. Special effects aren't about being in-your-face, but tricking the audience into believing a lie. The problem is that they don't anymore. It's all very obviously digital.

And, even when it's done in-camera, there's so much digital post work done that the whole thing looks plastic anyway. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a perfect example. Remember when movies used to have colors like the real world? I do too. Hopefully those days come back to us.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 7:40 PM   
 By:   Mr. Jack   (Member)

I really miss the days when rubber and latex and on-set animatronics and matte paintings were used for movie F/X. CGI can work wonders in the right hands, but far too often we get movies with elements that could have been EASILLY been handled more convincingly -- and cheaper -- with "practical" F/X work. Look at that ludicrous plane crash sequence in Air Force One, and you'll see F/X that looks worse than even the cheesiest Airport movies from the 70's. I shudder to think how Rob Bottin's brilliant makeup work from The Thing will be mutilated by the forthcoming CG-crammed remake... frown

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 8:27 PM   
 By:   LeHah   (Member)

The new picture had no moral questions, no intellectual discussion, no torment on the part of the protagonist or his family.

None of those things are benchmarks to great movies though. I certainly don't see any of that in, say, Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 8:34 PM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

The new picture had no moral questions, no intellectual discussion, no torment on the part of the protagonist or his family.

None of those things are benchmarks to great movies though. I certainly don't see any of that in, say, Raiders Of The Lost Ark.


Yes, but Raiders was exciting, with fun characters, whereas The Wolfman was deathly dull except in the few scenes actually featuring the Wolfman. Harrison Ford kicking ass > Benicio Del Toro acting as bored as I've ever seen anyone act in front of a camera. Feisty Karen Allen > Emily Blunt with nothing to do and no good lines. John Rhys-Davies having fun > Hugo Weaving spouting cliches. Human beings having a fight that actually looks painful on a moving airplane > special effects throwing each other around.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 8:43 PM   
 By:   Scott   (Member)

The new picture had no moral questions, no intellectual discussion, no torment on the part of the protagonist or his family.

None of those things are benchmarks to great movies though. I certainly don't see any of that in, say, Raiders Of The Lost Ark.


Actually RAIDERS does have some of that. It's interwoven in the subtext tho. I think Indy does face a moral question, especially when he decides not to blow up the Ark near the climax of the picture. Also, the sequence of Belloq and Indy in the bar after Marion's "death" is pretty intellectual if you asked me.

As for CGI burnout, I agree. My biggest problem is that bad CGI takes me out of the story. I'm looking at the bad effect and have lost the dream like state that all good movies can put you in.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2010 - 8:49 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

I'm already on record at other threads about what I consider the abuses of CGI -- too many excessive action sequences which have no sense of reality or believability -- so I won't belabor the point here.

But thank you, Ray, for your remarks about THE WOLF MAN. I'll bet one thing that might not have saved the 2010 WOLFMAN but could at least have helped it was the 1941 score by Skinner, Salter and Previn. Whenever I listen to John and Bill's performance on the Marco Polo CD, I'm struck by how modern and alive it sounds...

 
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