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CGI and other "crap"


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CGI (computer generated imaging) gets a bad rap here in these forums. Mention it, and it conjures up thoughts about movies filled with transforming cars or invading herds of alien insects, or other such nonsense. But when you step back and look rationally at it, isn't it just like a lot of other things in life? As something that can be included in the list of things that we think of when we hear the old addage, "Too much of a good thing..."?

 

 

I thought of this after reading a line by TCMfan in his thread "Why does modern cinema stink?" where he writes, "...garbage like *Forrest Gump...*", a movie that *benefits* from CGI.

 

 

When that movie first came out, I was reluctnant to see it because I read the book. And while the book was OK, it wasn't great, and I wasn't too enamored with Gump the book character. But at my wife's insistence, I went with her to see it. I found out that just as it was with *The Natural* , they changed both the main character and the main gist of the story to make them more appealing to the movie going audience. I wound up liking it a lot. And CGI is one of the main reasons.

 

 

Without it, we wouldn't have seen Gump meet three Presidents in newsreel clips. Lt. Dan would have had legs, and he might have never met John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show. His ping-pong skills wouldn't have been that impressive.

 

 

But the technology is still basically new, and in movie making, new means "not good" to some people.

 

 

To me, it's like hot sauce. I like just enough hot sauce to add an extra kick to the dish. Not like some people who add so much you wonder how their fork doesn't dissolve. Same with this special effects technique. JUST the right amount, please. And yes, it can be done. Do you want to make a movie that takes place in New York City in 1885, and have a shot of the skyline? Can't do it for real now, can you? Want to make a western with a scene of buffalo stampeding? Do you REALLY want actual buffalo doing this? Didn't think so. Spielberg's *War of The Worlds* was benefitted greatly by good use of CGI. Like it or hate it, you have to admit it's effects look good. Think of the expense saved by NOT destroying so much of New Jersey for real, no matter HOW much you'd like to see it. I'm willing to bet that Steve wished he had this available when making *Jaws* , given how much trouble that MECHANICAL shark was.

 

 

But as CGI, which has been here longer than most people think, is still somewhat of a new toy, it could be understood that some will go overboard with it. But that's all been done before. And I'm also willing to bet that the other now dated, obsolete and antiquated methods were just as maligned when first introduced. "Matte painting? Why not just GO somewhere and film it for REAL?" "Clay models and stop-action? We used REAL actors in MY day!" "COLOR FILM? THAT'S not ART!!" Face it. Whenever something new comes along, there's a contingent that will be white knuckled gripping the old, no matter how ridiculous it will seem. Someone will always be claiming the old way was better. It's been done before in movies, ie. "...it's the PICTURES that got smaller!".

 

 

Yes, we pitied Nora Desmond in *Sunset Boulevard* , but some of us get a little Nora-like in this forum, don't we?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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If GWTW were made today, most of the bodies dying on the street in Atlanta would be CGI. Anyone who would want to call "fake" should consider that at least half in the 1939 film were dummies (as in props) anyway.

 

If done well, it can create the proper effect. Same goes for any effects process as you have noted. Bad matte paintings (as in the end of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE) can downgrade a film also. I didn't care for GLADIATOR, but that went beyond the bad CGI work in the first battle, I just thought that I saw it all before and the cliches weren't served up well enough for me to be more tolerant.

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Amen to that...when used properly and well-done, CGI is no different than any other old-school type of special effect...it can help or hurt a film. The problem I have with so much CGI today and the use of it is they throw it in your face endlessly, as if to say "Hey...lookey at what WE can do with computers".

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I have more of a problem with the MTV editing and the de-saturation of color in today's films than the CGI process. Even Cinecolor was better than what passes for color these days.

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A good use of CGI in 'helping' an old piece out was in the recent reworking of the original *Star Trek* series. The original model effects in the show were at best OK - even for 1966/7/8/9, so any reworking of then would have been helpful, but there are certain episdes where there was marked improvement to the point of making the episodes even better.

 

The classic case of this was the already superb episode, "The Doomsday Machine", where instead of a crude sock for the title machine, and an AMT model kit for the crippled starship Constellation, you now get a fully realized and SCARY machine/monster, and a realistic looking crippled starship. Plus, the battle scenes are extremely mobile and exciting. This makes for a an episode which was already near the top of most Trek fan's lists, a near perfect combination of story, acting and visual pleasure.

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As a Trekkie I disagree STRONGLY with that...I don't consider that a "good use" or even "helping" it out. I firmly REFUSE to watch any of those altered versions of the Trek episodes. That's revolting to my sensibilities...how the FX are is how they are....that's how they were for the time. Paramount should NEVER have done that. :P

 

The one exception to using CGI to enhance Trek is when Robert Wise worked with Paramount to do his Director's Edition of *Star Trek: The Motion Picture* ...because they were so rushed by the studio to complete the film and get it into theaters by a certain date, they not only didn't have a premiere showing of the film (it simply was released into theaters), Wise didn't get the chance to complete the movie or have finished effects as he wanted to. In the Director's Edition, a few CGI shots were added which showed the ENTIRE V'ger vessel...and that actually worked in the film's favor, showing how immense and awesome V'ger really was. It worked, and I loved how V'ger looked in the new CGI shots.

 

Do you think they should go through the classic films with stop motion animation by Ray Harryhausen and replace his work with smooth and "realistic" CGI to replace his animated creations? I think not.

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Depends on the CGI really.. if Someone makes a film that is CGI driven take for example Transformers or Battleship then that's all it usually is. the script is weak, and its just a bunch of cool looking robots designed by the computer..If CGI is done to enhance a script and done correctly, then that can make for a great film.

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.*UniversalHorror:*

 

Are seriously comparing Ray Harryhausen's work to the stuff done by Hollywood optical houses like Westheimer and Cinema Research??

 

I have found it amusing that some Trek fans have been so...inflexible in their thinking about the CGI upgrades in these episodes - to the point of not even TRYING to watch one or two see what they are like! I think Roddenberry would be horrified that some of his 'people' have grown to be so intolerent of change and so set in their ways, they could not even try and look at one or two, Considering that it was supervised by people that are very closely connected to the Trek world like the Okudas, and that people connected to the original show like Bob Justman thought they were done very well, and had no serious objections to the project as a whole, really makes me wonder.

 

It is funny, also, how you made a point how you liked the 'Directors Cut' of ST:TMP with the completed effects. In many ways, that is an almost toally different movie from the original version: not only did they add effects, but they edited the more boring moments out (much less of seeing Sulu's adams apple bob up and down as he stares at Vger, for instance),added a couple of very important scenes left out of the original - including only the most important scene in the whole damn movie, which clears up just about all of the plot points - and they also totally redid the sound tracks so it did not sound so sterile. So you liked that, but won't even take a look at these 'new versions' of the old episodes, where the only thing they did was upgrade what were VERY creaky SFX (even for 1966/7/8/9), done on a shoestring budget, with visuals that make the show look a little better, and in some cases ENHANCES some of the plot points and dialogue. I think a certain Vulcan would consider that a little illogical.

 

It should also be mentioned that the new effects were done by CBS?Paramount, to insure the viability of the franchise for the future - they are, after all, a profit seeking entity.

 

An also should be mentioned the remastering itself is second to none - the shows themselves look and feel brand new. On my HDTV, streaming through Netflix on my Roku box, it looks amazing. Actually looks better than the TNG episodes that were transferred to video tape look now.

 

 

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It's not nice, but I always laugh when I see rants about CGI on forums. Are the people who write such things totally clueless? The alphabet is a set of images used solely to represent sounds (there is no actual, direct, physical connection between the shape of a letter and the sound associated with it). Since everything on the Internet is generated by computers, they're using CGI to complain about CGI!

 

Some movies use CGI as a crutch. If the story isn't interesting, they'll toss in some effects to wow the audience. Flash and dazzle have always been a part of entertainment (sequin gowns come to mind). It's never been able to turn a bad performance into a good one, and adding it to weak movies only makes their weakness obvious.

 

Where CGI really shines is when it's all CGI. *Wall-E* is, imnsho, one of the best movies ever made (except for Fred Willard and that horrible, horrible music, both of which are, totally and unfortunately, human). Because it's all CGI, the story and characterizations had to stand on their own; it couldn't call in any special effects to gloss over weak spots.

 

I haven't see the revised versions of Star Trek, so I'll have to reserve judgement. The planeteater was one of the worst props ever, so in theory, I'm not averse to it being upgraded. On the other hand, they had better not have messed with the tribbles!

 

I did see, on some documentary or other, where they inserted a crewman into a scene to demonstrate what they could do. He just stood there, but it looked perfectly natural. I'd be very interested in seeing if they could replace characters and get rid of those horrible make-up jobs on some of the aliens.

 

On a counter-CGI note, is anyone here watching this season of Face Off (SyFy show with make-up artists creating sf and fantasy characters in a competition)? The opener was great. They created beings for the cantina scene in Star Wars. Two of them were horrible, two were so-so, but two of them really rocked! I know why the winner won (fantastic amount of detail and a really strong presence), but I actually thought the runner-up was better. She was much more appropriate and beautifully executed.

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I agree with "less is more". The first really big CGI movie I recall was Jurassic Park. Jeff Goldblum has a line that sums it up best: "You were so preoccupied with whether or not you *could*, that you didn't stop to think if you *should*."

 

That movie worked because the CGI was used to make a sensible replica of what would happen if dinosaurs and humans co-existed. Sure it had great big dinosaurs, but they behaved in a plausible way. If the T-Rex had pulled out an AK-47 and started shooting--or, as in the third JP movie, snapping the necks of other dinos--then that would have been ridiculous. Sure, you *can* do it, but you shouldn't neccessarily do it just because you can. The problem isn't the CGI itself, it's just that they overuse it so badly.

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*Capuchin:*

 

The only things they did with the reworked was:

 

Replaced all the flybys with new ones, instead of having the same old fly by and orbit shots, there are slightky different ones for each show - and even then they pretty much followed what had been there before - only done better.

 

all of the space effect shots of course - things like the Fesarius in the Corbomite Maneuver are subtly awe inspiring now

 

 

A lot of the old matte paintings were upgraded - in Requiem for Methusalah, they had reused the fortress from The Cage, but now its a grand original palace for Mr Brack

 

some subtle things too - for the Imperial Starship Enterprise, they made it a nice dark battleship grey, and also made it more like the old Enterprise model from the pilot episoes with the little antennae protruding from the nacelles.

 

and they couldn't do anything with like the transporter effects, as they did not have the original inserting negatives to work with.

 

Overall, its pretty cool, and worth a look - and no they didn't touch a hair on the tribbles head - wherever that might be :P;)

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Oh, no. . . . I didn't know. . . .

 

But, on second thought, it may be right to fix the flaws in Star Trek. And you know, we could go back and fix all the old movies. You know, brush 'em up, get rid of the bad parts. And we don't have to stop there. Lots of works of literature can stand improvement. I was thinking recently that A Tale of Two Cities dragged a little in places.

 

George Lucas has "improved" THX 1138 with CGI. Saw some clips of it. Totally ruins the feeling. Whereas before, the effects were in the service of the story, now they are the feature. How could he not realize that? It seems you can't get an original version anymore (new, that is).

 

Ray Harryhausen I hear is working on colorizing his earlier films. I suppose that's his perogative. He may have wanted to do them in color, but lacked the finances.

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CGI is a tool and it depends upon how its used. My 3 best recent CGI movies are "WALL E", "Aliens and Cowboys" and "Avatar". I don't know how these films could had been made without it.

 

Far as animation (Disney) goes, we are seeing the end of cell animation due to CGI. Sad to see this art form die, so few uses it today. Worthy of mentioning, "South Park" went in the opposite direction, they used movable cutouts for animation and this has become a hit. Go figure.

 

Also the CGI used in Animal Planet's documentary "Mermaids The Body Found" is very neat.

 

The large eyes and skull ridge are based on the South African partial skull reconstruction. Yikes.

 

277874-mermaids-the-body-found.jpg

 

Edited by: hamradio on Aug 28, 2012 10:32 PM

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> {quote:title=hamradio wrote:}{quote}Worthy of mentioning, "South Park" went in the opposite direction, they used movable cutouts for animation and this has become a hit. Go figure.

You're slightly wrong about that...South Park uses cutouts from construction paper that get scanned into a computer (so I read years ago). The rest IS movement by computer based on the construction paper cutouts they scan into it.

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> {quote:title=hamradio wrote:}{quote}

> CGI is a tool and it depends upon how its used.

 

I'm pretty sure the owls in the first part of Harry Potter were CGI because they couldn't get owls to flock, and they couldn't get as many owls as they wanted to show.

 

It's a rare case where CGI is totally invisible.

 

> Worthy of mentioning, "South Park" went in the opposite direction, they used movable cutouts for animation and this has become a hit.

 

Monty Python's animations have been hailed for their imagination and effect. I liked them a lot, in context, but I can't imagine becoming too enthusiastic about them.

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> {quote:title=exapno wrote:}{quote}A good use of CGI in 'helping' an old piece out was in the recent reworking of the original *Star Trek* series. The original model effects in the show were at best OK - even for 1966/7/8/9, so any reworking of then would have been helpful, but there are certain episdes where there was marked improvement to the point of making the episodes even better.

>

 

I agree completely. Although I've watched all the ST series, in their entirety, I've never been to a convention, so I guess I'm not a Trekkie. I do have a good friend, who definitely is. He collects all things Trek. We watched all the restorations on my HD TV, and he liked them as much as I did. They were well done, carefully, and respectfully. But, we both agree that the unaltered originals should remain available.

 

As to CGI, it lets us do many things that are impossible without it. I think that when it is the best way to do it, fine, use it. But, don't over do it.

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}But, we both agree that the unaltered originals should remain available.

Fortunately they are, as is Spielberg's original version of E.T. ...but SHAME on George Lucas for not having the original versions of the first Star Wars trilogy available.

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> {quote:title=Sepiatone wrote:}{quote}

> Going back and re-doing some of that stuff is up to the people who did it originally, if it makes them feel better, but Goldblum's line from *Jurrasic Park* should apply there.

 

There's a pitfall in writing, and I'm sure it exists in filmmaking as well, that the author thinks if they tweak it just a tiny bit more, it'll be perfect. I know authors who are revising and editing novels they wrote a decade ago. The urge is often irresistible.

 

One problem is you can't let someone read your work, read the rewrite, and ask them which is better. Too often, the original, for good, bad, or indifferent, is going to be fixed in their mind as the way the story should be. Only by finding people who haven't been exposed to the original, and having them read the rewrite and then the original, can you get any sort of feel for which is better.

 

For filmmakers, it means having to take the original out of circulation, let the remake build up a fan base, and then dump the original on them.

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I agree, Capuchin. Of course, I appreciate being able to see "director's cut" of films. However, my mind's eye usually prefers that which I saw originally. Ex. "Blade Runner." I know, I know. The theatrical release was a happy, Hollywood ending. Guess that's the one I got used to.

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