Monday, May 04, 2015

CGI Uber Alles

Too much of a good thing gives people headaches.

... The ability to mount enormous battles featuring multiple super-powered characters ... has become its own trap. And while the results can be visually ­astounding, the movies regularly feel as lifeless and mechanized as the technology responsible for bringing those visions to fruition.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoyed it. But the blaring sound, and whirling CG effects near the climax of the film made my head want to explode. (Luckily I was able to talk my head out of it.)

CG effects, used sparingly (strategically?), enhance the movie-going experience. But effects that explode, stampede and whirl at you non-stop are enervating. And the fact that they're not real (and often look it) undercuts he tension.

There's a visceral thrill to watching an event that's anchored to the real world. For instance, Ben Hur racing in an actual arena with flesh-and-blood horses and charioteers. Or a full-size train jack-knifing off a real track (The Fugitive).

Palms sweat and neck-skin prickles because we know what we're watching is real.

Funny how flamboyant computer-generated effects don't trigger the same responses. But then, audiences often know the difference between people, things and places that exist in time and space, and CG fakery. And they react accordingly.

4 comments:

Celshader said...

Folks plunked down money to see a robot fight a Viking god, an armored knight, and the Jolly Green Giant. Something tells me they'll never accept what they see on the screen as "real." At best, the film suspends their disbelief.

rbrtck said...

CGI still works best in terms of suspension of disbelief when design (including lighting and rendering) and animation are both caricatured (in an animated film), as opposed to trying to pass for something that physically exists. I think this is true whether or not it is composited with live-action elements. In the latter case, it should be used sparingly and in ways that do not expose it to easy scrutiny, or else it's just going to get in the way of buying into the film...not that this has had any impact at the box office outside of motion capture-based animated features.

Celshader said...

CGI still works best in terms of suspension of disbelief when design (including lighting and rendering) and animation are both caricatured (in an animated film), as opposed to trying to pass for something that physically exists. I think this is true whether or not it is composited with live-action elements.

This fits with what I've been thinking about for the past 24 hours...

Art is something that lies in between reality and unreality. Of course it seems desirable, in view of the current taste for realism, for the actor playing a retainer to copy the gestures and speech of a real retainer, but would a real retainer rouge and powder his face the way actors do? Or, would the audiences like it if an actor, on the grounds that real retainers pay no attention to how they look, were to perform unshaven or displaying a bald head? The theater is unreal, and yet not unreal, real and yet not real. Entertainment lies between the two. -- Chikamatsu, 17th century playwright

Marc Zo said...

CGI enables filmmakers to create fantastic effects that would cost too much to produce physically, and the process takes less physical space. Cabily

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