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Old December 20th, 2004, 01:51 PM   #16
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I’m not anti-technology, but I’ve yet to see a CGI creature as interesting as what has been created in the past using stop motion, even if some aspects look more convincing. Also, over-the-top action sequences that rely on CGI just don’t have as much impact. Think of Steve McQueen’s famous car chase in “Bullitt,” or the chase scenes in the “French Connection.” Way cooler than anything being done today. And finally, CGI sequences that depict scenes that would have been impossible to film previously usually just feel gratuitous. I suppose the best thing to be said about CGI is that it’s safer and (can be) less expensive.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 01:52 PM   #17
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Jesse, why "troubling"? It is all a matter of taste.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 02:34 PM   #18
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It's only troubling because it sucks when something takes you "out" of a movie, but it seems weird to me with how much is faked that this would be thing that stops people from fully enjoying certain movies. I didn't mean their dislike of some CGI was troubling. I meant more that if CGI was having that kind of effect it was only gonna get worse. I can only assume that things in movies are going to get "faker", so where will that leave a lot of the public that really doesn't like CGI, just becuase they know it's CGI.

I understand that it's a matter of taste that everybody is entitled to, and the people that have made a case against bad CGI have done it well. I agree with them in some ways, but am pushing the pro-CGI argument mostly to see where it takes the discussion.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 03:13 PM   #19
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Jesse, I think a movie should try as much as it can to be consistent within itself. That is the first thing that has to be established. So the effects should try to fit with what it is trying to accomplish otherwise it can be jarring.

For example, in "Saving Private Ryan" there is a mix of special effects, mostly practical but also lots of digital (and of course editing). All of the effects seem seamless and don't break the world that has been established. But let's say that Spielberg got sick one day and was replaced by David O. Russell who then decided he wanted the camera to speed along the flight path of a bullet and enter the organs of a soldier (as he did in "Three Kings") then it would not fit with the style. Similarly, it would crush the realism of "Saving Private Ryan" if there was suddenly a frozen bullet-time sequence directed by the Washowski brothers. The action could be exactly the same but portrayed stylistically different and with the aid of CG or other overt photographic effect. How jarring the CG is, has to do with how it fits with the overall style.

CG/other digital effects is effective when established with the style. There was a television movie called "When Lions Roared" which was a history of WWII choosing as its narrative the correspondence between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. These three men only met twice in person, so then how could you really have a compelling narrative if all of their exchanges were in letters? The producers chose to use a conceit whereby the men 'spoke' to each other the content of their letters but stepped in and out of each other's worlds. Sometimes Stalin would walk in and out of a raging battlefield or archival reel. All of this was accomplished with tricky editing and digital effect. I couldn't think of another way to do this without the tools.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 04:27 PM   #20
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CGI and Rock and Roll similarities OR Long live the infinite chemical reaction....

I'm not sure if anyone out there sees this possibly happening in the near future. It's possible that it's happening now. Anyway, I'm 32 and remember in the 80's when it was common for rock and rollers to make an "album" without computers, synths or other non traditional instruments.

Does anyone remember the trend of rockers who would write something in their album covers about it? They would say something like "no computers used" or "no synths used" or something similar.

The reason I mention this? It seems to me that films have very much reached the same place. I'd much rather list to the Beatles or any other actual musicians play than to listen to some "computer" generated band. (they are everywhere now, of course) But, it's very similar to the film thing now. Think about it....I'm hearing that people want to "watch" real physical world action and not CG. It's just like rock music when tech became popular...people went either left or right if they had a strong sense of music. It's my opinion, but it's like any art-form....it evolves. I personally love Norman Rockwell the painter, and really don't want to see a digital artist who created something in Photoshop on the same wall space. However, that Photoshop artist has a place...on someone else's wall! That's fine, but I do think it's two completely different things.

You will never in a million years get the same moving image story created in two different places. The computer generated image lacks real physical world subtle lighting. The physical world lacks the ability to create an instant playback....meaning, if you are outside the lighting is changing every SECOND. It's not like moving the mouse and rewinding the entire shot and changing the lighting "perfectly" everytime. It's always going to be different in the real world...always because the sun and earth are uniquely different from second to second. Interestingly, today during my lunch I was listening to the commentary on the new "Dances with Wolves" (get it!)...the producer commmented to Kevin Costner that the unique landscapes in the film look better than anything CG could create.

It's like film verus video...the film crystals that are formed during capture and subsequent chemical bath reaction are unique. No video camera can offer true unique behaviour because it's zero's and one's.....life ain't zeros and ones. My girlfriend is a chemist and we talk about it all the time. Life is one humungous chemical reaction taking place in every molucule!

Long live the infinite chemical reaction of moucule's versus boring zero's and one's!
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Old December 20th, 2004, 04:36 PM   #21
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I think that's an interesting parrallel. I do remember in the '80s when there was a big rupture in the indie music world. I had friends who splintered off into the dance music synth pop scene. Not surprisingly, I stayed firmly in the "Punk Rock Baby!" camp. I do remember albums that proudly stated "no overdubs," while across the aisle other records just as proudly proclaimed "digitally mastered." I don't think it can be denied though that digital musicians have produced some indisputably classic music. As the technology progresses, maybe the film world will reach that level as well. The giant spider in the Return of the King does come close.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 06:08 PM   #22
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I guess I should correct myself to a certain extent. I love the traditional effects AND I can certainly appreciate CGI when done correctly or appropriately.
Titanic blew it for me from the beginning because they show an arial shot over the deck, there is a CG man walking on deck and it looks SOOOO fake! It would have been so easy to just film a real man walking on a "set" deck and drop it in, at least it would look like a MAN instead of one of those Lego men! The bow wave was also CGI and you can get REAL bow wave footage EVERY DAY in almost every port in the world! How freakin' lazy!
Now, the Spy Kids movies have a bunch of set tricks and CGI and they look great! Same with the Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean. I know it's fake, it doesn't look terrible and I loved the movies. LOTR is another one. Sometimes it looks great, other times, not so.
And then there's movies like Alexander. Why? Why do they feel the need to add so many CGI soldiers? There are 10 times as many CGI soldiers as there were real soldiers in the real battles! They were great battles in real life, why do they feel the need to OVER-fake it and make it look like crap at the same time! That's like re-making the movie "The Alamo" with 10,000 men inside and a million outside! Just make a decent movie! I think they just get so excited about technology they forget what's really important, the story.

ooh, another pet peeve. When a car peels out on a dirt road and you hear the squeal that only asphalt can give!
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Old December 20th, 2004, 06:27 PM   #23
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Rhett, I haven't seen "Alexander" but your complaint about the numbers who were there may be off the mark since no one really knows how many fought at Gaugemela. However, in antiquity it was probably the most famous battle ever fought and the numbers suggested by accounts were quite huge. I've heard almost half a million were involved (though this is unlikely). As well, people always have trouble describing numbers when they see it. People tend to inflate numbers when they are there while we in the audience would also have trouble estimating numbers even from our superior "birds eye view". Inflating numbers could be stylistic to represent the feeling of the protagonists who seem to be up against insurmountable odds. Also, if we consider the reality of a battle, if we were truly there at Gaugemela probably all we would see is the first two ranks in front of us and a lot of dust, screaming and blood. So not very nice to see for the audience.

My problem with CG battles *so far* is that they haven't quite got the randomization of humans and formation that well. The finest example of CG (and live footage combined) is in the Lord of the Rings movies. The software they developed (Massive) does a good job of putting out the numbers and each individual unit seems to move independently but seen as a whole they are far too regular in spacing. The effect of terrain, exhaustion and the impact of battle on formations is such that even the most highly disciplined armies should bunch up, compress and fray much more than is seen in the LOTR movies.

Another problem I have is in composition. I just don't like that you can compose a shot that won't happen 'in nature' or in the reality of that world. That's why I don't like the helicopter shots that occur in the LOTR movies. Of course you can say that if they had shot truly in Middle Earth they could have put a camera operator on a flying creature. In those scenes where they establish a flying creature, fine, then it makes sense to follow the Nazgul as they swoop in on Minas Tirith. But on the whole a lot of those sweeping vista shots are gratuitous and make me think: "helicopter shot".

In the recent "The Four Feathers" there was a really excellent static shot of the British square defending themselves against an onslaught of Sudanese warriors shot from a very high angle. I don't quite remember but I believe that was shot from a nearby mountain. Maybe it was even CG. The point is, you could imagine that in this world someone sitting on a mountain far away could witness the battle from this POV. If there had been a helicopter shot of the same it would have broken this reality for me.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 07:07 PM   #24
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I know what you mean about "The Four Feathers" that was done really well. The problem with movies like Alexander is that the site the battle was supposed to take place wouldn't have possibly held as many men as is suggested by some revisionist historians and the movies. I guess it does boil down to the effects making a group that large appear realistic, which most do not. Braveheart and Gladiator had great battle scenes. I don't specifically know how they did it, but it worked.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 09:27 PM   #25
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Yeah

I am very enthusiastic with CG going to such high levels soon enough it's going to be hard to tell from reality I mean look at the claymation King Kong and the 80's version what a jump and the new one that is coming out by Peter Jackson (can't even begin to imagine). Though I miss the days when "The Blade Runner" type movies came out with computers having only three colors and all that was really an achievement beyond my imagination. I watch that movie today and I'm still in awe. :)
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Old December 20th, 2004, 10:54 PM   #26
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yesh the arrows that were shot in all of kurosawa's films are REAL arrows. it's actually quite insane if you think about all the insurance liabilites of having your STAR getting SHOT @ by REAL arrows that can pierce and kill you =). ah those were the days.

also jurassic park is a mixture of CG and props. the closeup scenes of the actors and the dinos are REAL (or as real as the creature builders made them).

re: battle numbers, i have just listened to the director commentary for Return of the King Extended and he said that the Rohan riders numbered roughly 600,000. he said that was what those "old wars" (like napoleanic wars) had in numbers. i dunno if it's accurate or not, but he must be some sort of a battle buff i heard in previous documentaries.

has anyone seen lawrence of arabia on the big screen? i know th small screen ain't doing it justice but it feels so big on the small screen i just can't imagine what it must be like to see LOA on big screen! =). some movies are simply big by nature... but no CG.

well since you all hate CG in films so much =P, can ya'll NAME some films with CG that you like and what scenes worked?

cause for me, i think CG is VERY realistic when it comes to backgrounds/environments. meaning you know how during movies like star trek they utilized a lot of 2D art painting as backdrops? i think CG extending sets is really nice. i think that's one great use of CG that, if done correctly, can give you a sense of a wide "world". i mean who knows what ships look like when they're traveling in space? by its nature fantasy/Sci Fi already is fake, so i think using CG to take us to those worlds is a neat way.

CG for objects is there... when modeled properly and with enough time spent. this is pretty simple. you can easily fool the eye now.

CG for creatures is so so. meaning if the creatures are part of the background and blurry, i have no problems with that. but if it's in the forefront it has to depend on what the creature is. if it's a cow (like in twister) we know it's fake cause some of us are actually pretty familiar with cows (you texans =). but for aliens... well not a lot of us have seen aliens so gray or green little aliens can look good using CG.

but CG for humans is not really there yet. if you used a 3D program to render a 2D picture it might be hard to tell but once you animate it in a 3D space, it's pretty simple to spot. will computers EVER get there? i think so, once you perfect the art of motion capture without using our current crude method. meaning a human actor still has to act it out but the 3D can superimpose different faces, etc. meaning a 12 year black girl can play a 80 year old asian man dying of cancer, but i think it's TOO soon cause the technology ain't there yet as evidenced by polar express and tom hanks playing different roles. you can't animate human-like movements without mocap by hand. it's just unrealistic. even mocap can look fake. in fellowship of the ring when the camera is in very wide panning the mines of moria, there are several shots of the fellowship running away from orcs that are FAKE... EVEN THOUGH they used mocap of the same actors running. =). the software has to get better.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 12:19 AM   #27
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<<<-- Originally posted by Rhett Allen : I know what you mean about "The Four Feathers" that was done really well. The problem with movies like Alexander is that the site the battle was supposed to take place wouldn't have possibly held as many men as is suggested by some revisionist historians and the movies... -->>>

Rhett, as it turns out I have a book by Victor Davis Hanson, one of the foremost military historians and he claims that Alexander had 50,000 men at Gaugamela faced by five times as many Persians (and allies). He mentions some claims that 100,000 Persians died on the field. That's quite a lot of people to show on the screen. When I think 50,000 I can remember back to certain concerts and a full football stadium. With that in mind, do you think Oliver Stone inflated it on screen (again, I haven't seen it. Only the trailers)?

<<<-- Yi Fong Yu: re: battle numbers, i have just listened to the director commentary for Return of the King Extended and he said that the Rohan riders numbered roughly 600,000. he said that was what those "old wars" (like napoleanic wars) had in numbers. i dunno if it's accurate or not, but he must be some sort of a battle buff i heard in previous documentaries. -->>>

Napoleonic *campaigns* were on a scale far higher than ancient and medieval battles because by Napoleonic times there was a population boom because of improved agricultural techniques. So Napoleon could raise and feed massive armies. He lost nearly a million men on the retreat from Russia but in another year he was able to make up those numbers.

However, the actual battles still featured tens of thousands versus tens rather than hundreds of thousands facing off. The problem is that even if you have hundreds of thousands in your army, it takes time to get them marching and arriving at a certain area at a certain time. This is another problem with the Lord of the Rings, it seems like at will armies can suddenly appear on the horizon altogether ready to fight when in fact armies could take hours or even days to arrive. One wing could arrive, fight and lose the morning battle only to be on the winning side in the evening when the rest of the army arrived.

Sergei Bondurchuck filmed "Waterloo" with an actual army serving as extras for both sides. It's quite a sight. Waterloo was 74,000 French versus Wellington's 64,000. Bondurchuck's film probably had the most extras of any film up to that point. I don't know if it's been surpassed.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 12:35 AM   #28
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I think this thread will soon become ancient history! ;P

PS - I do not need clarification of at what point in time history is considered ancient or not ;)
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Old December 21st, 2004, 02:44 PM   #29
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I don't know if I made the wrong impression.
I don't hate CGI, I just think that... well you best would go for the most real looking thing.
That's why I loved the dinosaurs in JP (looked more natural than the stopmotion tests they showed on the dvd :-D) but that's why I also would prefer Braveheart.
And believe me, I know they couldn't do the battle of the Pellennor fields with real army's and people, and I wouldn't want it too, I think that Peter Jackson has made the emotions of the movie soo good, and the fx are great... that it are GREAT battlefields... But I know that if I put it next to braveheart, even if I like LOTR more... I'm more in awe by the battlefields from braveheart.

And believe me, I would never come close to saying the battles of LOTR look fake. But it still isn't so real as REAL actors.
Does this disturb me? No it doesn't. It does disturb me if filmmakers forget the storyline, of make their movies CGI shows. Than just go play a video game.
And I know that isn't doing justice for CGI, after all it all depends on the hands of the maker...
For instance, I thought the legs of Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump (or his no-legs) looked very real. It is offcourse rather difficult to chop the legs of one of your stars. You could always try...
For instance, the feather in Forrest Gump... Well, I Never knew it was CGI untill they told me :-) That is, Robert Zeckemis. He called me and he said: Mathieu, did you know my feather was CGI?
I said:... No my dear Robert I didn't... thanks for clearing that up!
(Sorry, I'm very tired at the moment... need sleep... need better jokes...)

That stupid thing being said, I still think the old ET lookes more realy then the new one! And I'm a huge ET fan, and it isn't because I'm nostalgic. But I think every one agrees the old one looked more real. But I didn't care... the movie still is genius, and I still was brought to tears at the end. What brings me to my conclusion:

I think if the filmmaker handles the story right, bad effects, wether CGI or stop motion, or whatever... we will always look over it. Because the rest is right.
(Maybe this is naive and optimistic... but it's good to be naive sometimes :-))

BTW: You could always go (in some extent, not at LOTR for example :-p :-p)) for the power of suggestion!
Well, in horrormovies it works better I think... I loved Ringu far far far far more than The Ring, but that's a different topic, I know.
I don't see LOTR done with suggestion :-D Think about it: you hear the screaming of men, and Gandalf looks very pale and says: Oh my god... There are flying beasts!!

Damn... I Still need sleep and better jokes.
I don't know if this reply was helpful :-$
And I REALLY should make my posts shorter...
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Old December 21st, 2004, 04:52 PM   #30
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which reminds me of something, remember star trek the original series? modern trekkies (trekweb.com) always dug at the bad fx.... but i always defended it because the story is so strong that the show essentially becomes a "stage play" where there are many instances of relying on the power of suggestion. YESH we know the rock is foam and weighs nothing... but the drama suggests that the rock is crushing somebody. YESH we know the laser fx are fake... but we know that a person is shooting a phaser and the receiver of the laser is getting shot. it's simply tools.

conversely, we now have realistic visual fx for modern star trek... but really boring, bland and outright BAD writing.

on the other hand the x-files had some computer fx that we know are fake too (given TV budgets) but their stories were always so strong that we were forgiving (like the UFO fx).
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