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CG Bashers - How do you stand watching old movies?

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#1 of 123 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted May 06 2002 - 01:33 AM

It is with wry amusement that I constantly read comments from many that CG detracts from their experience and takes them out of a movie.

Well you've piqued my curiousity. Especially after hearing these remarks alot about TPM, LOTR, and now Spiderman.

Have any of you ever watched an old Harryhausen picture like Jason and The Argonauts or The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad? How about King Kong? How about 2001?

Given the rather primitive nature of these effects you must not be able to enjoy such classics at all! Truly that is a shame!Posted Image And please don't tell me those old movies had more believable effects!Posted Image

Perhaps those of us who are old enough to have grown up with these movies, seeing the effects, knowing they weren't real, and developing the ability to accept the limitations of the technology of the time and just enjoying the movie - are fortunate in having been able to develope such a facility.

They say audiences are more sophisticated today. I wonder if it isn't to their detriment?
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#2 of 123 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 06 2002 - 01:48 AM

They say audiences are more sophisticated today.

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#3 of 123 OFFLINE   Michael St. Clair

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Posted May 06 2002 - 02:08 AM

We never knew that stop-motion animation can look real. Plus, frankly, many of us cared about the quality of Harryhausen animation than about the films as a whole.

With optical effects, we had films like 2001, where in-camera optical effects do look real.

We don't hate CGI, we hate fake-looking CGI, especially if we care about the picture and if the jarring transition to CGI takes us 'out of the picture'. CGI can look much more realistic than it does in many films. That's what we want.

Why is it becoming more and more politically incorrect to be critical of anything in this forum?

#4 of 123 OFFLINE   RobertR


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Posted May 06 2002 - 02:13 AM

Have any of you ever watched an old Harryhausen picture like Jason and The Argonauts or The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad? How about King Kong? How about 2001?

How about watching a movie where the special effects support an interesting, engaging story (as with the movies you mentioned), instead of where the effects ARE the story (as with too many of today's films)? THAT's one of the fundamental criticisms.

#5 of 123 OFFLINE   Dana Fillhart

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Posted May 06 2002 - 02:53 AM

I love both, but there is a caveat.

I go with the mindset of, "Here is a story of what these characters went through. The director is telling it in to me the best way he can, with the best tools he has at his disposal to accomplish that end. It is not an exact experience of the story in his mind, but a close approximation." As such, it's how well the director uses those tools -- both effects tools and actors -- in grafting them into the story. A weak story will never be fully saved by stellar effects or stellar acting.

The process of storytelling, though, must involve sacrifice. Sometimes the tools used can't deliver a perfect rendition of the artist's ideas, or sometimes it's for the convenience of the audience. For an example of the latter, let's take aliens speaking English. Now, we know that "in a galaxy far, far away," Han Solo and Luke Skywalker aren't *really* speaking English. Nor when they say "human" do they mean the very specific species homo sapiens. It is a tool of convenience, chosen by the director, to keep the story moving, and prevent it from being bogged down in annoying or sometimes impossible exposition. We the audience are supposed to use our imagination and believe that they're really speaking in their own native tongue.

The same holds true with CGI. It is merely a tool to convey to the audience a visual approximation of the environment the storyteller sees in his mind. As long as effects do not supplant the story, but are there to serve the story, then I don't care how cheesy or spectacular they are -- I use my imagination and accept the story the artist is trying to convey.

It is why I can still to this day thoroughly enjoy shows like Doctor Who as equally as I can Lord of the Rings. Both tell great stories, and since the visual effects are only there to describe the story and not be the story, as long as the effects give a close enough approximation to the "real" story, I can use my innate powers of abstract thought to fill in any deficiencies the effects leave, and enjoy the show.

Spider-Man was enjoyable and painful at the same time because of the script. The Phantom Menace was both enjoyable and painful because of the script, but also because the acting in some cases did not portray a close enough approximation to what I felt or knew the character should really be (c.f. Jake Lloyd's Anakin).

For me, it's all about the story. The F/X and/or acting can be stellar or atrocious, but if they serve the story -- if they bring me a closer understanding of the tale the artist is trying to convey -- then my imagination does the rest of the work, and I'll be a happy camper. If the story is weak, or if the effects (or even acting) are given more a priority than the story, then I will enjoy them less and am far more likely to criticize those points.

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#6 of 123 OFFLINE   Eric Thrall

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Posted May 06 2002 - 03:13 AM

I can love or hate CGI depending on how it's used. For me, you need to have perspective. I can enjoy something like King Kong even though the effects today look very fake - it's important to consider what was possible at the time when judging the quality of effects. Today, I think filmmakers are overusing CGI because they're getting lazy and they see it as an easy way to not have to film a scene with real people/things. CGI can be great for things that don't exist (such as dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and aliens in Star Wars) but they don't do people well. I see a CGI person and I KNOW it's CGI because he/she just doesn't move and react properly. Unless MASSIVE effort is put into a CGI person, they just don't look real.

For example, I just saw Spider-Man this past weekend, and there were FAR too many times I had to shake my head in disbelief at how BAD the effects were! The worst one was when Peter Parker was just discovering his powers and was jumping from building to building... all I could think in my head is that the trailer for the movie should have mentioned "from the makers of Anaconda" so I could have avoided it... Posted Image

#7 of 123 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted May 06 2002 - 04:24 AM

Have any of you ever watched an old Harryhausen picture like Jason and The Argonauts or The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad? How about King Kong? How about 2001?

First, the effects in 2001 have never been bettered by any other "outer space" picture. They are the most realistic depictions of space travel you will ever see. Just watch some live NASA footage sometime and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Second, the Harryhausen films have a charm all their own. Stop-motion animation, by its nature, is organic (while CGI is by nature artificial). While the final effect isn't always wholly realistic, the intention is there. And the films themselves are a lot of fun. If the effects were substandard, the films would not be enjoyable.

King Kong (1933), on the other hand, is an extraordinary picture NOT because of its effects alone. The story, script, performances and music add up to something very special. The effects are superb and still hold up, but the film itself is one of the best products that Hollywood ever put out in the 1930's.

CGI is a great tool when used by artists who understand its strengths and limitations. Limits seem to be realistic depiction of human movement (Spider-Man, Titanic, et al). Strengths are perfect composites and non-human creatures (Starship Troopers is still probably the best combination of CGI and traditional effects work ever done).
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#8 of 123 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted May 06 2002 - 04:51 AM

How about 2001?
You must be kidding! 2001? The best and most realistic sci-fi movie to this date!

#9 of 123 OFFLINE   Dave Poehlman

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Posted May 06 2002 - 04:55 AM

I must say, even CGI seems to have made advances in the past few years. I was watching Titanic the other day and noticed the CGI ship had sort of a "glowing" quality when coupled with live action. I remember thinking that it was an amazing effect at the time... however, looking back on it, it looks like a trivial piece of CGI work. In Spiderman.. the artists seem to have a better grasp of how to integrate CGI with film... although.. I've yet to see the film. Posted Image

I think in a few years CGI will be indistinguishable from live action. Except for the viewer saying "there's no way anyone can jump like that... that must be CGI".

And maybe that is the problem.. CGI takes some of the magic away from a film because it's too easy. The CGI artists would tell you different, but to the layperson, someone creating effects on a computer doesn't sound like a lot of work.

Part of the magic of old films is that someone had to create, construct, choreograph all kinds of variables like stuntmen, pyrotechnics, machines, etc... So, when you would look upon a scene you would say to yourself "Wow, that must have taken a lot of work". It's that amazement that is missing from CGI.

#10 of 123 OFFLINE   Dana Fillhart

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Posted May 06 2002 - 05:15 AM

Another thing, which goes along with what I mentioned above...

I love Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, because, NOT in spite of the fact that people are flying in it.

While the effects of the flights ranged from incredible to hokey, the point was that a mythical story was being told -- very much like the Greek mythos given in many movies of the past few decades -- and that, for these characters, flying was as natural to them as jet engines are to us today. The movie meant to portray allegorical characters with mythical powers, not real-life humans that by "some circumstance" happened to have these supernatural powers. It aggravates me to no end when I hear somebody say, "That movie was so hokey, having people flying around...it was so unrealistic," when they probably would have no problem with a show like Xena or Hercules, which does the exact same thing but in a different cultural context.

Cultural ignorance can skew one's appreciation of a film just as much as seeing past bad special effects -- both involve the lack of imagination -- (with apologies to Poirot Posted Image) those little grey cells were meant to be exercised more than once in a blue mooon, you know!

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#11 of 123 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted May 06 2002 - 05:15 AM

Give me "man in suit" kicking models over any day vs. CGI monstrosities. If I want to see a computer game, I'll play a computer game.
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#12 of 123 OFFLINE   Dana Fillhart

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Posted May 06 2002 - 05:19 AM


I agree 110% that Starship Troopers has THE best CGI-blending that's ever been done for the big screen. It amazes me still to watch the integration of the bugs with the landscape and the characters (lighting, color, and especially movement with respect to geography AND gravity) -- so much so that I'm shocked no other film has been able to successfully duplicate their efforts.

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#13 of 123 OFFLINE   Luc D

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Posted May 06 2002 - 05:36 AM

I think a lot of it has to do with how it is photographed. From what I've seen, only three filmmakers have been able to "photograph" or merge computer generated images with celluloid properly: Paul Verhoven (primarily Starship Troopers), James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg. They seem to understand the limitations of CG and don't fall in the trap of getting carried away by the technology and letting it drive the artistic push of the film. In other words, you never see those ridiculous, overly-dynamic camera movements in their films. With special effects, but perhaps more so with CG, less is more.

#14 of 123 OFFLINE   Jeff Kleist

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Posted May 06 2002 - 06:14 AM

A friend who worked on Spider-Man told me this

1-Yes, the VFX Supervisors couldn't see the gravity issues with some of the stuff in Spider-Man, and that caused some cheese

2- It's impossible to do Spidey swinging and make it look decent without going all CG

3- Because it's so unnatural looking, your brain is hypersensative to it not being real. That's one of the reasons it bothers you so much

4-They were specifically trying to make things look like a comic book (this I got from an interview w/Sam)

Spidey's FX were incredible for the most part

#15 of 123 OFFLINE   Robin Warren

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Posted May 06 2002 - 06:15 AM

How true those comments are on Starship Troopers. Amazing work on that film. It does not scream CGI like 99% of the other CGI movies out there.

The good thing is that with all this practice and experience being garnered in the CGI field, I beleive that we are going to experience some amazing things in the coming years.

#16 of 123 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted May 06 2002 - 06:53 AM

Lou, I'm sorry, but I don't really get your post. It seems like you're saying that something that looks bad is OK because other things also look bad.

I don't see it that way.

Sometimes, the CGI can just look bad. When used properly and with taste, it is an excellent tool. It is still gowing through it's growing pains, and will improve- both the technology and how filmmakers use it.

The only peope who condemn any and all CGI are hardcore "it was better in the olden days" snob, which you will find when any new development comes along.

#17 of 123 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted May 06 2002 - 06:59 AM

Mike read other people's post on the latest movies that have CG in them.

I'm paraphrasing but it usually goes something like this - liked the story, liked the characters, CG was unrealistic in one or two spots, took me out of the movie, therefore I didn't like the movie.Posted Image
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#18 of 123 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted May 06 2002 - 07:08 AM

therefore I didn't like the movie

See, I don't see that so much. Maybe we just read different threads, but it is more common to see specific critiques of scenes where they feel the CGI looked "fake." Lord of the Rings, for example, has lots of moments where a lot of people, like myself, cringed at some CGI intensive moments, but it is still a much beloved film.

My mother told me how she and many people laughed at Star Wars and Clash of the Titans and such, so it really hasn't changed, just the technology.

#19 of 123 OFFLINE   Terrell



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Posted May 06 2002 - 07:08 AM

I don't give a flying flip about CGI. The story, the characters, the acting, the action, the drama, the suspense, and all of the other things matter are more important. Certainly there is bad CGI and good CGI. But rarely does it detract from my movie going experience. I'd prefer good CGI. But I don't go into a movie to nitpick or complain about CGI.

#20 of 123 OFFLINE   Al B. C

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Posted May 06 2002 - 07:14 AM

Can you just imagine how crappy the werewolf morphing scene in "An American Werewolf In London" would be, if it was done today?

The studios probably wouldn't even consider using makeup and air bladders and all the stuff that it took to make that scene look real.

Some of that CGI stuff looks just as bad as Bela Lugosi changing into that cartoon bat 60 years ago in the Dracula movies.

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