Why modern special effects aren't very special anymore

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Riceball

Sr Member
I'm not sure that I agree with that video, I think the problem is that there is this general backlash against CG and so every time a CG effect shows up on screen people critical of digital effects look extra hard and more critically at everything than they would otherwise. They go in not wanting to like what they see, effects wise, and are unwilling to admit to even themselves that the CG effects are, in most cases, every bit as good as old practical effects and in their nostalgia they've forgotten all of the bad practical effects they've seen.
 
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Soulinertia

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I like the vid and I agree with it for the most part. Anything done with practical effects, even if enhanced with VFX/CGI is going to yield more believable results, but above all what makes a movie is good storytelling. Guardians of the Galaxy for example is chock-full of CG effects. Even two of the main characters were 100% CGI. Fantastical worlds and spacecraft flying all over the screen. Yet the story telling was so well done that I believed it all. These scenes from Knowhere for example are almost completely CGI, but what a ride!

 
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batguy

Sr Member
It stems from a couple of big issues IMO:

#1 - CGI is easily misused & overdone.

#2 - bad results from CGI are often more objectionable than bad results from earlier methods.
 

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James Kenobi 1138

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I agree that no matter how well done a CG shot is, if it's too slick and doesn't have some elements of a real, tangible world it throws your eye off just enough that while it looks flawless it also looks fake.
 

Jedi2016

Sr Member
They're pushing it too far, is my thinking. It's something similar to what the guy in the video is talking about.. real looks real because it is. "Real"-looking CG still looks like CG.

There's also too much of the "filmmaking by committee" happening. Where the suits in the boardroom think something needs to look "better" without having the slightest idea what that actually means, so they end up just throwing a bunch of CG at it. Decisions regarding the overuse of visual effects made by people who aren't artists.
 

swgeek

Sr Member
I like the vid and I agree with it for the most part. Anything done with practical effects, even if enhanced with VFX/CGI is going to yield more believable results, but above all what makes a movie is good storytelling. Guardians of the Galaxy for example is chock-full of CG effects. Even two of the main characters were 100% CGI. Fantastical worlds and spacecraft flying all over the screen. Yet the story telling was so well done that I believed it all. These scenes from Knowhere for example are almost completely CGI, but what a ride!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0CgvipQLk
Totally agree.
It's not entirely CG, haha, we did the explosion of Rocket crashing through the other ship as a miniature.
I don't really have a problem with CG, when it's used right. I think the best effects are the mix of CG and practical effects/miniatures. I do think it's over used, and often used to try and make up for lack of story. But no effect will make up for lack of good writting.
 

AJTaliesen

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
It's 2015 and the shark still looks fake?

I agree with him to some extent.
There is some nostalgia going on there. We had crappy effects in the pre computer days too. Some of those old movies you can go back and watch and it's pure artistry (Dark Crystal is one of my favorites), but there's are thousands of examples where they just put garbage on the screen. Mediocre artists have always and will always exist. Don't blame the brush.

But to some extent he does have a point. I like that he used the Yoda example. It's one I think of when I think of movies throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I LOVE CG. (I should, I currently work as a 3d modeller), but I do think we occasionally forget how beautiful it can be to mix it with practicals.




also.. the guy in the video has a bizarre cadence to his speech. Did that bother anyone else? I think it made me want.to.disagree with.him no. matter what he.was.saying just because it. felt like someone played. pin. the tail on. the donkey with. the. punctuation of his. script.
 

Grey

Sr Member
The main problem with CG as I see it, is that it has a short half-life. Practical effects from 20-odd-years ago can still look amazing (i.e Jurassic Park, Aliens) but CG that might look "amazing" today will look ugly in another 5 years due to the rate of technological advancement.

In many cases it's simply not possible to accomplish what the director is trying to achieve using practical effects and CG must be used, I don't have much of a problem with this. There are, however, many circumstances where I feel talented practical effects could've looked better than CG had the people involved wanted to invest the necesssary time and skill to do so.
 

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Philly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I feel alot of the time that the rendered lighting is terrible, do they use the lighting guys with the CG effects or is it down to the guys modelling to wing it?
 

Bigdaddy

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I used to wonder "How did they do that!" from cool effect shots, now if I have to wonder I assume it's CGI (I've been wrong about that before ;) ) for me it doesn't seem as "special" when you know what's in the magicians kit.
 

Grey

Sr Member
End of argument.
No offense but this is only true if you were trying to reinforce my point. A lot of those landscapes and backdrops were noticably fake, and the most convincing shots were the ones where CG was used in moderation to enhance, rather than replace or substitute actual scenery.

If you want to talk impressive camera work, I would take the diner scene from Goodfellas (shot with a reverse-tracking rig) over a couple of actors sitting in front of a green screen any day of the week.

 
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Philly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
No offense but this is only true if you were trying to reinforce my point. A lot of those landscapes and backdrops were noticably fake, and the most convincing shots were the ones where CG was used in moderation to enhance, rather than replace or substitute actual scenery.

If you want to talk impressive camera work, I would take the diner scene from Goodfellas (shot with a reverse-tracking rig) over a couple of actors sitting in front of a green screen any day of the week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWRncNMEhLw
How the heck did they do that?
 

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Grey

Sr Member
How the heck did they do that?
It has a few names but it's most commonly called a dolly zoom or the "hitchcock zoom", since it was first used in the film Vertigo. The camera is on a dolly that is slowly pulled away from the subject while the lens simultaneously zooms in. The result is a very unsettling, very clever practical effect.
 

Philly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
It has a few names but it's most commonly called a dolly zoom or the "hitchcock zoom", since it was first used in the film Vertigo. The camera is on a dolly that is slowly pulled twords or away from the subject while the camera simultaneously zooms in the opposite direction. The result is a very unsettling, very clever practical effect.
It's pretty sweet, never noticed it before.
 

Augh

Active Member
Not sure which side I fall on regarding the actual video, despite the delivery being a little strange/jarring. I have to admit though I honestly never thought about one of the core issues;

A cheaply made/badly made/obviously "fake" in camera prop however unconvincing is still right there, being interacted with and correctly lit etc. However badly it fails as a special effect, the eye and mind accept it anyway on some level, because it is there.

A badly modeled/textured/rigged/animated/chroma-keyed computer effect just falls flat on its ass, and there its story ends.

Put this hand in hand with the fact that a ton of CG effects are completely invisible to the uninitiated, and you end up with a "nail that stands up gets hammered" type scenario. Seems like bad CG is just the modern equivalent of the painfully obvious man in rubber suit. People would always point and laugh while never even being aware a masterfully realised matte painted backdrop was present.
 

CutThumb

Sr Member
The current standard of general visual effects in the cinema and television is outstanding high. When I look back at what was making the grade when I was a lad I am appalled just how ropey and unwatchable they generally are. There are exceptions, but the sheer quality and imaginative use of CGI these days produces some riveting visuals. l have just finished Season Five of Game of Thrones and "Hardhome" was one of the most utterly brilliantly put together pieces of screen television drama I have ever seen. Within this series there were just one or two shots that looked poorer but they were actually practical shots that looked faker than the CGI but there were also one or two instances where you could see they had run out of completion time and it was a "fail" but only because the rest of it was almost universally superbly finished.
Every successful VFX heavy film and TV production these days seems to strike a reasonable balance between the practical and "green screen" elements so that the majority of scenes work because nobody notices the join. It still an emerging technology and whilst practical effects have really had the whole history of cinema so far to refine themselves, CGI is an emerging technology that just keeps getting better all the time. The huge time and cost savings brought about by digital shooting just could NEVER be achieved these days within a reasonable budget with practical effects.Some of the most brilliantly inventive scenes just could not have happened or be done without them. People have said well CGI looks aged , but have a real look back at some pre digital classics and that's just as true.
To be honest a clever director and his team these days know how to complete a shot using every tool available to them and I have never seen so many beautifully imagined shots on the screen for decades. Without CGI the majority of the films and shows we so enjoy today could never have been made and I damn sure nobody would ever watch them because they were beyond the scope of visual production. Sure you'll have bargain basement VFX used in shows that have small budgets so you'll always have something to complain about, but really, the bulk of the product we watch these days is so much better than its ever been before.
 

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