The Folly of (George Lucas's) Digital Cinema

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Bravo 5, Apr 9, 2003.

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  1. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    Lucas is always gonna try to do as much as he can with the technology he's got. The guy's always been at the front in terms of this kind of development in movies, so it's no wonder he likes to play with all his toys, so to speak.

    Look at ANH - compared to the other films in '77, I bet I could come up with about 100 shots that were mainly for 'wow' factor and were strictly speaking unnecessary, but that's Lucas for you and he's always going to push the envelope as much as possible.

    At the moment, if he can do it as an effect, he'll do it as an effect. The fact that he's now recording digitally makes this process even easier to integrate with the real footage.
  2. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    Just to clarify again -- I'm not talking about unecessary CGI, but unecessary effects of any kind, period.

    Well, there's the rub. Just because a given shot could have been accomplished in a different, perhaps more traditional way doesn't mean the use of visual effects in that instance is suddenly unecessary. And I dare say that 99% of such "unecessary" effects completely fooled the average movie goer. I know people love pointing out the digital clonetroopers as being some how "unecessary" but personally, I thought they were all extras in costume the first few times I saw the movie, and even now I still can't tell them apart from the genuine article. Even my wife didn't believe me when I told her during a recent viewing that they were all digital. She watched the battle sequence and kept saying, "O.K., now that one had to be a guy in costume. No? Well what about that one? Fine, but the one talking to Mace was definitely an actor in costume...wasn't he?"

    So if an effect can fool the general audience and it enhances the story, is it still an "unecessary" effect?
  3. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    DamonD - I bet I could come up with about 100 shots that were mainly for 'wow' factor and were strictly speaking unnecessary

    Likely, can you give me an example?

    Durwood - Just because a given shot could have been accomplished in a different, perhaps more traditional way doesn't mean the use of visual effects in that instance is suddenly unecessary.

    ---------

    So if an effect can fool the general audience and it enhances the story, is it still an "unecessary" effect?


    I call an effect used in place of anything that can be physically built without being logistically or monetarily prohibitive to be an 'unecessary' effect. I say this because I believe that something actually constructed in reality (not counting scaled models) will always register as more realistic on screen. Would you debate that?

    And how do either of the examples I cited that were, to me, unecessary effects, enhance the story?
  4. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    I call an effect used in place of anything that can be physically built without being logistically or monetarily prohibitive to be an 'unecessary' effect.

    Meaning that it is only unecessary in your opinion.

    I say this because I believe that something actually constructed in reality (not counting scaled models) will always register as more realistic on screen. Would you debate that?

    Yes, I would debate it simply because there are dozens and even hundreds of digital models and set extensions in the prequels that look as realistic as any physical object would.

    And how do either of the examples I cited that were, to me, unecessary effects, enhance the story?

    They enhance the story in that they allow Lucas to show us something that doesn't exist which creates an immersive alternate reality in which to base his narrative. Whether using sets, models, or digital creations, it's all a means to an end. The technique is irrelevant.
  5. HKChicago Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 8, 2002
    star 2
    Bravo 5 great thread. To answer your basic question I'd say I have to wait for Ep3 to see what it is like in terms of style. Here's why:

    There's a huge difference in the use of vfx in the 2 trilogies, and it really comes down to style (not tools, technology, etc.)...
    What is conveyed in the PT so far is a fully realized galaxy of exotic civilizations, from the wide shots of Theed and Coruscant to the large amount of unrelated on screen activity. From a style p.o.v. we're seeing civilizations in all their reality... it's not very intimate though.

    The OT is intimate. We aren't immersed into the worlds at all, the only activity we see are those directly related to the plot. There are no wide shots to establish scale of cities... the one place we see it all it's glory is the death star which is a simple sphere anyway. The OT is much more intimate but the galaxy is much less interesting.

    OK, so on to my answer... if Ep3 can convey the change in style from fully realized worlds to small intimate scenes then I think the difference in style isn't folly but actually a masterstroke. Many great works go from epic to personal or vice versa to great effect (The Aeneid, Arthurian legends, etc).

    If Ep3 doesn't convey a narrative & stylistic change from the broad to the narrow then I agree with you the disparity will be too great to make much sense.

    Regarding digital cameras, I'm so thankful that GL does push the technology because whatever cameras Ep3 is filmed with will be the best available for the next decade or so. By going digital with the PT GL has accelerated the acceptance of digital filming, but once Ep3 is done expect there to be few major studio releases with cameras that are better than the Ep3 ones for some time.

    I know the digital cameras on Ep2 were only 1080 resolution, but the best HD-DVD systems in our lifetimes will only be 1080. Imagine right now DVD is effectively 480. Also many other films are mastered at 1080 for digital compositing and color correcting (notably LOTR) so any complaints about the digital cameras must be related to the transfer process, not the resolution sourced for the 35mm prints. Anyway, the cameras used on Ep3 will make Ep3>Ep2 just like Ep2>Ep1.
  6. SomeRandomNerd Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    >>>I was saying that a "real" object, at least at this point in time, will always be rendered more realistic on the screen than a special effect. Feel free to debate that if you like, but I think you'd be hard pressed. How the actors interact with a physical set versus a blue screen environment is a whole different issue that I didn't even bring up.

    I think the "interaction" issue is central to the "real" issue. The main problem (I think) with CG elements is the way they interact with reality.

    I mean, when you've got digital characters interacting with one another, that have been "painted" in after the "real" footage has already been shot, the digital actors interact perfectly, because they're made that way. Their eyes will always be looking at the right spot etc. It's the real actors that destroy the illusion, because the reference points they are looking at etc. aren't exactly where the digital character ends up.

    For example, the Obi Wan, Qui Gon and Jar Jar scene at the start of TPM in the forest- Jar Jar looks as realistic as you could hope for, in the way his skin moves, the shadows fall on him etc. The one thing that stands out most in making him not look "real" is the way Ewan McGregor's eyes are focussed on a stationary point around about where Jar Jar's eyes are, but Jar Jar's head is moving around without Ewan's eyes following him. The result being that you don't quite believe that both the characters are really there.

    Similarly, in AOTC, the clonetroopers in practically every shot are either in large numbers in a CGI environment, or interacting with other CGI characters- both examples of when a CGI character will look more realistic, because it will interact with the surroundings better. The things that look worst (IMHO) are the "real" Jedi, who don't look to me like they are in an arena with a bunch of droids, but look like what they are- people with all the droids etc. painted in around them. (The fact that you already know how that kind of shot is made up obviously doesn't help...)

    Or the Dexter shot, where he hugs Obi Wan- the only way to make that look real was to replace Obi Wan's cloak with a digital one, which could interact with the CGI Dexter. And still, the thing that breaks the illusion for me is the fact that it still looks like Ewan McGregor is hugging thin air, and Dexter has been painted in afterwards.

    >>>That little monster was a a puppet that cost money and manpower to build and shoot. From a logistical standpoint, it's simply not feasible to whip up a dozen of those puppets, with proper variations so they don't all look the same, and take the time to sprinkle them in a scene here and a shot there. Of course, you could if their inclusion in those shots was that important in the eyes of the director. Once they decide the way to go, all they can do without spending more money and shooting more footage and plates is excise already shot footage.

    I don't know if you've seen the Behind the Magic CDROM, but it has an interesting version of the Mos Eisley Cantina scene. Apparently the make up/costumes guy was offf sick when they shot it, and as a result all of the aliens in the original version of the scene are humanoid, about 6 feet tall, with masks on. After it was done, they went back and filmed close up shots of some more exotic looking aliens and literally "sprinkled them in". Next time you watch the scene, take a look at how many of the interesting aliens you see in close up are absent form the longer shots, and how many of the "aliens" in the long shots are pretty poor efforts. (Especially the guy in an astronaut suit...)

    So I don't think that CG is the cause behind the effect you're observing. It's just that now it's done with pixels instead of plastic.

    >>>The only part of the cgi that I thought was unnecessary in ATOC or TPM was the Clonetroopers. I dont know why GL did that. All he had to do was get one guy in a uniform, and digitally replicate him.

    How is that different? They would still be CGI images added in post production, would
  7. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    Regarding Obi-Wan looking at Jar Jar in TPM, the primary reason this initial scene looks unatural is because of Jar Jar's anatomy. First of all, he's very tall, and secondly, his eyes are on the top of his head, so for the relatively short Obi-Wan to make eye contact with him, he has to look at a point almost two feet above his own head. This looks unatural not because the eye lines are off but because we're not used to seeing someone have to look so far up to look someone else in the eye. Notice that Qui-Gon who is considerably taller than Obi-Wan is able to engage Jar Jar in a far more natural and thus more believable manner.

    The interaction between Obi-Wan and Dex in CLONES was a brilliant performance on the part of Ewan McGregor and shows that a lot of selling CG characters depends on the actors, and admittedly some are better than others. For instance, the film WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT worked only because Bob Hoskins was able to sell the idea that he was actually interacting with a cartoon rabbit. I remember reading how Robert Zemickis conducted extensive auditions until he found an actor whose performance convinced him that Roger was real. As a result, the film worked extremely well. On the flip side, COOL WORLD, a rather schlocky film that similiarly mixed live action and cell animation, featured what is perhaps the worst performance in Brad Pitt's career in which he utterly failed to sell the idea that he was interacting with imaginary characters.

    Point being, compositing an imaginary character in after the fact is not a flawed technique, it just takes a particularly gifted actor to sell it.

    So the question is, should directors be expected to limit their use of certain techniques to cater to the actors, or should actors be expected to step up to the challenge? To put it another way, if a particular film doesn't sell an imaginary character, is that a fault of the director, the technique, the actor, or perhaps all of the above?
  8. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    Likely, can you give me an example?

    Sure.

    The opening shot after the crawl. We see the rebel ship zoom afterhead, closely followed by the massive bulk of an Imperial Star Destroyer.

    Totally unnecessary, just for 'wow' factor. You could've had the shots of Threepio and Artoo moved along with troops running, as Threepio explains what's happening. We don't need to see the ships at all. It's great that we do though, right?

    Instead of getting exposition inside the ship, we actually get to see the ship and an even BIGGER one chasing it, and firing as well. It's awesome.
  9. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    Durwood - >>>I call an effect used in place of anything that can be physically built without being logistically or monetarily prohibitive to be an 'unecessary' effect.

    Meaning that it is only unecessary in your opinion.


    Well, yes. But would you argue that when an effect is used in place of something that can easily be built in the physical world that it is not unnecessary? I understand if George wants it there, then it doesn't matter how else the shot can be achieved or not -- it's a "necessary" shot. But special effects are "special" for a reason. It seems like instead of using special effects to supplement reality, reality is being used to supplement the effects. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing in and of itself, but it is a different kind of movie.

    Yes, I would debate it simply because there are dozens and even hundreds of digital models and set extensions in the prequels that look as realistic as any physical object would.

    First of all, I'll argue that a real object will look more realistic on screen than any kind of effect 'til the cows come home. Set extensions are exactly that -- effects that are supplementing what is real on set. George Lucas's own production designer spoke of the same idea in the third web documentary for AOTC for starwars.com, "We Didn't Go to the Desert to Get a Suntan."

    >>>And how do either of the examples I cited that were, to me, unecessary effects, enhance the story?

    They enhance the story in that they allow Lucas to show us something that doesn't exist which creates an immersive alternate reality in which to base his narrative. Whether using sets, models, or digital creations, it's all a means to an end. The technique is irrelevant.


    You're right, the technique is irrelevant, as long as the results are the same. By unecessary effects I don't usually mean that it was an unecessary shot.

    HKChicago - I agree. The OT is supposed to be "more intimate," whereas the PT is, by design, more epic in scale. This is partly the reason why technology needed to catch up to George Lucas's vision before the new films could even be made. Even so, I think the way special effects are used in the new films is still a departure from the original films that may make it difficult for the two to mesh. But yes -- a lot depends on Episode III.

    DamonD - The opening shot after the crawl. We see the rebel ship zoom afterhead, closely followed by the massive bulk of an Imperial Star Destroyer.

    Totally unnecessary, just for 'wow' factor. You could've had the shots of Threepio and Artoo moved along with troops running, as Threepio explains what's happening. We don't need to see the ships at all. It's great that we do though, right?

    Instead of getting exposition inside the ship, we actually get to see the ship and an even BIGGER one chasing it, and firing as well. It's awesome.


    I have to strongly disagree with you there. That shot is important for several reasons. One, being one of the first images of the film, it immediately defines the visual language of the film in a dramatic way. It immediately immerses you in the world. We do need to see the ships to see what is really going on. The sequence would be too confusing if it all took place inside the ship without explanation. Three, the sight of the bigger ship chasing the smaller ship visually cements the notion that these rebels are outmatched and up against a larger, overbearing, superior force.
  10. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    But would you argue that when an effect is used in place of something that can easily be built in the physical world that it is not unnecessary?

    Whether it's a physical set or a digital creation, the end result is the same. For that matter, you may as well argue that even an artificial set is unecessary because you could just as easily use actual locations.

    First of all, I'll argue that a real object will look more realistic on screen than any kind of effect 'til the cows come home.

    Argue all you want. It's still just your opinion.

    You're right, the technique is irrelevant, as long as the results are the same. By unecessary effects I don't usually mean that it was an unecessary shot.

    Then what exactly are you protesting against? You admit that a given shot may be necessary but that you don't approve of the techniques used to realize it. That's all well and good, but it doesn't exactly prove anything.
  11. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    1. Defining the visual language.
    So all the other shots of ships zipping around are unnecessary, now that the language and visuals have been set?

    2. Too confusing if it took place inside.
    Oh, no way. This doesn't hold up at all. Try watching the scene without seeing the ships and Threepio and the inside action explains it perfectly well.

    3. Outmatched.
    Having loads of stormtroopers pour through and blast all the security guards is impressive enough.

    If I can pick just one single scene in ANH and provide enough points for us to go back-and-forth with it, doesn't that mean that the debate should be open on the PT effects as well?
  12. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    Durwood - >>>But would you argue that when an effect is used in place of something that can easily be built in the physical world that it is not unnecessary?

    Whether it's a physical set or a digital creation, the end result is the same. For that matter, you may as well argue that even an artificial set is unecessary because you could just as easily use actual locations.


    But the end result is not the same. I don't really see how it's a question when it comes to something real looking more realistic than an effect. No matter how good the effect is. Any filmmaker worth their salt will tell you the same.

    And an artificial set is used when a location is financially or logistically prohibitive, or simply doesn't exist. I don't know what you're trying to get at with that statement.

    Then what exactly are you protesting against? You admit that a given shot may be necessary but that you don't approve of the techniques used to realize it. That's all well and good, but it doesn't exactly prove anything.

    I've made the same point several times already. Special effects are most effective when they are used sparingly to supplement reality. A shot that is 100% synthetic should only be such if that is the only way said shot can be achieved. Special effects should be used where they have to be, not wherever they can be, to maximize realism. (And by realism, I mean the believability of the fantastic by rooting it in reality.) Assuming you're not going for a surrealistic, impressionist effect with a film.

    DamonD - 1. Defining the visual language.

    So all the other shots of ships zipping around are unnecessary, now that the language and visuals have been set?


    That's a pretty big leap from what I said. I was explaining why I felt that particular shot was necessary. Defining the visual language of the film (and, indeed, the saga) is a function of the shot you described, but that doesn't mean that every single shot in the film is supposed to redefine the way it tells a story. Nor is that the only function of that shot. Shots of spaceships zipping around are a part of the visual language used to tell the story. You wouldn't just have a bunch of talking heads in cockpits for the final Yavin battle. These are visual films more than anything else.

    2. Too confusing if it took place inside.

    Oh, no way. This doesn't hold up at all. Try watching the scene without seeing the ships and Threepio and the inside action explains it perfectly well.


    I have to disagree with you there. Show that sequence to someone who has never seen a Star Wars film without the space shots. It would be more difficult to follow what's going on. And, I mean, the movie is called "Star Wars." I think it goes without saying that you should see shots of battling in space.

    3. Outmatched.

    Having loads of stormtroopers pour through and blast all the security guards is impressive enough.


    Outmatched in numbers, but by not showing the ships outside, how do we know that the rebel ship is not, in fact, bigger and more menacing? A picture is worth a thousand words. Showing the ships outside convey a lot of information a lot more efficiently.

    If I can pick just one single scene in ANH and provide enough points for us to go back-and-forth with it, doesn't that mean that the debate should be open on the PT effects as well?

    Well, yes. We have been debating the merits of the way effects are used in the PT.
  13. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    Just as an aside -- I get the feeling that this thread has turned into yet another "Star Wars-lovers vs. Star Wars-detractors" thread, and that somehow, I'm on the "bad" side. For some reason, I feel it necessary to restate how much I love all 5 Star Wars films, regardless of their shortcomings. But they dp have shortcomings.
  14. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    ...and by 'dp,' I of course mean 'do.' ;)
  15. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    Well, yes. We have been debating the merits of the way effects are used in the PT.

    My point was that if they can be successfully debated, then there is no actual fault with the effects. It's just a difference of opinion rather than a failure on Lucas or the effect's part.

    I fully accept your points on the ANH opening, and agree with them myself, but by me playing devil's advocate it's incredibly easy to pick any scene apart to the point where it seems superfluous.

    The opening shots in ANH can be viewed as both necessary and unnecessary, depending on the viewer. It's the same with the PT stuff, I don't feel there is anything unnecessary any more so than in the OT.

    I could nominate more stuff from ANH along if you'd like, but I don't think it would serve the discussion much. For the purposes of this topic, I think the important thing is that we've each had the chance to air our views and show that their is this different take on situations.

    Man, this is too serious *juggles wookies* I hate all this highbrow sombre stuff :p *lobs a wookie at Durwood* Catch!
  16. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    But the end result is not the same. I don't really see how it's a question when it comes to something real looking more realistic than an effect. No matter how good the effect is. Any filmmaker worth their salt will tell you the same.

    It's not a question of how real it looks as most people who see a given movie know subconsciously that what they are seeing is simply an elaborate illusion. What really matters is how believable it is. So, for instance, while Yoda may not look 100% real throughout ATTACK OF THE CLONES, he does look 100% believable.

    I've made the same point several times already. Special effects are most effective when they are used sparingly to supplement reality.

    Yes, you have made that point several times, just as I've made the point that it's still your opinion.

    Edit: Yo, DamonD, stop throwing wookies! You know what happens when somebody upsets a wookie, don't you?
  17. Emperor's Prize Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jun 17, 1999
    star 4
    I think the proliferation and emphasis on visual effects is causing a lack of congruity between the PT and the OT. Someone once said that the mark of a successful special effect is that the audience hardly notices its existence - that it blends into the reality of the film in such a way that you do not even realize that an effect has been used. The PT is so saturated by effects that you could actually spend time trying to figure out what ISN'T an effect. There are two results from all of these effects:

    1. You have an absolutely dazzling, beautiful, visual movie.
    2. Time and energy is taken away from the story and characters to notice the effects.

    I, too, would have enjoyed seeing the FX compliment more "real" settings. For example, the scene in AOTC where Anakin and Padme are discussing Anakin's nightmares is a beautiful scene. Most of what you see is real (although I believe the sunrise was enhanced by VFX) and the result is an empassioned scene.
  18. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    DamonD - >>>My point was that if they can be successfully debated, then there is no actual fault with the effects. It's just a difference of opinion rather than a failure on Lucas or the effect's part.

    I fully accept your points on the ANH opening, and agree with them myself, but by me playing devil's advocate it's incredibly easy to pick any scene apart to the point where it seems superfluous.


    I never said Lucas had failed in any way. In truth, it's impossible for him to fail, unless he fails to make the movie he wants to make.

    And I don't see how you playing devil's advocate means that it's incredibly easy to make any shot seem superfluous. You said yourself -- neither of us agrees with you critcisms of the opening shot of ANH. So it seems superfluous to neither of us.

    For the purposes of this topic, I think the important thing is that we've each had the chance to air our views and show that their is this different take on situations.

    I agree. I'm not trying to just get the last word in by my response to your last post. Good show!

    Durwood - It's not a question of how real it looks as most people who see a given movie know subconsciously that what they are seeing is simply an elaborate illusion. What really matters is how believable it is. So, for instance, while Yoda may not look 100% real throughout ATTACK OF THE CLONES, he does look 100% believable.

    A special effect will never look as good as the genuine article. There are some things that cannot be created any other way than by using special effects. But when an effect can be avoided, it should, because special effects (at least at this point in time) are not "more real" or "more believable" than something "really real." [face_tee_hee])

    That being said, if an effect is 100% believable, the same shot achieved without the use of special effects would be 105% believable. Assuming that the shot can be achieved without the use of special effects.

    >>>I've made the same point several times already. Special effects are most effective when they are used sparingly to supplement reality.

    Yes, you have made that point several times, just as I've made the point that it's still your opinion.


    Yeah, it is my opinion, but also the opinion of many respected filmmakers, special effects wizards, and production designers. It's a rule of thumb when making a film that employs special effects in any capacity. The more real-world elements you can get in your shot, the better, because special effects can't match up to reality. They can be convincing to the point where 95% of an audience won't even know it's there, but it still won't be as good as the real thing.

    Take this example. A film is supposed to have Elvis play an integral role. In a perfect world, if given a choice between actually having the real Elvis play himself or having the best Elvis impersonator in the world play the part, choosing the real Elvis is a no-brainer. In the realworld, the real Elvis is dead. Cloning and the most advanced resusitation technology are way over the film's budget. Therefore, they go with the Elvis impersonator. He's believable, but the real Elvis would be even more so.
  19. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    [An Elvis impersonator is] believable, but the real Elvis would be even more so.

    Not necessarily. Often times, reality takes on an air of unreality when isolated through the sterile eye of the camera. That's why news images seem surreal more often than not, because without the appropriate sensory input, our mind has trouble accepting that what we're seeing is genuine. That's why many movies shoot for a hyper reality, something larger than life that, strangly enough, the general audience accepts as completely believable. Another example, real rain doesn't look real on camera. In fact, you can barely see it, which is why whenever you see rain depicted in films it is generally coming down in buckets--I mean, it rains absurdly hard in films, thanks to rain machines (basically, a giant sprinkler hoisted up above the set), simply because the camera needs that quantity of water for it look like it's raining, yet despite how unrealistic it is, it looks completely believable.

    That's why I make the distinction between reality and believability, because reality doesn't always appear believable to the camera.

    (On a related note, did you know that Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin look alike contest? He entered it anonymously as a lark and ended up losing to someone who was arguably less real than the real Charlie Chaplin but was apparently more believable.)

    if an effect is 100% believable, the same shot achieved without the use of special effects would be 105% believable.

    Pulling figures out of thin air may seem at first glance to be good argumentative technique, but the truth is, it's not.

    They can be convincing to the point where 95% of an audience won't even know it's there, but it still won't be as good as the real thing.

    If an effect fools 95% of the audience then it has done its job and in fact is as good as the "real" thing. On the flip side, I've seen people see something that is completely genuine and accuse it of looking fake. So whether it's real or an effect, it's not going to convince 100% of the people.

    Which brings up the obvious question: Exactly which shots in the larger than life STAR WARS films are comprised of these allegedly "unecessary" effects, and how could Lucas have realized something as fantastic as, say, Coruscant, or Kamino, or the Republic senate chamber, or Naboo, or the Battle of Geonosis, without resorting to some sort of visual effect?

    Point being, films are not supposed to be real but to merely give the illusion of reality, and to that end, believability is in many ways preferrable.
  20. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    I think the Clone Troopers are an exceptionally good example of necessary special effects.

    Having to hire hundreds of people, build all of the outfits for them, provide food and money and so on for all of these extras and then co-ordinate all their efforts sounds totally unnecessary to me when you can just animate it. The saves made across the board are huge.

    I'd write more, but an angry wookie is trying to rip my arms off for some unknown reason that totally escapes me.
  21. Bravo 5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 1998
    star 1
    Your point about the Elvis example is true -- it's obviously not a one-to-one correlation there.

    I wasn't "pulling figures out of thin air," I was just using what you had said to make my point. Give me some credit here ;)

    Also, I've said many times that there is no way that Coruscant, the Republic Senate Chamber, Kamino, et al. could be realized without visual effects. Little things, that could easily be achieved without special effects, would help the overall suspension of disbelief of the film if they were.

    Like the clone troopers. I never said that the clone troopers should never be CG. Obviously there is no way to build 200,000 suits for extras to duke it out on terrain that doesn't exist to begin with. But close-up shots, like on the gunships, could have very easily been people in suits.

    Very easily could have been, but were not. And, ultimately, what's done is done, and in the final analysis, if George Lucas is happy with his films, then so am I. But I think that there is a strangely perceptible, intangible stylistic difference that I and others have noticed between the new films and the old. I attribute this to the over-use of special effects in certain cases.

    Take the following anecdote for what you will: I was watching AOTC with a friend of mine. Both of us had seen it inumerable times. I always said that for no particular reason I loved the shot of Obi-Wan walking to his fighter when he is leaving the city on Kamino. My friend made light of the fact that everything but the sky in the background of that shot was "real," and that's why I liked it so much but didn't know why. I decided he was right. A barely perceptible difference between that and other shots of the same location achieved with visual effects, but perceptible nonetheless.

    Point is, I love these films, and admire George Lucas for the technological pioneer and visionary that he is. I still feel that had he opted to use visual effects sparingly as opposed to over-saturating every frame of the film with SFX eye candy, it would have made for a more effective and stylistically consistent piece. But, again, this is just my opinion that I wanted to bounce off other fans and film enthusiasts, hence the thread.

    And somebody get this walking carpet off of me.
  22. Durwood Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    Like the clone troopers. I never said that the clone troopers should never be CG. Obviously there is no way to build 200,000 suits for extras to duke it out on terrain that doesn't exist to begin with. But close-up shots, like on the gunships, could have very easily been people in suits.

    It could been done easily, that is if you consider hiring extras, designing and fitting costums, fabricating props, providing for appropriate amenities for a group of extras for a day of filming, retake after retake when an extra looks at the camera or trips, or stumbles into one of the primary actors, and so one to be easy. It was probably just as easy and perhaps even easier to hire one actor for a day of controlled motion capture sessions and letting the ILM animators work their magic. And the end result looked as good as and arguably better then a group of extras would have (I say better because, look at the stormtroopers in the original films. More times than not they moved like extras bumbling about in costume. The clones, on the other hand, all moved like a group of highly trained ass-kickers. You try getting a performance that consistent out of a group of minimum wage extras.) At the very least, I and anybody I personally know who has seen the film was and continues to be completely fooled by how utterly real the clonetroopers look. Heck, I know they're all digital, and even I still mistake them for the genuine article!

    At any rate, I think it comes down to what you're willing to conciously ignore in order to enjoy a film. For film enthusiasts like us who are pretty savy on how movies are brought to the screen, it can be difficult because we often see through the illusion and start watching things on a completely technical level. For instance, I love the television show C.S.I., but often times I am taken out of the program because of its dramatic and generally excellent use of lighting because I will find a shot or scene so compelling that I start trying to figure out how they did it, where did they put the lights, what color gels did they use and how, what kind of lighting did they use, is it natural or artificial light, what kind of processing was used in post, and so on. To fully enjoy the show, I have to shut off that part of my brain and just watch for the sake of enjoyment. Same thing with the original STAR WARS films. I have to choose to ignore the crude puppets, the often less than effective optical compositing, the herky-jerky stop motion animation, the obviously two dimensional matte paintings, the bad acting, and so on if I am to have any hope of enjoying myself.

    By way of anecdote, when I was taking my freshmen level video production classes in college, I started looking at television in a whole new way. Instead of just watching television, I began critiquing television. During a semester break, my dad and I were watching STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and I was vocally critiquing the show, pointing out continuity errors, commenting on the dramatic use of camera angles, observing the fact that Captain Picard is eye level with Commander Riker in close-ups but a full head shorter than him in wide shots, until my dad looked at me and said, "Will you shut up and just watch the show?" That's good advice.

    When I'm at work, I'm in full critique mode and am known for being brutally honest, but when I'm watching something for enjoyment, I take my dad's advice and just shut up and watch the show.
  23. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    Still, this has been an interesting discussion. Apart from the wookies, those overgrown mopheads.
  24. MeBeJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2002
    star 6
    I thought they were "walking carpets". ;)
  25. SomeRandomNerd Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    >>>A special effect will never look as good as the genuine article.

    Did you know that most of the shots of the shark swimming around in Jaws that look like a fake, rubber shark are actually shots of a real shark, and vice versa?

    And before you ask, I have no idea where I heard that...

    >>>Someone once said that the mark of a successful special effect is that the audience hardly notices its existence - that it blends into the reality of the film in such a way that you do not even realize that an effect has been used. The PT is so saturated by effects that you could actually spend time trying to figure out what ISN'T an effect.

    Hang on- so you're saying that in the PT, you can't tell what is an effect and what isn't, so you could actually spend time trying to figure out what is and what isn't an effect? So, in other words, the effects blend into the reality of the film so well that you don't realize where the effect has been used- you just know that there's an effect being used there because it couldn't be real...

    Doesn't that mean it's time to shut up and enjoy the movie?
    8-}
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