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Awake In The Dark
What you're watching these days on the Big Screen and the Small Screen.


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Old September 27th, 2004, 12:39 AM   #46
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http://premiere.com/article.asp?sect...rticle_id=1793

back to topic, the above link is how parts of sky capt is put together. very cool to see if you can d/l the pictures and do the compositing in photoshop.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 12:02 PM   #47
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And if we're talking current directors I personally would consider folks like Cronenberg, Lynch, and Gilliam much more interesting. At least if we're talking about the art of cinema. If we're talking about how your film can have a tie in with Pizza Hut selling glasses.....well, then I guess Lucas would be your man. Obviously film is not separate from commerce but with Lucas I get the feeling that the toys come first and the film follows.

If that's what you believe, more power to you, it's very much not true, but a lot of people who didn't like the prequels can't help but believe it.

I think you'll be strongly surprised by Lucas' post Star Wars films, as he moves back towards his THX roots.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 01:11 PM   #48
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So he says he intends, but do you believe Lucas is any longer capable of making a film free of the digital backlot?
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Old September 27th, 2004, 01:46 PM   #49
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http://www.lucasfilm.com/films/other/

^you don't have look for lucas's "other films". some of them are already out on DVD.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 01:55 PM   #50
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So he says he intends, but do you believe Lucas is any longer capable of making a film free of the digital backlot?

He's capable of it, but he certainly doesn't seem to want to. But I don't think that matters.

I think he's certainly capable of making an interesting, thought-provoking film whether the he shoots on location or on blue-screen.

Do you think THX would be that different if it were shot entirely on blue-screen with the sets as models or CGI that were comped in later? I don't.

What's wrong with the digital backlot anyway?
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Old September 27th, 2004, 02:04 PM   #51
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The digital backlot is okay to me.

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Old September 27th, 2004, 04:32 PM   #52
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"What's wrong with the digital backlot anyway?"

As with any technique, nothing is wrong with the digital backlot per se, save that insofar as it represents a money-saving shortcut, it poses unique temptations for its witting or unwitting misuse, the results of which are clearly visible in the prequels and even moreso in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

All the problems with how Lucas, Conran, et al have used digital backlots share a common trait: in trying to effect a photoreal verisimilitude, they end up thwarting it by hindering and/or limiting the expression of intentionality on the part of human actors. Compare Hayden Christensen's unhurried straddle over to the speeder bike when he seeks his captive mother in Attack of the Clones--an accomodation for the special effect--to the frenzied leap Mark Hamill makes into his landspeeder when he realizes the jeopardy his guardians are in in A New Hope. Or note the lack of suspense generated by the unreal threat of the dinosaurian monsters in the island jungle segment of Sky Capain--unreal because of how evident it is that the creatures will never make physical contact with the actors, a restriction that takes its toll on the emotivity of the actors, who have no conception of what creature opposes them from shot to shot, and thus cannot, or at least do not, evince the anticipated portrayals of the states they find themselves in.

There are many more examples (from these two films alone) of the hindrances placed on actors that warp performances and sap energy from what ought to be intensely suspenseful or motivated action sequences. To catalogue them all would be an interesting exercise, and we could go into it if it would be profitable to do so. But there is little sense in proving what has already been proven by these films. Those with eyes to see, let them see.

I should add that Yi Fong Yu has a good point. If Radioland Murders typifies the type of "experimental" cinema Lucas intends to return to now that he is freed of the shackles of traditional restraints on the filmmaker's visual pallette, why should we expect to see anything more engaging out of him than what he has produced since then?
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Old September 27th, 2004, 04:55 PM   #53
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I agree with Robert. The overt use of CGI to me means there is no risk apparent to the audience. The really great CGI is what is unnoticeable. But the CGI I can spot gives me no feeling whatsoever for risk to the actors, characters and hence in the story itself. Oh nooo look at the CG! Watch out for the CG!

Note, I can suspend my disbelief for an entirely CG creation or for traditional animation, some of which is just as exciting as an entirely live action film. But where it is clearly fakery, I can't bring myself to care about the people taking part.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 05:54 PM   #54
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All the problems with how Lucas, Conran, et al have used digital backlots share a common trait: in trying to effect a photoreal verisimilitude, they end up thwarting it by hindering and/or limiting the expression of intentionality on the part of human actors.

Well, I think, for the most part, how well the actors blend in with their false reality is as subjective as any other type of acting.

Though, I think that if you are going to compare acting, you also have to take into account the style of the movie and the acting in it. The way the actors in Star Wars and Sky Captain react to the strangeness around them is not to different from the way Buster Crabbe used to react to the smoking models on wires, and that similarity is intentional.

Compare Hayden Christensen's unhurried straddle over to the speeder bike when he seeks his captive mother in Attack of the Clones--an accomodation for the special effect--to the frenzied leap Mark Hamill makes into his landspeeder when he realizes the jeopardy his guardians are in in A New Hope.

Well, I think you have to take into account the nature of the scene when you do that sort of compare/contrast.

Also, the speeder bike in the Hayden scene was a practical prop.

I should add that Yi Fong Yu has a good point. If Radioland Murders typifies the type of "experimental" cinema Lucas intends to return to now that he is freed of the shackles of traditional restraints on the filmmaker's visual pallette, why should we expect to see anything more engaging out of him than what he has produced since then?

Radioland Murders was clearly Lucas' homage to 30s screwball comedies, not an experimental work like THX. I think when Lucas says experimental, there is enough depth within his filmography to figure out what he means.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 07:28 PM   #55
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actually buster's reaction was far more realistic.

i think the main problem with current directors utilizing CG (even return of the king where eowyn has no fear of those giant oliphaunts) is that they are trying to have actors MATCH animators/CG-creators. i think they are ALL doing it wrong. they should have concentrated on the ACTORS creating a believable performance which then COULD sell the CG-creation. in that way no matter how broadly CG or live action is blended it becomes believable. what do you think made roger rabbit work? it was that the humans reacted to the cartoon elements as if they were THERE.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 11:33 PM   #56
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i think they are ALL doing it wrong. they should have concentrated on the ACTORS creating a believable performance which then COULD sell the CG-creation. in that way no matter how broadly CG or live action is blended it becomes believable.

I'd be willing to bet that is what they did, how well it works is left to the eye of the viewer, though certainly some actors are better at it than others.

However, I think it is a bit simple to say that the filmmaker's are incompetent or are somehow using CG as a crutch without knowing how to do it right.

It is very easy to make those claims without having tried to do it.
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Old September 28th, 2004, 08:50 AM   #57
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uh... have you been watching those 'making-ofs'? they always match the actors to the CG they are going to achieve. that is especially true of star wars. very simply they just don't have any idea what's going on the bluescreen. the dots ain't there just for references the dots are for actors to reference where they should keep their eye line. the actors end up concentrating so hard on 'hitting the right notes' that they have no performance left.

lotr was a bit diff in that they had andy serkis there on the set. it's also how they're gonna do it in king kong. if you goto kongisking.net you'll see footage of how their bluescreen has mixture of set and weather elements. the bluescreen is really just for the background. for a flick like sky captain where everything is cg including prop they should have aimed for a more pulpy acting. i keep reading that they were trying not to over-act and trying not to be corny but the problem remains, until marlo brando came along "method acting" as we know it didn't really exist. if they truly wanted to achieve that flash gordon/buck rogers look they should have gone all the way and ham it up! it's like a stage-acting instead of screen acting.
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Old September 28th, 2004, 10:17 AM   #58
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uh... have you been watching those 'making-ofs'? they always match the actors to the CG they are going to achieve. that is especially true of star wars.

I have, but I think they also focus on getting the best performance. There comes a point where you have to make things match and can't just let the actor make it up as they go. And, even if the actors were making up their own reactions to their own ideas of monsters, the performances wouldn't be any better.

Even on Roger Rabbit, Bob Hoskins was performing against nothing in every shot, and most of his actions were predicated because the animation had already been started a year before principal photography.

very simply they just don't have any idea what's going on the bluescreen. the dots ain't there just for references the dots are for actors to reference where they should keep their eye line. the actors end up concentrating so hard on 'hitting the right notes' that they have no performance left.

Well, that's purely subjective. Most of the time, I think they sell it fine.

However, as the technique gets more and more refined, directors are learning how to do it better - that's true of any technique.

Now that digital actors and whatnot are becoming more prevelant, director's are learning better ways to make their actors work better with CGI creatures that aren't there.

It started with Episode I, when Lucas used Ahmed Best to stand in for Jar Jar Binks, and Andy Secombe to stand in for Watto, so that the actors would have a performance to react to. The same technique was used and refined even more on LOTR with Andy Serkis and on Ep. II with the actors standing in for Kaminoans and Geonosians.

And it is being refined even more on King Kong, and on Ep. III, where they use actors in blue and green suits to portray General Grevious and his bodyguards.

Of course some things, like dinosaurs and cave trolls and alien monsters you can't really have a stand in for. But animatics have improved, and continue to improve, to the point that it is possible to show an actor exactly what he is reacting to. This was a technique used on Ep. II and on LOTR, and according to interviews from the set of Ep. III, it has been used even more, and has been very beneficial for the actors.

But, at the end of the day, they are imagining something that isn't really there, and all the technique in the world isn't going to change that. It's not a new problem - the same thing happened on the Harryhausen films of old.

It's really left up to the skill of the actor to sell it. And then the audience to buy it - though I think many are automatically prejudiced against CGI, because they know it's not real but trying to pretend that it is.

I think it is too early to tell who doesn't know how to use CGI correctly, and who is trying to figure out how to use it the best way possible. It is still a very knew form of filmmaking. Was Alexander Graham Bell incompetent for not figuring out the switchboard right away? Give it another ten years before making judgements.

Just out of curiosity, is there anyone here who has directed an actor against a greenscreen?
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Old September 28th, 2004, 01:11 PM   #59
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"It started with Episode I, when Lucas used Ahmed Best to stand in for Jar Jar Binks, and Andy Secombe to stand in for Watto, so that the actors would have a performance to react to. The same technique was used and refined even more on LOTR with Andy Serkis and on Ep. II with the actors standing in for Kaminoans and Geonosians."

The difference being that the stand-ins for Jar-Jar and Watto were only used for rehearsal takes in the STAR WARS movies; the actual takes were shot with the stand-ins reading their lines from off-camera.

Let us not forget why Terrance Stamp said he would refuse to return as Chancellor Valorum for Episode II. He was infuriated that he had arrived on set to find that he would be delivering his lines to a balloon. When he inquired what happened to Natalie Portman, the crew replied, "Oh, we gave her the day off."
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Old September 28th, 2004, 02:00 PM   #60
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The difference being that the stand-ins for Jar-Jar and Watto were only used for rehearsal takes in the STAR WARS movies; the actual takes were shot with the stand-ins reading their lines from off-camera.

LOTR shot Gollum the exact same way. It wasn't until post that they started rotoscaping Andy Serkis out and replacing him with Gollum, as they experimented with new ways to create a digital character that interacted with a real world (and it's not an accident that a lot of the guys that did that work were Ep. I and ILM veterans, including VFX Supervisor Joe Letteri).

There's still a fair amount of straight key frame animation over blank plates in LOTR, and Gollum's face is always keyframe animatd - sometimes based on Serkis reference and sometimes not. According to the animation supervisor (can't remember his name off the top of my head) Gollum is about half roto and half animated.

According to Rob Coleman, animation director for Ep. I and II, the rotoscoping technique was used on Jar Jar for Ep. I as well, just not as often - mainly when he had to interact physically with a person.

And following LOTR's lead, they have begun using more and more roto to increase the interaction of digital creatures with live actors.

Let us not forget why Terrance Stamp said he would refuse to return as Chancellor Valorum for Episode II. He was infuriated that he had arrived on set to find that he would be delivering his lines to a balloon. When he inquired what happened to Natalie Portman, the crew replied, "Oh, we gave her the day off."

I've read that in an interview, but sounded like Terrance was being pissy. He was delivering his lines to an off camera Natalie Portman and she wasn't on set that day. Ep. I isn't the first movie where that has happened (and it didn't have anything to do with digital filmmaking) and in a career as long as Stamp's, I'd be surprised if that were the first time. There's a funny little anecdote on the Blade commentary (one of the only interesting things about the movie) by Stephen Dorff about something similar happening during a scene where he is supposed to be talking to an off camera Wesley Snipes, who in reality was back and forth from set to trailer.

My point being, good or bad, this is something that goes on all the time in filmmaking. Maybe Lucas could have managed his actors better, on the other hand he also had to juggle the well-being of his lead actress with a supporting actor who had one day worth of work. It's impossible to say without actually being there in his shoes.
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