King of Kafiristan -> RE: Excellence in Practical Effects (7/4/2012 7:29:36 PM)
Kalrisian you are a LEGEND! Yes, Dante's Peak, some absolutely incredible work in there! I was watching 2012 earlier and the moment when the earth blows up and you see the ash clouds and fireballs going up in the air immediately made me think of Peak, and Peak definitely comes out on top. Absolutely stunning!
I've seen some behind the scenes footage from The Matrix, and the scene where Neo wakes up in that gooey slime filled bathtub and finds himself full of plug sockets, I'm sure the shots of him grimacing in pain are puppet work.
Even though I've seen the puppet in action behind the scenes, I still can't see those "seams" that give these shots away once you've seen how they're done.
Thanks! [:)] DP definitely is a better movie than 2012, but 2012 has some very detailed and impressively imaginative CGI, IMHO. Some of the shots in that film definitely surpass what can be achieved with practical effect (at least in terms of the action they're depicting, tsunamis cresting the Himalayas, ETC).
Then again, some of the best shots in the movie are achieved through a blend of practical and CG, such as the aircraft carrier crashing into the White House.
PS I agree, the MATRIX has some stunning work! (the baby in the pod is also a robotic creation)
Phil Tippett is a gifted animator. It was his meticulous attention to detail, in both preparation and execution, that created such good results. A good animator will use every reference they can find to create a believable performance, that is irrespective of whether they are using hand drawn frames, physical models or indeed CG.
As with any film-making technique it is the artist and how much time and money they have to work with that is important, not the tools they use.
I'd agree that for most things, if you spend enough time and take enough care, a CG effect can be nearly as difficult to distinguish from real life.
The biggest problem with the puppet, and any large animatronic for that matter is how it moves. It has to use motors and hydraulics which by their nature have a very mechanical way of moving; especially when they change direction. It tends to either be too smooth and precise or too jerky. .
Except the way the ROBOT REX is used in JP has very few of those problems. You're not asking it to take a stroll around the set. You're asking it to roar and turn it's head, which it was actually able to do with remarkable dexterity and speed:
In the shots where it's used to good effect in JP, I have absolutely never seen a CGI monster appear as real and lifelike as the robot does.
They are expensive to build and difficult to operate, not to mention potentially incredibly dangerous. These days the only equity in having something like the big T-Rex on set would be for the actors' benefit. If you are going to comp in a CG body you might as well comp in the whole thing. It'd probably be less work for the animator too..
Sure, they're expensive, yet when you factor in the money it takes to pull off a CGI effect with anything approaching the level of photo realism present in the robot, not to mention the trouble of finding people skilled enough to pull that off with CG, the puppet can very much end up being the cheaper option. That's why medium budget films like HELLBOY opt for so many puppet based creatures rather than CG everything. Because you can get an effect that holds up better for the camera with the robot than you can with CG unless you're pouring James Cameron money into everything.
The blending of CGI and practical continues to be a successful technique. Benjamin Button stuck a digital Brad Pitt head on a real old person's body. They felt it was the best way to achieve the effect rather than creating a fully digital character. In JP, having a robot physically crash down through the sunroof, pounding the plexiglass down onto the stunt double children, is scary and startling in a way that a fully CGI creature could never manage. Watching the JEEP ATTACK, your eyes can instantly tell that, whoa, something with mass and size truly just pounded it's way through the roof of that car. Also, don't discount the value of having something on set for actors to react to. It makes the whole, you know, acting thing, much easier than trying to emote "I'm fearing for my life" when all you have in front of you is a ping pong ball on a stick.
As to all CG all the time, practical effects and miniatures are still incredibly useful tools. Even the Star Wars prequels (the poster children for "CG overload") used a massive amount of miniatures: each individual prequel had more model work than the original trilogy combined. ILM and Weta still use practical effects for shots where it would be easier and cheaper than CG. It is just their capture and compositing tools are digital rather than analogue..
Exactly! This is the way it should be. Taking the best of practical and bringing it to the next level with the Technologies of Tomorrow!
It comes down to what is the best way to do something. It is still far easier, and far more effective to build a practical miniature and blow it up than to render an explosion in CG. The fact is most of us can't tell whether we are looking at a model, CG or a combination of the two when looking at an effects shot, which is exactly how it is supposed to be. Sometimes we don't even notice we are looking at an effects shot.
Just because we assume everything is CG these days doesn't make it true.
Another example of flawless old school effects work.
I actually can tell when I'm watching a practical explosion because it's most always vastly superior to a fully CGI explosion. The uncertainty involved in explosive physics means that when you set off real charges inside an actual model building, it's going to blow up in ways an artist or simulation could never have imagined. Shots like the Crysler Building in GODZILA '98 blowing up just have an oomph that wouldn't be there with a fully CGI building take down.
Many effects sequences ARE fully CGI though, even when it would have been the easiest thing in the world to shoot some plates or include a few practical elements into a given shot. That's what really bothers me.
Anyway, you're right there are different tools for different jobs, I just hate seeing CGI used when there are better tools available for certain effects.
Because he used CGI to such good effect in Indy 4 didn't he? The shark works perfectly. What do people want from it, facial expressions?
The works on the LOTR with the "bigatures" and perspective filming were far better than any of the CGI effects, Gollum excepted.
It just would be neat to see it's lips pull back from it's teeth, flexing it's jaw, ETC. (though for the record I'm not exactly endorsing that anyone go back and change the movie, and if they did, they'd need to ensure the original version was available as well ::ahem, Lucas:: )
PS: I agree about the bigatures!
Agreed. Amazing bit of work.
I think the only thing that matters is whether the effect is convincing or not, regardless of it's source. Taking Jurassic Park as the OP's example, the animatronic Rex works great, the animatronic Brachiosaur not so much. The CGI Rex/Velociraptor bit at the end still looks great, the bit with the raptors in the kitchen not so much. It's not an either/or thing for me, though like Del Toro and Ridley I prefer to see practical effects used as much as possible as I personally think it's more convincing (both to look at and in the way actors interact with them).
You're right, practical isn't always the best way to go, and that's why in the age of CGI you could have the robot rex (which looks great in the rain) but use CGI for the veggiesaurs which needed more expressive faces.
PS I actually really like the raptors in the kitchen, or the one Grant tussles with when they're trying to lock the doors. They're pebbled skin looks great under the lights indoors. Outside not so much.
I am a long-time critic of CGI. Going back to some of Dpp's (as ever) eloquent and well thought out posts, I have to disagree on the basis that, to me, even GOOD CGI still looks like CGI and dates very badly very quickly, compared to GOOD practical effects which still look good today (I'm thinking The Thing as a good example).
Generally with CGI there's no weight or substance to anything - it just looks like a computer game - and CG gore is particularly poor, even when it is done "well".
I agree about CGI becoming dated quickly, where as something created practically that successfully manages to look real most likely won't look less real no matter how much time passes.
There definitely are some CGI creations I'm a big fan of though (which I'm either going to get into later in this very thread, or perhaps in another thread), that either look as close to photo real as is possible today, or at least pull off effects that could not be achieved convincingly through any other means.
Good CGI is indistinguishable from a practical effect, or even dare I say it, real life.
There are, I can almost guarantee you, shots in films where you have not realised you are looking at a CG effect.
The set extensions in Zodiac are an oft cited example of the near seamless blending of real life and digital wizardry.
Some of the stuff ILM created for Rango could easily be mistaken for real footage (shots without CG critters obviously).
For many CGI effects this can be true, though not for everything. Sometimes there is an element of unpredictability (with water, or explosives ETC) that cannot (yet) be successfully replicated in a computer. Also, a 100% perfect computer effect can at times end up looking too perfect, a case of the animators and artists gilding the lily. It doesn't look real because every reflection ETC has clearly been thought out and over designed.
You're right though that CGI is often used elegantly in the background and you never notice it's there. I have no problem with CGI being used well for such purposes (set extensions, ETC).
I'll agree with you on CG gore. It almost always looks poor. Even the example in the video I just linked to is less than convincing, and it is worlds better than what they had in the likes of Rambo 4 and The Expendables.
Compare it to the Robocop example I posted earlier in the thread and there is no comparison.
I think squibs are great and are not used often enough in today's action world, but with that said there is plenty of incredible CGI gore that brings horrifying barbaric violence to the screen that simply could not be achieved practically. There are places you can't place blood pumps, ETC, and CGI gore opens the door for screen mayehm that wouldn't have been possible before now. I'm actually a big defender of CGI blood when it's used well, it allows the filmaker to stage and shoot scenes in ways we've not seen before.
ORIGINAL: King of Kafiristan
I just want to take a moment to apologize for my tone in addressing the CGI effects in JURASSIC PARK. I come from an American film world where many people I know are fond of claiming that not only are JURASSIC PARK's CGI effects revolutionary, masterful and beautiful, they're still somehow objectively THE MOST REAL CGI EFFECTS of all time. These people claim that no CGI creature has looked more real since.
I am used to tilting against the windmills of that argument, and so I was trying to preemptively cut it off at the knees with my initial post.
What cannot be denied though is that the JP CGI effects were perfectly used and the animation holds up without a doubt. The Phil Tippet people who assisted ILM in the animation had a background in claymation and physical effects. CGI was a new technology, and so painstaking care was taken to ensure the movement of the REX looked perfect.
In years since, many CGI creations fling themselves about weightlessly, looking for all intents and purposes like a live action cartoon rather than an animal or creature that could possibly exist in the real world. For the JP CGI REX, however, months were spent studying lions and how they move, hunt and stalk prey. People familiar working with clay ensured that the CGI wireframe models were imbued with a sense of weight that has rarely been matched since.
All I was trying to state with my criticisms of the CGI, such as they were, is that they no longer appear "photo real". They work perfectly in the scene and any limitations in rendering can easily be excused given the age of the film, I was just saying that they don't fool your eye the way the robot still can.
Doesn't Jurassic Park benefit in some way that the audience has never seen a dinosaur in the flesh, so we're able to suspend our disbelief that these are photo-real creatures on screen because we have little to objectively measure them against? Even when other animals have been watched to give an idea of how to animate them, the texture of the creatures is overlooked by the viewer because of the 'wow, it's a dinosaur factor'. I'd content that the Burly Brawl in the Matrix Reloaded is a better use of CGI, but that has been flagged with criticism because it was not totally photo-real - something the viewer can never get away from objectively as we view the human face and form everyday so know what to expect. It means the transition from real Neo to CGI Neo is sometimes a little obvious (at other times you can't really tell which is impressive). Until I watched Tintin the other night (and I've actually no idea of how the visuals were captured in Tintin - I presume it's a combination of CGI for the faces with actual body movement) I don't think any film has done a better job of capturing the human face in such a marvellous way. The Burly Brawl remains a pretty amazing spectacle, though, if you can get past the issue of the photo-realism not being quite there in 2002. There were some shots involved that you would never get from a conventional special effect.
Saying that, I still love the shot in Jedi viewed from the Falcon's cockpit where the mass of Tie-Fighters swarm over the rebel fleet at the start of the Death Star attack. Not even the space shots in the largely CGI-impressive Starship Troopers can top that. (Although Rico riding the beetle is proper shit. Like Legolas riding that massive creature in Return of the King is also proper shit).
Great post! I just wanted to mention that most of the space stuff in SST was shot using large scale models, part of the reason it holds up so well I think! [:)]
I think it is widely accepted that people are incredibly hard to recreate as they the one thing we are most attuned to recognise. When something is off, even by a tiny margin, we automatically read it as being wrong and our brain rejects it.
The Matrix films have always been a strange mix of flawlessly executed shots and really rather bad ones.
I think the Burly Brawl was one of those sequences where the technology just wasn't mature enough to cope with the concept. I'm not convinced even today it could be perfectly achieved.
Tintin's characters faces are exaggerated to the point of caricature. We are far more willing to accept something which misses reality by a great margin than something which misses it by a tiny amount. When you try to get too close you have to deal with the "uncanny valley" situation where things just look creepy. The Polar Express for example.
TIN TIN didn't work for me because the main character was truly freakish looking. The others were stylized cartoons that just happened to have pores, but Tin Tin himself was close enough to a regular human that I found his appearance deeply unsettling and distracting. Really weird film.
ORIGINAL: Gimli The Dwarf
Not quite along the same lines, well maybe a bit, but this is one of the reason's why I love Davy Jones in the Pirates films. The only reason I know he's CGI is because I know he doesn't exist in real life.
One of the areas of FX work I'm now most excited about are digital doubles. It really is opening up a whole new world of story telling possibilities. Davy Jones was indeed extremely impressive.