6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy

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Sluis Van Shipyards

Master Member
I still think the worst CGI I ever saw was in Blade 2 when the ninja vampires attack him in his hideout. It looked so fake because they completely ignored physics.
 

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dascoyne

Master Member
Another thing they can't seem to get right is when a CGI character jumps.
I don't know why they can't get the physics right for this.
Last time I saw this was in Guardians of the Galaxy when Drax was fighting Ronan on Knowhere. CGI Drax jumps and it looks like he's being yanked up by a string.

I used to think it's because the center of mass is calculated using the lower abdomen when, in reality, the center of mass changes with the body position.

Or maybe it's because with a character jumping a superhuman height normal body mechanics just don't look natural. In real life, if such a thing were possible, the person would have to move like an insect which would look even stranger. So they're stuck with having the CGI character perform a normal jumping motion but sending them in the air like a puppet.
 

dasAdam

Active Member
as for the jumping
if its not based on any motion capture it is animated by hand... its basically simple as that (and also a reason why it looks off , when it looks off) there is no restriction whatsoever. the body mass calculation does exist but its just used to get secondary motion along with the animated main movement of the char (fattywobbly underchin, boobs, floppy dragon neck ) :D
 

batguy

Sr Member
I hate to be a party pooper, but a lot of these shots can't look right. These things cannot happen. Our subconscious minds don't buy individual things about the physics of the movements even if we are telling ourselves to swallow the whole premise.
 

dascoyne

Master Member
as for the jumping
if its not based on any motion capture it is animated by hand... its basically simple as that (and also a reason why it looks off , when it looks off) there is no restriction whatsoever. the body mass calculation does exist but its just used to get secondary motion along with the animated main movement of the char (fattywobbly underchin, boobs, floppy dragon neck ) :D
Thanks. The "physics" applied in CGI is rarely defined for the lay-person like me.
 

0neiros

Master Member
The worst CGI in a movie STILL is The Mummy II. OMFG SyFy original movies do a better job. That Trailer for Paul Blart Mall Cop II when he gets (Supposedly) kicked by a horse is pretty bad.
 

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Solo4114

Master Member
The worst CGI in a movie STILL is The Mummy II. OMFG SyFy original movies do a better job. That Trailer for Paul Blart Mall Cop II when he gets (Supposedly) kicked by a horse is pretty bad.
You mean the Scorpion King effects? Yeah, they were awful then and remain awful now. I saw better f/x on Babylon 5 when they were doing stuff with a Video Toaster.
 

kegas76

Well-Known Member
Man the opening scene of Ultron had me feeling like this. All the CGI HYDRA members getting tossed around in the woods, it just didn't look right.
 

Riceball

Sr Member
As some commentors in the article pointed out, there's good CGI and there's bad GCI, it's not universal nor is it something that's inherent to the medium and practical isn't always great or perfect either. A lot of what determines whether effects work, practical or CG, is any good depends on a lot of factors such as the time and money allocated to effects. the effects supervisor, and last but certainly not least is the director. The process for FX shot starts with a concept or an idea in the script, the director will flesh it to his/her effects supervisor who will then in turn work with the effects house(s) to create the shot, it will go through several iterations until the lead or supervisor is happy and thinks that it's what the director wants, it will then get shown to the effects supervisor who will give their feedback and once they accept it they'll pass it on the director who will give a final thumbs up or down on the sequence. So, ultimately, bad FX is the fault of the director although there are mitigating factors at times.

The other things that some commentors pointed in the article pointed out that although people like to complain about CG being used a lot, there's actually a lot more CG and effects work that are in basic comedies and dramas where you wouldn't think that there was any CG in it. The fact that most people either don't know or don't notice the post work says, to me, that a lot of these complaints are baseless and much of it is just bandwagon jumping.
 

batguy

Sr Member
Saying "CGI always looks fake" is like saying makeup or cosmetic surgery always looks fake

You probably notice 10% of what they do with it, if that. But if they overreach what is possible or they do a weak job then it's VERY objectionable.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
As some commentors in the article pointed out, there's good CGI and there's bad GCI, it's not universal nor is it something that's inherent to the medium and practical isn't always great or perfect either. A lot of what determines whether effects work, practical or CG, is any good depends on a lot of factors such as the time and money allocated to effects. the effects supervisor, and last but certainly not least is the director. The process for FX shot starts with a concept or an idea in the script, the director will flesh it to his/her effects supervisor who will then in turn work with the effects house(s) to create the shot, it will go through several iterations until the lead or supervisor is happy and thinks that it's what the director wants, it will then get shown to the effects supervisor who will give their feedback and once they accept it they'll pass it on the director who will give a final thumbs up or down on the sequence. So, ultimately, bad FX is the fault of the director although there are mitigating factors at times.
Anyone who thinks practical is always better should go back and watch some of the old Gamera movies where they don't even bother to try to hide that they're using tiny models. CGI has done some really wonderful things. It's also done some crappy stuff. But then, there was crappy stuff before.

The other things that some commentors pointed in the article pointed out that although people like to complain about CG being used a lot, there's actually a lot more CG and effects work that are in basic comedies and dramas where you wouldn't think that there was any CG in it. The fact that most people either don't know or don't notice the post work says, to me, that a lot of these complaints are baseless and much of it is just bandwagon jumping.
Two things.

1. I think the CGI people notice and is bad is a problem because it's CGI that's meant to be noticed. It usually appears in some big action sequence or as part of a spectacle. When something like that fails, it fails in a big, noticeable way. Again, the Scorpion King CG from The Mummy II is a perfect example. This is THE big moment in the film, and the quality...just isn't there. By contrast, a sequence in a comedy where something just looks a little off for a second probably will go unnoticed because it isn't right in your face.

2. I think shifts in color timing have a lot to do with how people view films nowadays. What with the tendency towards orange or blue timing, rather than "normal" timing, I think people are already sort of primed to see artificiality because everything already looks artificial and like it's from a video game. When the entire world already looks like that, you may find your eye wandering to try to spot sequences that just don't ring true.


Actually, lately, I find that my personal bugbear about visuals in film is color timing itself, rather than CGI. I accept that CGI is here to stay and that the real trick is creating more effective lighting so you don't quite notice it, rather than highlighting it with shots like the A-Team tank drop shot. But more importantly, I think more natural color timing would help a lot. I can understand tinting a picture to create a kind of feel, but it seems like a lot of action films don't really "get" that and just do color timing a particular way because...uh...that's how you're supposed to do it.

For example, the old Twin Peaks show was shot very "red" to give the visual feel of a warm, welcoming environment. This visual "feel" stood as a counterpoint to all the crap lurking beneath the surface of the town, and it creates a wonderful dichotomy. Likewise, in the Matrix films, the Matrix itself is tinted green to create a feeling of unreality and lifelessness. That's a conscious choice. Nowadays, though, it seems that films are tinted this way or that way just...uh...because. It's so ubiquitous that it's almost become unnoticeable.
 

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batguy

Sr Member
I don't think CGI's failure rate is very high at all, never mind higher than earlier methods. Probably the only major pre-CGI effect that had a very good success rate, even when ambitious stuff was being attempted, was matte paintings.

But when CGI fails it tends to be a real mess. The failures end up being much more objectionable than bad practical (or even optical) effects. I think this is a lot of the problem today. It's either perfect or it annoys the heck out of the audience.




The Mummy II ending -

When that movie came out I thought to myself "ILM found an excuse to try a photorealistic human for the first time!" That was most of 15 years ago and it had not been done. They could have shot Dwayne Johnson's head/torso and comped it into their CGI lower body but they didn't.

Of course it wasn't convincing. I don't blame ILM for trying it as much as I blame the movie's producers for letting them do it that way. That was during the great transition away from practical SFX and ILM was already a lost cause by then. They were hopelessly CGI-addicted and looking for any excuse to indulge.
 

cayman shen

Master Member
The new Planet of the Apes movies are an example of CG used brilliantly. There were a few times I'd SWEAR I was looking at real apes. The movies were top notch stories and I have zero gripes about the use of CG.

And then there's ROTS, with old man Palpatine flipping around, or the Hobbit, with...man, where do I start?

CG has its place, but it's like salt. A lot of recipes need salt. Salt can add a lot to a dish. But if the whole damn thing is salt, it makes you want to friggin' gag.

CG is for flourishes, small moments, last resorts. Nobody wants to just eat handfuls of salt.
 
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Zombie_61

Master Member
The worst CGI in a movie STILL is The Mummy II. OMFG SyFy original movies do a better job. That Trailer for Paul Blart Mall Cop II when he gets (Supposedly) kicked by a horse is pretty bad.
I'll see your The Mummy Returns and Paul Blart: Mall Cop II and raise you with R.I.P.D., a movie in which every CG character looked like a cartoon. I still think the producers of R.I.P.D. knew they didn't have the resources to make the CG effects look realistic, so they went with "cartoonish" as a stylistic choice.

The new Planet of the Apes movies are an example of CG used brilliantly. There were a few times I'd SWEAR I was looking at real apes. The movies were top notch stories and I have zero gripes about the use of CG.
I haven't seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet, but when I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes I never once believed Caesar was a living, breathing creature. However, I thought the movie was so good that I just accepted it was how Caesar looked and didn't give it a second thought.

Here's the thing--CG artists can make a dinosaur look believable in the Jurassic Park franchise because none of us has ever seen a real dinosaur, so it's easier for them to "fool" us. But, using the new Planet of the Apes franchise for this example, I have seen real chimpanzees. So even though the effects were top notch, Caesar just looked "off" to me even though I can't specifically say why. Granted, when I watch the original Planet of the Apes movies I don't believe I'm seeing real chimpanzees, orangutans, or gorillas either (except, of course, in those few scenes in which they actually used chimpanzees), so that suspension of disbelief works the same way.

As has been said, there are good and bad CG effects just as there are good and bad practical effects. For me, it only becomes a problem when the effects are so bad (regardless of whether they're CG or practical) that they ruin the movie or television show I'm watching.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
The new Planet of the Apes movies are an example of CG used brilliantly. There were a few times I'd SWEAR I was looking at real apes. The movies were top notch stories and I have zero gripes about the use of CG.

And then there's ROTS, with old man Palpatine flipping around, or the Hobbit, with...man, where do I start?

CG has its place, but it's like salt. A lot of recipes need salt. Salt can add a lot to a dish. But if the whole damn thing is salt, it makes you want to friggin' gag.

CG is for flourishes, small moments, last resorts. Nobody wants to just eat handfuls of salt.
False. My fiance would probably eat handfuls of salt. She LOVES salt. I have seen her literally take a salt shaker, shake some salt into a bowl, and just dip her finger in to eat it.

All that aside, I agree that CG should be used in moderation. Although, I think that's true of any special effects. It all goes back to the old (now ironic) Lucas quote about how a special effect without a good story is a really boring thing. I think this has never been more true than it is today. CG and practical effects have gotten so advanced that you can damn near do ANYTHING on screen...but that freedom doesn't automatically translate into a good film or an interesting story.

I still haven't seen Avatar, but based on people's reactions to it and its longevity at this point, I think the general sentiment is "AMAZING f/x. Pretty ho-hum story otherwise." As a result, Avatar is not a new classic. The new classics are the movies based around really good stories and where special effects are a tool used in telling that story, rather than the showcase around which the story is built.

I'll see your The Mummy Returns and Paul Blart: Mall Cop II and raise you with R.I.P.D., a movie in which every CG character looked like a cartoon. I still think the producers of R.I.P.D. knew they didn't have the resources to make the CG effects look realistic, so they went with "cartoonish" as a stylistic choice.

I haven't seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet, but when I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes I never once believed Caesar was a living, breathing creature. However, I thought the movie was so good that I just accepted it was how Caesar looked and didn't give it a second thought.

Here's the thing--CG artists can make a dinosaur look believable in the Jurassic Park franchise because none of us has ever seen a real dinosaur, so it's easier for them to "fool" us. But, using the new Planet of the Apes franchise for this example, I have seen real chimpanzees. So even though the effects were top notch, Caesar just looked "off" to me even though I can't specifically say why. Granted, when I watch the original Planet of the Apes movies I don't believe I'm seeing real chimpanzees, orangutans, or gorillas either (except, of course, in those few scenes in which they actually used chimpanzees), so that suspension of disbelief works the same way.

As has been said, there are good and bad CG effects just as there are good and bad practical effects. For me, it only becomes a problem when the effects are so bad (regardless of whether they're CG or practical) that they ruin the movie or television show I'm watching.
Exactly. Like I said, ultimately it's about the story. I get the whole "Jumping looks unnatural" thing, and I agree....yet I didn't care when I was watching Age of Ultron, simply because the story was humming along nicely anyway.
 

dascoyne

Master Member
Director James Gunn, for one, seems to recognize the pitfalls of CGI. Even with a giant budget, for Guardians of the Galaxy, he still used a lot of practical effects. In fact, the practicals often blended with the CGI making the "seams" harder to detect. This was a principle which he applied also in the (wonderful) film, Super when a certain sidekick gets killed.
 

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