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. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    The PT is so saturated by effects that you could actually spend time trying to figure out what ISN'T an effect.

    I suppose you could, but that doesn't sound like a hell of a lot of fun to me. Better to just sit back and enjoy the ride instead of trying to figure out how the engine works.
  2. Django211 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 1999
    star 4
    If you are going to do a price breakdown than you also have to figure the cost of the animators. This would include their equipment, their training, their time & their number. This could be just as expensive if not more than using the real thing. First off Lucas does not belong to the union so he doesn't have to abide by SAG rules & is free to hire, & pay, the extras whatever he wants. They are also shooting in foreign countries where they receive tax breaks & a better exchange rate. The film Final Fantasy, despite being all digital, cost about a million dollars per minute. I think Lucas wanted as much digital as possible to see if it could be done. He showed that it can be, but it wasn't as seemless as he thought. If it were then there wouldn't be so many complaining would there?

    BTW when people talk about models being used in the PT they are somewhat correct. Models were used, but they were scanned into the computers & from then on everything was CG. Like Jar Jar & Dex, the real thing was used as a reference but the result was cg.
  3. SomeRandomNerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    >>>BTW when people talk about models being used in the PT they are somewhat correct. Models were used, but they were scanned into the computers & from then on everything was CG. Like Jar Jar & Dex, the real thing was used as a reference but the result was cg

    Not true- model spaceships were hung on bits of wire and blown up etc., just like for the OT. (Just like real latex masks were put on real heads.)

    The main difference is that computer tracking for the cameras so that it move the same way every time isn't quite the big deal that it was in 1977...
  4. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    If you are going to do a price breakdown than you also have to figure the cost of the animators. This would include their equipment, their training, their time & their number.

    Not really because the price of training and equipment is a one time expense that is unrelated to the production of the film. Therefore, the only actual cost is what the animator is paid for his work.
  5. Django211 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 1999
    star 4
    For arguments sake lets talk about the clone troopers. It depends on how much it costs to animate each trooper & how many people it takes to animate him. Outside of the Hollywood unions, which the physical production would include but not ILM employees, man power is much cheaper. In fact many films go abroad to film because of cheaper labor & tax incentives offered by foreign markets. So your set decorators, actors, craft service, etc... would be cheaper than if it were made in a union production. The question is if it would be cheaper to produce the same effects via cgi. Since no one here has these numbers its hard to argue. But I think that Lucas chose to go with cgi troopers to see if it could be done.

    If you think that once you have the computers that you are done spending then that is a mistake. I've worked in post houses & you are constantly spending on upkeep for technical glitches. Plus you must have huge systems for rendering and storage space, which includes its own staff. Not to mention that animators have their own subdivisions similar to an assembly line. Once they are done it goes to someone else for their additions. So to think that after all these steps that the result is cheaper is merely speculation.

    One thing never mentioned about Lucas wanting to go all digital is piracy. The goal is for all theaters to go digital & get their films from a satelite. The result would be cleaner prints that don't deteriorate but it would also result in a lot more piracy. Stealing a signal from the satelite, or the server, would become easier. A lot of pirated stuff now comes from someone entering a theater & taping it, & it looks horrible. With digital any hacker will have a perfect copy.
  6. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    So to think that after all these steps that the result is cheaper is merely speculation.

    For the sake of argument, let's say that all things are equal. That still doesn't prove that visual effects are some how inferior to practical methods.

    As for the piracy issue, You're assuming it's going to be a simple matter for these hackers to decrypt a digital satelite signal and burn their own high quality DVD's in the comfort of their own homes. No doubt manufacturers are working on protecting against that very scenario. Of course, there will still be some instances of piracy, but I don't think it's going to be any greater than what we see now.
  7. tun_dot_com Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2002
    star 2
    I still think everyone is missing the point. I love the PT, but the only real problem I have is that sometimes, I just don't believe the scene is real. With the OT, almost everything was real, and it was more believable. Maybe Star Wars was intended to be a huge visual effects orgy, but I think using real sets/props, with digital stuff in the background would be the best.
  8. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    but I think using real sets/props, with digital stuff in the background would be the best.

    And that's exactly what you got. Perhaps you didn't realize it, but most of the "CGI" backgrounds were actually highly detailed models composited into the shot with appropriate props and fixtures in the foreground to sell the illusion, not to mention that many building exteriors and space ships were also models.

    Again, I believe the reason people think these effects shots look fake is because it's not immediately obvious that they are models thanks to the seamless compositing available through today's digital technology. There are no tell-tale artifacts like you see in optical compositing, so people automatically assume that it was completely computer generated and thus convince themselves that it looks "unrealistic" (again refering back to my argument of people thinking that comparatively lo-fi LP's sound better than CD).
  9. SomeRandomNerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    >>>Not really because the price of training and equipment is a one time expense that is unrelated to the production of the film. Therefore, the only actual cost is what the animator is paid for his work.

    Usually true, but not quite in the case of the Star Wars prequels.

    For starters, Lucas wasn't just hiring ILM by the hour- somebody had to buy the computers, hire the animators and so on and so forth. Also, to make TPM they also had to make the systems to that they could do it again for II & III, and so that anyone else who wanted the techniques to be used for their films would be able to have it (to paraphrase the TPM DVD documentary.) And it seems that a LOT of the time spent on TPM was in writing the software as well as making the CG models (which presumably means training the animators in how to use the new custom-built software...)

    So although it's all the sort of additional expenses that would be recouped in the future, that's still a hell of a lot of expenses...

    As for the clone troopers- I think it's generally agreed that for shots such as the one where they're all marching about on Kamino, getting their helmets etc. and the ones where there's lots of them fighting on Geonosis, interacting with CG characters in CG environments, there's no question that CG is the most suitable way of making the shots.

    Now, with the CG models fully made up (and with the ability to change them all at the drop of a hat at virtually no additional expense), what would be the benefit of making a few "real" suits for extras to wear for the odd shot of a trooper talking to Sam Jackson and... well, I can't think of any other where they interact with non-CG characters, but if there are any; those shots...

    >>>>Stealing a signal from the satelite, or the server, would become easier. A lot of pirated stuff now comes from someone entering a theater & taping it, & it looks horrible. With digital any hacker will have a perfect copy.

    Seems very unlikely to me- at least not for several years. All it would take to guarantee safety would be to have a secure cable which went from wherever the film was stored directly to cinemas (ie. not connected to the internet.)

    Besides, even if the data were somehow accessible to the public (any encryption is hackable, after all...), a DVD holds 17,408 megabytes- imagine how long that would take to download (even on a 256kbps broadband connection that's about 19.5 hours.) Then consider that the information on DVD's is compressed, and still pretty far off the resolution of a cinema picture; if someone had access to the information (which would presubaly be in some sort of streaming format), where would they store it?

    I think you'd need a pretty expensve, hi-tech piece of kit to hack into that and get anything useful...
  10. Django211 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 1999
    star 4
    Perhaps I should have clarified. When I talk about stealing signals I am not talking about the typical home user. I am talking about the professional pirates that make millions which Hollywood is fighting. Right now you can buy any current movie in Asia on VCD & DVD. Many of these come from people sneaking into screenings & taping them so the quality is lousy. But there are those that come from insiders & people hack their way onto servers & press DVDs by the thousands & they are the same quality as what you get in the stores. Now if the goal is to send these digital films via satelite then there will be people who can steal it. Do you know how easy it is to get Direct TV (which basically runs on the same idea using MPEG-4)? Upon release there will be people that will have pristine copies of a film & the big pirates will have better DVDs. Are Lucasfilm & the other companies trying to combat this? Well of course. But there is a lot of money in it & you can be sure that there will be people that will find their way around these security systems.

    I'm not trying to start an argument against digital advances & I also didn't want to derail this thread. I'm just bringing up a reality that already exists in the market today. There are going to be a lot of people against Hollywood going digital. A lot of older people have union jobs & don't want to give them up nor do they want to learn new skills. But with more & more films implementing new technology, which Lucas has always been a proponent of, there will be opposition.
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