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Old December 19th, 2004, 09:28 PM   #1
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I hate CGI!

I was reminded of this tonight watching "The Wizard of Oz" on TV and just had to vent. A lot of the charm of this movie comes from the old fashioned look of the special effects, although I'm sure they were cutting edge at the time. Can you imagine this movie without the clearly hand painted backdrops and other analog effects? It has a timeless look that modern effects movies aren't likely to achieve. I suppose we've reached a point where there's no going back and movies have lost their ability to surprise. Sorry for the rant, but I find the whole thing depressing. Can't wait to see "The Aviator." I read somewhere that Scorsese vowed not to use CGI. Maybe he's bothered (as I am) how dated the ending of "Casino" now looks (where Robert DeNiro is blasted into the air by a car bomb). Grrrr!
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Old December 19th, 2004, 09:53 PM   #2
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I too appreciate the old school effects. I thought Star Wars was ruined by the "new" CGI crap they added and the NEW Star Wars movies are just complete crap themselves! All this new stuff is really neat but none of it looks even close to realistic. I remember when critics were swooning over the CGI in Titanic and when I saw it all I could think was "they paid how much for this?" I could do better with crayons!
It's not there yet but there have been a few noble attempts. I would like to see a revival in non-CGI effects, even if it means the scenes aren't as dramatic. I mean, just how big of an explosion do we really need in that scene?
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Old December 20th, 2004, 02:47 AM   #3
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Obviously the older CGI looks pretty bad by today's standards, but the painted backdrops in "Oz" are dated too. You just have a nostalgic link to them. A kid watching it today might think the Oz painted backdrops look fake and ridiculous (I know I did) but really love the CGI in "Sky Captain" (I did not). I'm for whatever effects look best.

At least for now, miniatures, models, and real exteriors and interiors look better than CGI, but that won't last long. I think a lot of the CGI in the new Star Wars looked like crap, but some it looks fantastic (a lot of the digital sets) and helped to produce shots that could have never been put on film otherwise. Scorcese vowing to avoid CGI, and Spielberg vowing to ever stop shooting on film, make them seem like narrow mided dinosurs to me. Spielberg even refuses to watch dialies in DV!

...and yes the explosion could ALWAYS be bigger! (j/k) ;)
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Old December 20th, 2004, 07:00 AM   #4
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My girlfriend and I love older films (pre computer) because the "suspention of disbelief" was achieved by mirroring reality. It was in the physical world and lit accordingly to capture the nuance. Any "special effect" was also shot (via matte paintings etc), but you still shot it...nevertheless it was shot on film and maintained a consistant feel.

I for one can't stand CGI, but at the same time I pysche myself up when I know there will be some and enjoy it anyway. The thought of being entertained by someone that "clicked the mouse" a 1,000 times doesn't appeal to me. If I know the physical world was mainly used (live action) I somehow enter the "suspention of disbelief" quite easily.

Yes, it's petty and there ain't no going back. But, the greatest era of filmmaking in my opinion is the mid-60's to late 70's. It was after the studio system breakdown and before the computer revolution. The look, feel and overall recklessness of the captured physical world is unparelleleld.

That's my opinion anyway. Also, an extra note - and slightly contradictory as to what I've just said....I LOVE Star Wars, Superman, Alien and those other 70's "effects" films. But, they do fall in line with the capturing of physical objects and not "zeros and ones".

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Old December 20th, 2004, 08:38 AM   #5
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And I just don't appreciate all the stunts anymore. Everytime I see a scene, I am thinking " I wonder how they faked that", rather than "boy those stuntmen are nuts". I miss those 50 car pileups, no wonder Ford is having so much financial trouble now.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 09:50 AM   #6
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I enjoy CGI a lot.

However, I miss actors working with the physical reality of set pieces. Most notable in recent memory was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But also compare the sweaty, nasty physicality of the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV) with the Episodes I & II--even when Hayden Christensen was throwing himself around inside giant smashy-stampy machines, the action somehow felt thin.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had CGI in it, but a surprising amount of the visual effects were done in-camera with actors on set (or on location). I think Gondry found a really nice balance, actually.

It may be that actors haven't caught up to the technology--just as stage actors and stage directors had to learn (or create) a new style when they moved to film, perhaps with the growing pervasiveness of CGI, we'll have to find new ways to root our work in some kind "reality."

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Old December 20th, 2004, 10:03 AM   #7
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Eternal Sunshine was good...wasn't to aware of the cgi, so that's a good thing.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 10:35 AM   #8
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<<<-- Originally posted by Rhett Allen : I too appreciate the old school effects. I thought Star Wars was ruined by the "new" CGI crap they added and the NEW Star Wars movies are just complete crap themselves! All this new stuff is really neat but none of it looks even close to realistic. I remember when critics were swooning over the CGI in Titanic and when I saw it all I could think was "they paid how much for this?" I could do better with crayons!
It's not there yet but there have been a few noble attempts. I would like to see a revival in non-CGI effects, even if it means the scenes aren't as dramatic. I mean, just how big of an explosion do we really need in that scene? -->>>

I agree to the extent that I hate the new Star Wars movies, because there is no soul to it, and that I too believe that you must perform as much fx in-camera as possible.
That's why I love Braveheart, and although I think LOTR is great, I was more in awe when I saw in Braveheart 100 REAL people bashing eachother than in LOTR where it is cool and the fx are well done... but you still see it isn't real.
I love mat paintings too, especially if Tim Burton uses them (Batman, Edward Scissorhands).

I don't agree about Titanic though, I still think it looks pretty real.

So with that in mind, what I want to say is: I don't hate CGI, but if I have to choose... well, what looks the most real. The special fx from Jurassic Park (classic example, I know) were terrific I thought, and I know for sure they couldn't be done so beautiful with stopmotion, what Spielberg originally planned.
But many possibilities that CGI brings are great, but I just wished many director's keept thinking about emotions and the right story, and not let the FX overrule the movie.
I think Peter JAckson (LOTR) and Spielberg suceed in this.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 10:37 AM   #9
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You have a point about Braveheart. Massive numbers of computer generated soldiers are dull, dull, dull. Remember how awesome it looked when all the soldiers lined up in "Spartacus"? Computer generated effects can't even come close to matching that.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 11:41 AM   #10
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Yes I remember :-)
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Old December 20th, 2004, 11:51 AM   #11
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now for a counter point. how WOULD you achieve a shot during the battle of Pelennor Fields in Return of the King without CG? how about the mumakil (elephants) sweeping the riders of rohan? hmmm... i mean how would you technically achieve a shot like that without computer graphics?

also, how about somn like forest gump when the legless gary sinise's legs were swinging over the ship? how would that realistically been have achieved? or how about getting clinton into the same room as jodie foster in contact?

i'm not endorsing anything i'm just curious as to how would a filmmaker work around a world without CG, is it really possible?
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Old December 20th, 2004, 12:08 PM   #12
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I'll chirp in. I used to work in computer graphic imaging and even did it for a film.

CG is just a tool and it can be used wisely or not wisely.

Some of the argument against CG is like arguing against the types of films that use CG a lot like blockbusters. Let's dispense with that for another thread.

I agree that currently there is a qualitative and aesthetic difference between CG, live action, photographic effects and other forms of effects.

I watched "House of the Flying Daggers" recently. There were some stunts that were believable and some that were obviously CG. Zhang Zi Yi (or stunt double) making an acrobatic pose or complicated martial arts move I can appreciate. In a choreographed fight I can appreciate it even further because I know they are humans involved and there is a risk. On the other hand, I didn't feel the same stakes when they were fighting using CG weaponry or dodging CG flying daggers. I knew it was unreal, it was a trick and the only value was in admiring the composition.

Now look at "The Throne of Blood" and the scene where the daimyo is being brought down by scores of arrows being shot at him. That is real stuff! (Or it appears real to me). Arrows are being shot at him! Try and imagine that same sequence with digital arrows. In "House of the Flying Daggers" there are sequences with arrows that are actually quite good but it's hard to tell how real they are because of the composition.

It's a tough comparison because the composition in "House of Flying Daggers" is cartoony whereas in "Throne of Blood" it is dramatic. I'd like to see two sequences very similiar but with one CG and one not.

Effects and tricks are part of the progression of technology. What I would like to see is CG that is not noticeable. Everyone knows that the Titanic standing on its keel is CG and this is made even more so by the composition. But now digital crowds in the extreme background are very common and it's harder and harder to notice these.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 12:26 PM   #13
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Well, Disney didn't need CGI to remove Long John Silver's leg in Treasure Island. Did it look real? No. It looked like a guy's leg hidden in a prosthetic device. I would argue that Gary Sinese's missing legs looked totally fake in a way that was far more distracting. Namely, his body never balanced right. You could see the effect of gravity and inertia that his invisible legs continued to have on the rest of his body. In all of his scenes I found it difficult to concentrate on the acting because all I could see was the technology. But that's beside the point. Technology is improving so much I'm sure they could do a much better job today. I just don't think that dramatic works should have to rely on such a sterile pursuit of "realistic" special effects. What's the point? It takes so much of the emphasis off of the story.

Those elephants in Return of the King weren't nearly as interesting as the creatures in Jason and the Argonauts and all those Sinbad films in my opinion. Roger Ebert had a good point on his show when he pointed out that the classic stop motion King Kong looked fake but felt real, while the latest incarnation of Godzilla looked real but felt fake.

Computer graphics have made it possible to show scenes that may not have been possible before, but somehow, it doesn't make the movies better. If they had shot the battle scenes in Return of the King the traditional way with a couple hundred extras and limiting the range of the camera, I'll bet those fight scenes would have been a lot more intense.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 12:44 PM   #14
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When CGI first arrived, I was completely psyched about it. Now, I'm totally tired of it. I like it enough when it is used well, or in combination with real props and puppets, like in "Walking with Dinosaurs", but over all I am tired of it. It seems that in so many films, like Hellboy, if you have a weak plot just throw in some great big CGI monster at the end and you've got a movie! Kick Ass!
Bah!
When I look at old movies I really think that the film makers were really on top of their game. I mean, even with limited effects, strict censorship codes, and a million other constraints they managed to bring in the entertainment. Now, though, that we can do anything, it seems that no one has found anything worth doing. The new star wars movies are good examples of this, too much money not enough inventiveness.

When it comes to generating sheer awe/terror, I don't think any cgi creature effect has come anywhere close to 1932's King Kong. It's not that Kong looks real, he doesn't, but neither do Spielburg's dinosaurs, or Jackson's oliphants. I guess I prefer old school fake.

When I heard of the new version of King Kong I just hung my head. Are there so few ideas out there that we need to reshoot Kong? Why? They did it right the first time.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 01:33 PM   #15
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So, all in all, people seem to be confusing CGI in general with bad CGI because most of the complaints against it are when it is over used, used poorly, looks bad, etc...The other thing that has come up in the discussion is troubling, though. It seems a lot of you don't like it because you know it's "fake", and watching what you know is fake takes you "out" of the movie.

I mean, as video guys, you know everything on the big screen is fake. The audio is all ADR, the lighting is not "natural", the makeup, sets, costumes, and the list goes on and on...So is it really that you can't get past the intangability of CGI effects?

BTW - I think the NYC Godzilla, and Jurassic Park T-Rex looked way better and more "real" than any stop motion creature, I've seen, and those are already several years old. I think a lot of the CGI hatin' is coming more from a place of nostalgia than anything else.
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