A recent article in The New Yorker, “Hollywood’s Turn Against Digital Effects”, claims Hollywood is extolling “practical effects” over CGI. “You could hear boasting about “real” sets and practical effects in the hype around nearly every one of last year’s non-Marvel blockbusters.” Fury Road led the pack with its stunts by real people swinging on real poles mounted in real cars.
There are a number of problems with CGI, aside from showing unrealistic events. The economics are deadly – the CGI company that so brilliantly created Life of Pi went bankrupt even as the movie got an Oscar. (See my article on this.) It’s hard on actors who have to react to empty blue screens as though something profound is happening.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the magic of CGI! It engages my imagination in a way that’s hard for physical effects to do, although 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) certainly managed. But the emphasis on CGI has gone overboard. I’ll be glad to see some balance.
For the New Yorker article, click here.
I was also fascinated by the history of physical vs CGI effects in a two part article about how accustomed we get to the spectacular. Check it out: CGI and the Banality of the Incredible by Bill Mesce and Ricky Frenandes.
UPDATE: A friend just posted this link which lets you swipe to see the difference between what was shot and the image with CGI – fascinating! http://brightside.me/article/17-favorite-movies-before-and-after-visual-effects-64705/
UPDATE: At SDCC2014, I found out there really was a man inside of the 10 foot high robot! I hadn’t though so, but at a demo of another big active model, I met Zennie Abraham, who had watched the robot setup last year. Zennie is a prolific blogger and did a great interview with the man behind the robot. It shows how the man & machine come together: http://youtu.be/ScNIWqiOv5Q
Check out Zennie’s blog at http://www.zennie62blog.com.
I’m off to Comic-Con! I have tickets for only 2 days but just seeing what is going on outside the convention center is worth the trip. Here’s clip of something I wandered into last year – a “rehearsal” of a 10 foot high robot!!
During the demo, they unhooked the robot from its support, making sure it could balance itself. Then they tested how well it walked. What fascinated me about the robot was how sophisticated its balance was. It didn’t stand like a statue; it stood like a human, with all the little motions and adjustments we do automatically.
You can see a little of that here: Robot
Once they’d tested the basic movements, they rehearsed a brief scene – an interaction with a person. The robot’s motion and voice were controlled remotely. If you’re a total robot geek like me, you can see all 16 minutes here: http://youtu.be/LAl5tj0lP84
I have to admit I kept thinking of all the movies in which a robot being tested started attacking the crowd. In this case, me!
The Mecca for Sci Fi geeks – Trekkies & others – is the San Diego Comic Con. Over 130,000 people gather annually to celebrate graphic novels, TV shows, movies, cosplay, video games, Dungeon & Dragons – and heavens know what else! My very first San Diego Comic Con was overwhelmingly a blast! The people! The costumes! The panels! The exhibits!
If you don’t know about SDCC, a big part of the fun is that people dress up – “cosplay” – costumed role playing – and others take pictures of them and with them. One of my roomies, actress Laura Stephens, got nationwide coverage for her Lolita Capt. America costume. Costumes and SDCC go together!
In the exhibit hall I got to get a close-up view of an awesome and huge demon, complete with wings and horns. Whew! He was at the booth for the Cinema Makeup School. For a closer look, click this: http://youtu.be/4FTtCq2IQrw
I talked to Katie from the school about who they were and why they were here. Katie said the school is based in Los Angeles and teaches everything from beauty makeup through airbrushing, photo hairstyling, character makeup, prosthetic and more. Classes run from one week to 4 ½ months. Their website is www.cinemamakeup.com. Oh man, I wish I could go hang out in LA long enough to take their full course! So far my own makeup specialty is bullet holes and blood, small potatoes to this crew.
Makeup students were at the booth applying bruises and small injuries for people who stopped by. Apparently each day they demonstrated a major effect, like this demon and on another day, an arachnid femme fatale.
This demon is the creation of Wayne Anderson, a graduate of the school who was featured on SyFy’s Face Off. To get the actor into the makeup this time took only about 2 to 2 ½ hours, but it took a couple of months to put the whole effect together. The horns were made of resin. Each piece was molded. I must admit I was a little scared to talk to this otherworldly fellow directly, but I bet it was hot in there. He literally had a wing man, who made sure passersby didn’t impale themselves on the wings tips. I wonder how much the whole thing weighed!