Why modern special effects aren't very special anymore

Discussion in 'Entertainment and Movie Talk' started by James Kenobi 1138, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. James Kenobi 1138

    James Kenobi 1138 Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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  2. Riceball

    Riceball Sr Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
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  3. glunark

    glunark Sr Member

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    He's a bit full of himself.
     
  4. Soulinertia

    Soulinertia Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    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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  5. batguy

    batguy Sr Member

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    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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  6. James Kenobi 1138

    James Kenobi 1138 Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    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.
     
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  7. Jedi2016

    Jedi2016 Sr Member

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    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.
     
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  8. swgeek

    swgeek Sr Member

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    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.
     
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  9. AJTaliesen

    AJTaliesen Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    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.
     
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  10. Grey

    Grey Sr Member

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    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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  11. CutThumb

    CutThumb Sr Member

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    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
  12. Philly

    Philly Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    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?
     
  13. Bigdaddy

    Bigdaddy Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    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.
     
  14. Grey

    Grey Sr Member

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    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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  15. Philly

    Philly Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    How the heck did they do that?
     
  16. Grey

    Grey Sr Member

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    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.
     
  17. Philly

    Philly Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    It's pretty sweet, never noticed it before.
     
  18. Grey

    Grey Sr Member

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    Here's another example from Jaws.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2018
  19. Augh

    Augh Active Member

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    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 *, 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.
     
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  20. CutThumb

    CutThumb Sr Member

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    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 * 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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  21. Jedi2016

    Jedi2016 Sr Member

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    Heh.. those two "Vertigo" shots are actually completely opposite from each other. The one from Goodfellas pulls the camera back while zooming in. The one from Jaws pushes the camera forward while zooming out. The second one is more useful in that kind of tense horror environment.
     
  22. glunark

    glunark Sr Member

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    Children are far more forgiving of SFX anyway, I remember watching night rider as a teenager and thinking how cool it was when Kitt turbo boosted through a truck load of rocks, and then you watch it back today and it is so obviously a model.

    For every special FX you think looks bad you probably missed ten you didn't realise were FX at all.
     
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  23. batguy

    batguy Sr Member

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    There is a huge difference in the standards that SFX are held to, especially on television.

    30 years ago people were watching TV on little 10-20" glass screens with no VCRs/disc players/TiVo. There was no pausing and slo-mo replays. You saw something go by once and that was it. The network might replay the show one more time 6 months later. The production teams really weren't planning any farther than that. Syndication wasn't really affecting production habits yet. Widespread sales of TV shows on home video wasn't even in the conversation yet. Stuff just didn't need to stand up to the kind of scrutiny that it does now. Not only the SFX shots but even the editing perfection.

    The same goes for movies before the 1990s, although the screen size wasn't as small. But the image quality/resolution was never really as high as it is today even on older 35mm film.




    Yeah, stuff is better now.

    It also costs a ton of money to make anything (even though CGI has finally started to help costs go down instead of up). Everyone complains that there are too many sequels/remakes. Why? Because the studios don't want to risk losses on original stuff. It's a double-edged sword. The risk-averse-ness even transfers to things like political/intellectual risks. No $200m superhero movie is going to risk something like a Confederate flag these days. Genuine controversy is only for "small" stuff now.

    Look at South Park. "Quick & dirty" also makes it current-events relevant, original, and creative.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
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  24. Vivek

    Vivek Master Member Community Staff RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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  25. Michael Bergeron

    Michael Bergeron Legendary Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    The quality of effects has indeed gotten very high. Are there some severe issues with CG being used wrong? Sure, and in my opinion it has the most to do with how the cameras are used (too pristine used to be a problem but we're getting out of that in recent years). Adding fire to a scene doesn't make it less realistic, but how you shoot it can.

    I think the big reason why it doesn't impress us the same way anymore is because every one of these films is banking on being a visual spectacle. They all (for the most part) hit that mark so it's not special anymore. Take Jurassic Park for instance. A great film regardless of the effects but what really brought it to life and made us believe there were actual freaking dinosaurs on the screen was a good use of practical and CG effects. Those visuals are what sold the film. Would it do nearly as well if every film had the same level of visuals? No.

    That's why to me a lot of these Marvel/DC movies just kind of blend together. All great effects, they certainly nail that, but the stories are all kind of... "meh". So unless there's a really great performance there like Ledger as the Joker nothing is standing out. The movies don't suck, and if even one of the more mediocre examples had come out 20 years ago they would have shattered box office records for the visuals alone.

    The problem isn't the visuals, it's the sameness.
     
  26. niennumb1

    niennumb1 Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yeah I don't think it's really the effects that are bringing on "the suck" of movies. It's the lack of great storytelling and compelling characters. I've seen some pretty mediocre practical effects movies that are great because the movie itself is just awesome on its own and wasn't riding on visual effects. I've gotten to the point now where I've pretty much seen every kind of visual thrown in my face during a trailer, that none of it impresses me anymore. I want to be captivated by the film and a bunch of shots of explosions and city-wrecking monsters isn't quite enough to get my butt in the seat.

    Effects are supposed to support a film, not be the star of it, as too many films are doing these days.
     
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  27. Soulinertia

    Soulinertia Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Regarding the link Vivek posted: "There’s no doubt that more critical discussion is needed about vfx artistry. "

    Isn't that exactly the type of conversations this "dumb" video has instigated regardless of it's conjecture?

    And VFX artists shouldn't take offence to this video. What you all are doing with the tech these days is absolutely incredible!

    The issue lies in the storytelling.

    Like Michael Bergeron pointed out, Jurassic Park is a prime example. The VFX enhanced the experience, (BTW, did you know there are less than 5 minutes of actual CGI dinos in Jurassic Park? That's a fact.) but what made Jurassic Park really work is the original concept, (something we hadn't really seen before), and superb storytelling. Combine that with good acting and a real sense of fear. Take the T-Rex scene with the kids in the jeep which still stands out today as cinematic history. (Mostly practical BTW) You really fear for those kids! It was just done so well. The building of anticipation, they really took their time with it. You just don't see that much in blockbusters anymore these days. Everything is so fast paced. No time for dramatic pause.






    Now compare that to what is basically the same scene in Jurassic World with the boys in the giant hamster ball. It just falls kinda flat. No real sense of fear. They drop out and run away, like a long ways, yet they still manage to outrun the Indominus rex and still have time to spend a couple seconds talking about jumping off the cliff before they actually do it. blah.
     
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  28. Solo4114

    Solo4114 Master Member

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    Part of it is also the way that F/X are often used, such that they emphasize their unreality. Like, the way a camera moves in certain CGI F/X shots is something that'd be basically impossible to do with a real camera. In some films, that's good, because the sense of unreality is part of the story. For example, in the Matrix, all of the 360 spinning freeze cam stuff works because it's happening within an unreal world, namely the Matrix itself. But to do this in a regular action film just because it looks cool is basically to lampshade the f/x and draw attention to how it isn't real. In the Jurassic Park example, the camera is used in such a way that the dino seems to really inhabit the shot (probably because some version of prop or practical effect did).

    The other thing is, as has been said, an effect being in service to the story, rather than being an excuse for a story. That GotG reel bit upthread has some of the kinds of "The camera wouldn't do that" work in it...but it doesn't matter because you're busy enjoying the film. Why? Because it's a well-told story, and the f/x are being used in support of it, rather than in a "LOOK HOW COOL OUR F/X ARE" shot.
     
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  29. Michael Bergeron

    Michael Bergeron Legendary Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    A much better video (less pretentious anyway) on some of the pitfalls of modern CG.

     
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  30. Tribal Spaceman

    Tribal Spaceman Active Member

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    I think problems occur when CG doesn't attempt to replicate real-world filmmaking techniques. If the rest of your movie is shot from normal camera angles and the FX shots are all zipping around the place, in a way that no real camera could ever capture, it's going to look very jarring.
     

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