Is anyone else amazed by the level of realism in special effects?...

Discussion in 'Movies' started by todd s, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. todd s

    todd s Lead Actor

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    I was flipping through some movies over the weekend. And then it got me thinking about how amazing the special effects are these days. I am talking about Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and the upcoming Superman Returns. I mean "You will believe a man can fly" has really taken on new meaning when you see some of the flying shots in Superman. Graphics that look real and not a blue screen painting or model. Now, I am not saying stories should take a back seat. But, I just sometimes take for granted how far special effects have come even in the past 10-15 years.
     
  2. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Well, there's also the "effect that isn't an effect" type effect...

    Take, for instance, in Contact, in the house. That's no mirror; that's a blue-screen!

    Or Under the Tuscan Sun where the windows were, according to what I've heard, always blue-screens.

    In some way, the best effect is not the one that anyone notices, but rather the one that no one, even other effects proffessionals, never notice.

    In some ways, it's also how the actors interact with the effects, too, that can make or break them. Take Star Wars: ANH. The actors "believed" enough to make the light sabers "real."

    Leo
     
  3. EricW

    EricW Cinematographer

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    yes and no. the trailer shots of Superman Returns look pretty awesome (especially the 3rd person view of him flying down, following the falling plane!). but i still prefer Top Gun to Stealth, and Ronin to Fast & Furious.
     
  4. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    It's those special effects that continue to marvel me. Fun to see what was done and anxious to see what's next. My biggest thing to see is Transformers the Live action movie. Saw the poster as posted in the thread here and it looks great.
     
  5. Mike Graham

    Mike Graham Supporting Actor

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    I'm constantly amazed at how well the alien machines were integrated into War of the World. I mean...when they ripped out of the ground and stood up over the streets in all the smoke and debris, all I could think was, "My God, that looks real!"
     
  6. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Yes. I just watched Reign of Fire again over the weekend. The dragon effects are amazing. For 100 minutes, you DO believe in dragons! [​IMG]

    Very underrated film, IMO, though it seems many people wanted the macrostory (i.e. dragons decimating the earth) rather than the microstory of survival that was filmed.
     
  7. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    Well given that the poster showed what you described I don't think it is unfair for the viewer to expect that in the film, even a hint.

    I did like the movie though and also think it is underrated. Amazing dragons. Dragonheart also amazes me to this day...keeping on the dragon theme. [​IMG]
     
  8. Jon Mahoney

    Jon Mahoney Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm not impressed. Some of the effects in Star Wars (Prequels) and LoTR look so bad I'm amazed anyone can take them seriously. All the movements of the Jedis in the Prequels don't look remotely real and the one scene with Legolas on the Elephant in RotK is horrible looking.

    For whatever reason it seems whenever they're trying to emulate human movement in CGI it's always too fast or just doesn't look natural. Movies like the Star Wars prequels in my opinion will be looked back upon in 5-10 years and look like the special effects from monster movies of the 50's.

    It's odd because movies like Jurassic Park 13 years ago seem to be able to capture dinosaurs and their movements better than King Kong in 2006 could. I find in too many movies in the last 2-3 years that the special effects and CGI take me out of the movie instead of believing in them.
     
  9. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

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    I am amazed on two fronts:
    1) The level at which SFX have advanced in the last 20 years.
    2) People saying they are not impressed. Restrict yourself to movies made over 20 years ago for a year and then come back and see how you feel.
     
  10. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Or they'll be looked at the same way that the original King Kong is today- as milestones in the history of special effects.
     
  11. Jon Mahoney

    Jon Mahoney Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm impressed with many of the special effects, however I'm not overly impressed how they're used a lot of the time. Some scenes look horrible in movies like King Kong, LotR and the Star Wars Prequels. They are so bad they detract from the movie and take me out of the world they're attempting to suck you into. I guess saying I wasn't impressed was not entirely correct, I do feel their is far too much reliance on CGI in newer films and often scenes that look poor make it past the cutting room floor/hard drive. I don't expect everything to be perfect but in most of these movies so much of it looks so good that when it's not up to that level it really stands out.
     
  12. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    My problem is that, in the age of CGI, it now takes a lot more to amaze me than it once did. I feel like with $150 million and a bank of computers, there really isn't anything that can't be done. Consequently, it's very, very rare that I think "man, how did they do that" anymore because the answer is always "Computers." It really doesn't feel like there are any limitations. Now when viewing movies pre-CGI, I'm almost more impressed than ever before since I know what the limitations were. I still marvel at was achieved for Empire Strikes Back or that the space battle from Return of the Jedi *still* hasn't been topped while I'm largely numb to the visual effects achievements of the prequels, even in ROTS where they were relatively flawless.

    I'm kind of clinging to the hope that whatever James Cameron does next will give that feeling that I've found lacking the past few years.

    The flip side is that I'm much more impressed these days with what's being done on television budgets. Seeing some of the epic scope achieved on Firefly, Enterprise, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, etc gives me similar feeling that I had in the films of 15 or so years ago.
     
  13. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    I think perhaps some of the problem is due to the massive number of effects shots in some recent films (like Star Wars, LOTR, King Kong, etc.). In some of those films, often the only real bit in the frame is the actor. The sheer quantity of effects, along with studios' compressed schedules, precludes the effects team(s) from spending the amount of time necessary, perhaps, to get everything to look just right.

    Jurassic Park only had a handful of dinosaur scenes. Reign of Fire had just a handful of dragon scenes. Star Wars and King Kong were basically one long effects scene from start to finish, whether by choice or necessity.
     
  14. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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    The visual effects are getting better, and they are making effects work now more an art then ever before. Before being the time when effects work was little more then a couple of minutes top out a feature length movie. It would be left to other elements, costume set design to craft the look of the film. Now effects work is making the artistic opportunity even bigger.

    I was very impressed by the visual look of Underworld Evolution, which had such an impressive look to it, not just of cgi, but of dirt and colour grading. The fantasy surrealism was heightened. Now of course, the visuals couldn't save the movie for me from being another dull gorefest, but I felt the visual quality had the capacity to make a great story even better, much like Lord of the Rings was enhanced so much by awesome visual quality.

    We must not fall into the trap of thinking that CGi work is making filmmakers lazy. Some are lazy yes, but there have always been terrible movies. Star Wars certainly became a victim of overuse of effects because it overwhelmed the importance of the actors in telling the story, but that is a symptom of one director. The King Kong remake I think used its effects work brilliantly. (My issues with its pacing are a completely different aspect of filmmaking.) I think as long as filmmakers do as the best ones always have in the past, and that is let actors tell the story, and develop their characters, and make sure that is kept core. Great effects can heighten great pieces of work, but the story and strong characterization has to be there, or else all you have is a bunch of pretty pictures.
     
  15. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    That's sort of asking the wrong quesiton, though - "how did they do that?" has never been the most important part; it's what's actually being done.
     
  16. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    You want good effects. Look no further than my favorite 25 year old movie...Blade Runner. Thats what im talking about!
     
  17. SteveJKo

    SteveJKo Second Unit

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    Exactly! Frankly I'm no more or less impressed by FX's than I was thirty years ago. Some of today's FX I find amazing, others look as fake to me as the original man-in-a-suit Godzilla. And frequently this happens within the same movie! I am often much more impressed by the honest attempt of yesterday's less sophisticated technology than the "if it's CGI it's got to be great" of today.
     
  18. Marc Angeles

    Marc Angeles Stunt Coordinator

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    Another problem. We really don't know how dinosaurs or how alien ships moved about, so maybe that is why it looks so impressive to us. When a CGI human or gorilla is attempted, we can easily see the mistakes made when trying to emulate one.
     
  19. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Same here. Lucas may think his original Star Wars release looks more like a work print by today's standards, but back then, it was an honest and very decent attempt to describe an alternate reality. Even by today's standards, the inconsistencies inherent in real spaceship models gives the effects more credibility than the "invented" inconsistencies added to today's CGI effects.

    There is hope however as demonstrated by *ahem* new television series such as Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica. It's possible to build CGI effects that don't pull you away from the story; it's all a question of how you apply it -- and how much.

    The movie industry in general seems to have forgotten this, giving us the same cookie cutter plots designed to show off the special effects instead of telling a new and entertaining story. Case in point, the plot in "The Day After Tomorrow" uses every single cliché used in similar apocalyptic movies made in the last ten years.

    I call it "Independence Day on Ice". [​IMG]
     
  20. MikeEn

    MikeEn Stunt Coordinator

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    What special effects? I haven't noticed any.
     

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