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C'mon Hollywood: Give us more practical effects!

Jun. 12, 2012by: Paul Shirey

It’s no secret that CGI has nearly eclipsed practical effects and we’ve all suffered because of it. Gone are the days when the make-up personnel were challenged with creating the impossible. Now, with a few exceptions, filmmakers are leaning towards the corner-cutting of CGI, which is deemed either quicker, easier, or cheaper than actually having sets built, masks made, pyrotechnics set off, or blood squibs explode.

The wow factor of CGI (especially bad CGI) has worn off by now. Anyone who watches movies regularly can spot quality vs. crap when it comes to CGI work. That said, they can often spot practical effects, too, but which is more convincing? There is a fine line between what sells and what doesn’t in terms of effects. You have great examples of CGI (AVATAR) and you have really shitty examples (THE MUMMY RETURNS).

However, I’m not going to argue the merits of CGI. I think we can all agree that when done right, CGI is great, especially when it becomes near seamless. My issue is with the lack of practical effects when they absolutely would have done the film more justice and given it a sense of visceral reality than pixilated fantasy.

There is a bevy of great make-up artists still working in Hollywood today, from Rick Baker (THE HOWLING) to Tom Savini (FRIDAY THE 13TH), etc., but their challenges aren’t the same anymore. Now, they’re either competing with CGI or working around it in order to achieve their results, creating the new problem of blending real effects with CGI in a seamless fashion.

In 1982, special effects guru Rob Bottin worked with director John Carpenter on a new version of THE THING, which featured ALL practical effects that amaze to this day. The creation of the alien creature in all its various forms was pure brilliance, making you feel as if you were seeing something real, rather than an obvious computer recreation. While imperfect, the effects were something to behold, especially when you consider that today Hollywood wouldn’t dream of shooting that film completely with practical effects (in fact, see the re-prequel to find out for sure).

Another great make-up effects artist was the legendary Stan Winston, creator of the Predator, Alien Queen, and Terminator, amongst countless others. Winston died in 2008, leaving behind a legacy of outstanding work that is forever immortalized on film. Go back and watch the final confrontation scene in McTiernan’s PREDATOR. The mechanics of the mask, the subtle twitches, that monstrous roar…all created with real make-up effects, which were utterly awesome and frightening.

Oftentimes, when I’m done watching the original PREDATOR or ALIENS, I find myself a little jumpy walking through the house in the dark. I’m a grown ass man and realize none of these creatures are going to jump out and “get me,” but seeing them in motion, as my eye is trained to see, I can’t help but shake the notion that I witnessed a very real threat. Not so much the case after watching DEEP BLUE SEA or VAN HELSING.

Today, there are a number of filmmakers that make decent use of practical effects, such as Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Rodriguez, etc., all with varying degrees of success. Ridley and Tony Scott are champions of using in-camera effects or blending CGI with reality in the a seamless manner. Ridley’s ALIEN chest burster scene is still and always a classic and as cheesy as Tony’s TOP GUN may be, the flight sequences still amaze. In fact, I often find myself amazed watching these old films just because I KNOW Hollywood would never shoot them like that today. It’s like watching an old episode of Miami Vice and wondering how the f*ck they ever solved crimes without cell phones or the Internet.

Perhaps one of the greatest offenders of CGI that altered the entire film for me was Will Smith’s I AM LEGEND. The film started off great with some very human moments, a realistic-looking apocalyptic world (mostly CGI) and the tease of a terrifying villain. Then, we got our first look at the monsters and the movie took a nosedive. The hideous, cheap-looking CGI of the film’s antagonists was so awful that it took me out of the film completely. Now, imagine if someone like Bottin, Baker, or any talented make-up artist would’ve created those creatures? I imagine we’d have a very different movie.

Being completely reliant on CGI is the route we’re going and it’s a damn shame. I miss the days of exploding blood squibs, freakish and convincing monsters, and seeing real cars and buildings blown up, rather than an obvious computer hack job that is less convincing than the Bad Robot action app on my iPhone. It’s high time Hollywood recognized the value and artistry that has helped lead the charge in the special effects community and take a stand to give us a little more of the real shit and a lot less of the digital garbage.

Extra Tidbit: Rob Bottin, who gave us the awesome effects of The Thing, Fight Club, Seven, Robocop, Total Recall, and Legend (amongst others) is now a real estate agent. Although there isn't a definitive reason I could find as to why he left Hollywood, one has to wonder if the push for CGI played a role...
Source: JoBlo.com

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1:13AM on 06/12/2012
I couldn't have put it better myself. I love reading through the book "The Winston Effect" over and over again, as it chronicles the highlights of Stan Winston's illustrious career. Whenever I look at the Alien Queen or the T-rex from Jurassic Park, there are moments when I completely buy them as real, living, breathing creatures, despite all the background knowledge that they're "just" animatronics, puppets or models. Something about a lot of CGI seems plasticky and an overuse pulls you out of
I couldn't have put it better myself. I love reading through the book "The Winston Effect" over and over again, as it chronicles the highlights of Stan Winston's illustrious career. Whenever I look at the Alien Queen or the T-rex from Jurassic Park, there are moments when I completely buy them as real, living, breathing creatures, despite all the background knowledge that they're "just" animatronics, puppets or models. Something about a lot of CGI seems plasticky and an overuse pulls you out of the movie. There's an ethos that "the best special effects are those you don't notice", which filmmakers like Christopher Nolan use.

In Men In Black 3 for example, Rick Baker's alien makeup effects look excellent, but the CGI (and there's a lot of it) really looks somewhat dodgy and artificial. A lot of movies build up to a climactic final scene that is almost entirely consisting of digital effects. That's a bummer if there ever was one.

I hope Ridley Scott's championing of building practical sets for Prometheus and the fact that he's said in many interviews that if done right it's actually more cost effective will not fall on deaf ears in Hollywood.

A real estate agent? Poor Rob Bottin.
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+14
1:17AM on 06/12/2012
I happened to fall upon a documentary this weekend called NIGHTMARE FACTORY, which was basically about all of the horror "practical effects" masters, specifically Greg Nicotero and gang. If you love that sort of thing, do yourself a favor and watch that DOC, even though the ending is a little sad, since even THEY seem to realize that they are the end of an era of craftsmen as such...
I happened to fall upon a documentary this weekend called NIGHTMARE FACTORY, which was basically about all of the horror "practical effects" masters, specifically Greg Nicotero and gang. If you love that sort of thing, do yourself a favor and watch that DOC, even though the ending is a little sad, since even THEY seem to realize that they are the end of an era of craftsmen as such...
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9:52AM on 06/12/2012
Never Sleep Again is also a great documentary in terms of the technical aspects of moviemaking. Some of the things they did to create the dream sequences were simply amazing... Also worth checking - Beware the Moon
Never Sleep Again is also a great documentary in terms of the technical aspects of moviemaking. Some of the things they did to create the dream sequences were simply amazing... Also worth checking - Beware the Moon
1:30AM on 06/12/2012
I love practical effects and when it comes to CGI I think they need to blend practical with CGI to get the CGI to look good. Like the Star Wars prequels look awful to me cause everything was CGI, nothing physically there
I love practical effects and when it comes to CGI I think they need to blend practical with CGI to get the CGI to look good. Like the Star Wars prequels look awful to me cause everything was CGI, nothing physically there
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1:42AM on 06/12/2012
Actually this is one of those misconceptions of the prequel movies. I'm not going to defend the quality of the movies them selves. However there were a lot more sets and models built for the prequels than most people think. Look up some of the making of books and you will see how much physical materials were actually used in those movies. Although I don't understand why he did make all the Clone Troopers CGI. That one is correct. Otherwise most of the sets were built practically but were
Actually this is one of those misconceptions of the prequel movies. I'm not going to defend the quality of the movies them selves. However there were a lot more sets and models built for the prequels than most people think. Look up some of the making of books and you will see how much physical materials were actually used in those movies. Although I don't understand why he did make all the Clone Troopers CGI. That one is correct. Otherwise most of the sets were built practically but were enlarged with CGI to give them a larger feel. Much like the matte painting that were used to enlarge existing sets for the original trilogy. Space battles were still CGI as well.
1:33AM on 06/12/2012

great article, completely agree

i think practical effects are pretty much always the way to go. even when an effect is recognizably unreal there's something to be said about makeup or monsters actually being in the room with the actor, able to be touched and allow for physical interaction
i think practical effects are pretty much always the way to go. even when an effect is recognizably unreal there's something to be said about makeup or monsters actually being in the room with the actor, able to be touched and allow for physical interaction
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1:34AM on 06/12/2012
I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I've been saying this for years. CGI can look really great but practical FX have much more weight to them. When you have most of your movie made with CGI it becomes almost like watching a cartoon rather than a live action film (i.e. the above mentioned Van Helsing). For instance when James Bond in Casino Royale is on that crane at the beginning of the movie you can actually tell that the height in apparent and looks like he could actually fall up
I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I've been saying this for years. CGI can look really great but practical FX have much more weight to them. When you have most of your movie made with CGI it becomes almost like watching a cartoon rather than a live action film (i.e. the above mentioned Van Helsing). For instance when James Bond in Casino Royale is on that crane at the beginning of the movie you can actually tell that the height in apparent and looks like he could actually fall up there. You can't get that as often with CGI since it doesn't have as much depth and focus. CGI looks best when there is no other way to pull something off or to enhance a practical effect to give it more life.
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1:53AM on 06/12/2012

Well put!

This is a subject that drives me crazy because CGI is somewhat of a crutch at this point. Studios know how inexpensive CGI is compared to practical effects. They really don't care about quality. CGI is fantastic but only when used in moderation and assisting practical effects. I also agree with the comments made about the weight of practical effects, it creeps me out watching American Werewolf in London or Aliens. CGI creatures even when done well just don't get me.
This is a subject that drives me crazy because CGI is somewhat of a crutch at this point. Studios know how inexpensive CGI is compared to practical effects. They really don't care about quality. CGI is fantastic but only when used in moderation and assisting practical effects. I also agree with the comments made about the weight of practical effects, it creeps me out watching American Werewolf in London or Aliens. CGI creatures even when done well just don't get me.
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1:53AM on 06/12/2012

Well put!

This is a subject that drives me crazy because CGI is somewhat of a crutch at this point. Studios know how inexpensive CGI is compared to practical effects. They really don't care about quality. CGI is fantastic but only when used in moderation and assisting practical effects. I also agree with the comments made about the weight of practical effects, it creeps me out watching American Werewolf in London or Aliens. CGI creatures even when done well just don't get me.
This is a subject that drives me crazy because CGI is somewhat of a crutch at this point. Studios know how inexpensive CGI is compared to practical effects. They really don't care about quality. CGI is fantastic but only when used in moderation and assisting practical effects. I also agree with the comments made about the weight of practical effects, it creeps me out watching American Werewolf in London or Aliens. CGI creatures even when done well just don't get me.
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1:56AM on 06/12/2012

Watching 'Aliens' the other night

And when that big Queen shows up, all I could think was 'somebody MADE that thing.' Just went into work and constructed a real working, twenty foot tall monster.
And when that big Queen shows up, all I could think was 'somebody MADE that thing.' Just went into work and constructed a real working, twenty foot tall monster.
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1:56AM on 06/12/2012
We still got Guillermo Del Toro.
We still got Guillermo Del Toro.
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+23
2:12AM on 06/12/2012
Compare the effects of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's mine cart chase and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's jungle chase. How much more convincing is the mine cart chase, which puts you right there in the action and actually has you sitting on the edge of your seat. On the other hand you have a CGI forest blurring past you as Shia has a sword fight in Crystal Skull. It was so distracting and quite frankly an embarrassment in terms of effects (and don't even get me started on the
Compare the effects of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's mine cart chase and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's jungle chase. How much more convincing is the mine cart chase, which puts you right there in the action and actually has you sitting on the edge of your seat. On the other hand you have a CGI forest blurring past you as Shia has a sword fight in Crystal Skull. It was so distracting and quite frankly an embarrassment in terms of effects (and don't even get me started on the monkeys...) I think the proof is right there that a movie made 24 years earlier with the use of practical effects and miniatures trumps the CGI rubbish of the later movie.

It is a disgrace that saving a few dollars is priority over quality. Yes, CGI is good, but in small doses. Use it to enhance the movie, not ruin it.
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5:34AM on 06/12/2012
I totally agree with this article. I can't put a finger on it but there's an 'unpredictable wow-factor' about practical fx whether its car chases (The 1st MadMax Vs F&F) aerial combat (TopGun Vs Stealth) gunfights (Total Recall Vs iRobot) and so on, which have a little more 'realism' than CGI which (when not done properly) looks 'ridgedly-calculated' to enjoy.
However, thats not saying we go back to good ol' practical FX full-time but let Hollywood strike a balance somewhere between it and
I totally agree with this article. I can't put a finger on it but there's an 'unpredictable wow-factor' about practical fx whether its car chases (The 1st MadMax Vs F&F) aerial combat (TopGun Vs Stealth) gunfights (Total Recall Vs iRobot) and so on, which have a little more 'realism' than CGI which (when not done properly) looks 'ridgedly-calculated' to enjoy.
However, thats not saying we go back to good ol' practical FX full-time but let Hollywood strike a balance somewhere between it and CGI.

btw the iconic head-exploding scene in Scanners still gets me every time. :D
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7:02AM on 06/12/2012
This article is spot on. Practical special effect needs to be used more. The movie "F/X" got me interested in practical effects and that movie was pure genius. In fact, if anything can make practical effect more popular, it's "F/X". Modernize the movie - make Rollie Tyler the only person who still practice "practical special effects and make-belief in movies instead of CGI" and some shady organization want to use him as a puppet. This could work and it'll be an ideal place to prove that
This article is spot on. Practical special effect needs to be used more. The movie "F/X" got me interested in practical effects and that movie was pure genius. In fact, if anything can make practical effect more popular, it's "F/X". Modernize the movie - make Rollie Tyler the only person who still practice "practical special effects and make-belief in movies instead of CGI" and some shady organization want to use him as a puppet. This could work and it'll be an ideal place to prove that practical special effect still has its magic.
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7:05AM on 06/12/2012
Strongly disagree!
Practical Effects die out for a good reason. Most of it is NOT convincing at all and it has reached its limits. CGI can go way beyond what practical effects can do. And what does it matter how they achieved an effect if it is good? I want good and seamless effects. All your examples of CGI effects are weak ones which you then use for comparison against what you consider the best in practical effects. Mummy, Van Helsing and I am Legend do have bad effects. No arguing about
Strongly disagree!
Practical Effects die out for a good reason. Most of it is NOT convincing at all and it has reached its limits. CGI can go way beyond what practical effects can do. And what does it matter how they achieved an effect if it is good? I want good and seamless effects. All your examples of CGI effects are weak ones which you then use for comparison against what you consider the best in practical effects. Mummy, Van Helsing and I am Legend do have bad effects. No arguing about that. But they are not bad because they are CGI. They are just sloppy pieces of work. Comparing the best of one field againts the weakest of the opposing one is a very biased way of arguing.

What about all the crap awful pracital masks and makeup effects of the past decades? Even the excerpt from The Thing does not convince me at all. Yes, practical effects often feel more.. well, physical and present in the scene. But they are also easily identifiable as a really on set fake prop thing. Just look at the Jurassic Park movies which featured the best in CGI and practical effects. Stan Winston was is a legend and did great work there. Still I can always and instantly identify when they used animatronic dinosaur heads or claws instead of CGI - and not because that looked better.

There are areas in filmmaking where I absolutely prefer pracitical effects. Car chases/crashes and fight scenes often feel very odd when animated. But with living creatures or faces please use CGI. The Walking Dead is a great showcase how both can coexist even with a TV budget - and still they do the more complex ones (zombie without a jaw or something alike) with CGI. Just imagine an all practical effects version of Benjamin Button. That would have killed the entire movie!

So please Hollywood, give us well done CGI effects that convey the phyicality of the older practical effects without their limitations and irritating puppet feel.
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12:41PM on 06/12/2012
Well-said, but I've got to disagree with your disagreement.

See, I'd also use Jurassic Park as an example, but for the exact opposite reasons that you do. It really shows off the difference between practical and CGI, in that the practical effects still hold up today, while the CGI looks incredibly dated. Look at the Gallimimus stampede, the T-Rex chasing the car, even the Brachiosaurus in the beginning. All are very impressively done (doubly so when you realize that the movie's nearly
Well-said, but I've got to disagree with your disagreement.

See, I'd also use Jurassic Park as an example, but for the exact opposite reasons that you do. It really shows off the difference between practical and CGI, in that the practical effects still hold up today, while the CGI looks incredibly dated. Look at the Gallimimus stampede, the T-Rex chasing the car, even the Brachiosaurus in the beginning. All are very impressively done (doubly so when you realize that the movie's nearly twenty years old), but they lack weight, physicality, presence. On the other hand, look at the close-ups on the Raptor faces, or the sick Triceratops, or the giant animatronic T-Rex (in the initial attack on the cars). These still look absolutely fantastic!

Now, are there some terrible practical effects? Sure. Just like there are some terrible CGI ones. The difference is, even the best CGI, if you watch it some five or ten years on, starts to look really iffy. The Neo vs. Smiths fight in the Matrix Reloaded looked pretty cool when it first came out, but watching it now, it looks like a videogame. Actually, it looks WORSE than most videogames.

I'm not saying that CGI is inherently bad, as you're right, there are a great many films that couldn't be done without it (like every modern superhero movie). But the point is, it should only be used when practical effects just can't cut it. There's a place for both in film, especially in combination, but Hollywood seems to have forgotten that fact.
12:36PM on 06/12/2012
Agreed. It doesn't matter if it's CGI or practical it matters if it's good
Agreed. It doesn't matter if it's CGI or practical it matters if it's good
10:45AM on 06/12/2012
18 thumbs down? Joblo strike backs way of saying: "Screw this guy for having his own opinion, backing it up, and fuck him for keeping his argument respectful!"
18 thumbs down? Joblo strike backs way of saying: "Screw this guy for having his own opinion, backing it up, and fuck him for keeping his argument respectful!"
8:47AM on 06/12/2012
This is a discussion me and my friends have all the time. Practical effects are simply stronger and more effective tools for a filmmaker. The most important thing to realize is that since practical effects are actually existing in front of the camera, we the audience and our senses are connecting with whats on screen. We feel, taste, touch, smell, and recognize the danger of say a xenomorph, dripping with goo making it's way slowly to its prey. Thats why I think practical effects are better
This is a discussion me and my friends have all the time. Practical effects are simply stronger and more effective tools for a filmmaker. The most important thing to realize is that since practical effects are actually existing in front of the camera, we the audience and our senses are connecting with whats on screen. We feel, taste, touch, smell, and recognize the danger of say a xenomorph, dripping with goo making it's way slowly to its prey. Thats why I think practical effects are better because audiences know when something is real and when something isn't no matter how convincing the CGI is. We just know. Our senses recognize and register it. We have a true sense of physics and reality attached to practical effects. I feel the same way about practical stunts versus green screen/cgi stunts. Also, practical simply ages better. Alien still works perfectly today due to its real sets and monster design. Prometheus, as awesome as it was, will begin to look dated in the coming years (at least the CGI bits. Rest of the film done practically looks magnificent).
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9:09AM on 06/12/2012
This is a great Article. I agree with you completely. Good CGI is best exampled when the filmmakers know that it won't hog up what they're trying to convey. I'm all about make-up effects, and real creations. Best example for CGI would be Hulk in Avengers, and the worst can be The first Resident Evil. And yes, practical effects do live longer. Predator still looks quite awesome.
This is a great Article. I agree with you completely. Good CGI is best exampled when the filmmakers know that it won't hog up what they're trying to convey. I'm all about make-up effects, and real creations. Best example for CGI would be Hulk in Avengers, and the worst can be The first Resident Evil. And yes, practical effects do live longer. Predator still looks quite awesome.
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9:23AM on 06/12/2012
I am Legend is the best example of bad CGI ruining the tone of a movie. The infected in IAL essentially were the same as the crawlers in the Descent, and the Descent was MUCH more effective as a horror movie and looked real (mainly because they were real). And the Descent was made for a fraction of the cost of IAL.
I am Legend is the best example of bad CGI ruining the tone of a movie. The infected in IAL essentially were the same as the crawlers in the Descent, and the Descent was MUCH more effective as a horror movie and looked real (mainly because they were real). And the Descent was made for a fraction of the cost of IAL.
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9:24AM on 06/12/2012
Ultimately finding the balance between practical and CGI makes for a better special effect.
Ultimately finding the balance between practical and CGI makes for a better special effect.
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9:47AM on 06/12/2012
I cannot help to feel a bit sad after reading this...

I sound like an old man already but damn, they simply won't make movies like they used to.
I cannot help to feel a bit sad after reading this...

I sound like an old man already but damn, they simply won't make movies like they used to.
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10:13AM on 06/12/2012

it's not just "good CGI/bad CGI"

It's also a question of how much is enough. Each movie, and sequence has a different answer to that question. Sometimes the best CGI are the effects that don't call attention to themselves. One of the reasons I don't like the transformers movies (aside from being over 35 and hating the scripts) is that its just too much. There's so much to look at, that there winds up being nothing to look at. I have a lot more appreciation for a movie like "Open Range" - a western of all movies, that used GI
It's also a question of how much is enough. Each movie, and sequence has a different answer to that question. Sometimes the best CGI are the effects that don't call attention to themselves. One of the reasons I don't like the transformers movies (aside from being over 35 and hating the scripts) is that its just too much. There's so much to look at, that there winds up being nothing to look at. I have a lot more appreciation for a movie like "Open Range" - a western of all movies, that used GI extensively to sub in more dramatic skies than was possible during filming. You don't notice it, unless it's pointed out, but has a big effect.

One area where I think CGI is great is in human modeling - both in rendering humans, and in [link] parts of them. As much as I love some classic Arnold flicks - seeing the "puppet-head" can be very distracting - even though I appreciate that the modeling was a labor of love. Prometheus, - without giving the spoilage of context away - used some CGI to great effect in this area.

I'd also say that even more than standard effects - the role of the "CGI stuntman" kills many action sequences for me.
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10:53AM on 06/12/2012

More about time (and MPAA ratings) than Money...

I think that CGI is more about cutting corners with respect to time than really cutting costs. Old school flicks like The Thing and ALIEN had small budgets by today's standards. But they gave their crew time to prep, build sets and create something before and during production (rather than inserting post-production). I think ratings are another reason CGI is overused. If the I am Legend creatures looked real (like say the Crawlers in The Descent) they would have been much scarier and it
I think that CGI is more about cutting corners with respect to time than really cutting costs. Old school flicks like The Thing and ALIEN had small budgets by today's standards. But they gave their crew time to prep, build sets and create something before and during production (rather than inserting post-production). I think ratings are another reason CGI is overused. If the I am Legend creatures looked real (like say the Crawlers in The Descent) they would have been much scarier and it probably would have garnered an R rating. It is the same with action scenes. Asian action films have the best fight scenes because they give their team the time to rehearse and film them correctly.
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11:46AM on 06/12/2012
I'm in full support of practical effects as well. I despise the overuse of CGI as a means to cut corners financially. It's just a lazy way of film making. I don't understand why people consider practical effects a dead method to film making. Really!

Just watch Prometheus! Sure there are moments of CGI, but you know what? Not ONE moment in that film took me out of the experience and thought, CGI. In fact, reading the making of Prometheus, I was extremely happy to see how much of the
I'm in full support of practical effects as well. I despise the overuse of CGI as a means to cut corners financially. It's just a lazy way of film making. I don't understand why people consider practical effects a dead method to film making. Really!

Just watch Prometheus! Sure there are moments of CGI, but you know what? Not ONE moment in that film took me out of the experience and thought, CGI. In fact, reading the making of Prometheus, I was extremely happy to see how much of the creature effects were done practical! And it looked eons superior to anything rendered completely in CGI. The CGI in Prometheus worked only because Scott combined both practical and computer FX to make it work. Which is a much more intelligent way of pulling off impossible bits.

And don't forget about Nolan's films. He uses CGI, but sparingly. As he's often stated, he resorts to CGI ONLY if the practical FX cannot go any further. That is where CGI is most useful.

Most filmmakers should follow directors like Scott, Nolan and Del Toro and just use practical FX as a springboard and go back later with CGI to basically polish off what cannot be done practical. From what we've seen of that method, it's seamless and works well without ruining the overall experience of watching a movie.
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12:17PM on 06/12/2012
Paul, you seem like a really down to Earth guy that really digs movies and knows how to articulate that.

So I need your help.

There is a phrase that has permeated our sub-culture that, at least for me, seems to take the wind out of any argument for-or-against anything whether I agree with it or not.

That phrase is "... if it's done right, it could be good..."

That phrase is so full of redundancy with a dash of "no-shit" it kinda hurts.

It's like saying "...if that sandwich
Paul, you seem like a really down to Earth guy that really digs movies and knows how to articulate that.

So I need your help.

There is a phrase that has permeated our sub-culture that, at least for me, seems to take the wind out of any argument for-or-against anything whether I agree with it or not.

That phrase is "... if it's done right, it could be good..."

That phrase is so full of redundancy with a dash of "no-shit" it kinda hurts.

It's like saying "...if that sandwich is delicious, it might taste good..."

Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing (fitting right in on the boards, amirite).
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1:14PM on 06/12/2012
I'm guessing you are referring to the part in the article where I say "I think we can all agree that when done right, CGI is great, especially when it becomes near seamless."?

Not sure if that's what you're aiming at, but I'll elaborate. I think the point comes down to the fact that it is a "no-shit" kind of argument. At this stage in the game, most movie geeks can tell the difference between good/bad CGI with very little "wiggle" room.

I'm saying, ultimately, "If that sandwich is made
I'm guessing you are referring to the part in the article where I say "I think we can all agree that when done right, CGI is great, especially when it becomes near seamless."?

Not sure if that's what you're aiming at, but I'll elaborate. I think the point comes down to the fact that it is a "no-shit" kind of argument. At this stage in the game, most movie geeks can tell the difference between good/bad CGI with very little "wiggle" room.

I'm saying, ultimately, "If that sandwich is made right, then it will be delicious." Not the other way around, which makes no sense.

Clearly, the issue of taste is at hand here. Someone out there thinks that the zombie creatures in I AM LEGEND looked good. I guarantee it. Someone out there thinks that the CGI in Avatar was complete garbage. So, who's right? When tackling the issue of redundancy here, you have to look at the big picture, which is: What defines good/bad CGI? Is there a technical benchmark or is it simply a matter of personal preference.

We all get hung up on phrases that can annoy us and become a peeve. When motherfuckers say YOLO or the word "pamper" it's like nails on the chalkboard of my brain. But, that's just the way it is, whether I like it or not.

I can see your issue with this in terms of it being an argument destroyer, but I submit that you just have to hit your points better than the guy that throws that one your way.

With this article I provided as many examples as my word count would allow to show the good and the bad of practical/CGI effects. And the simple fact is, I absolutely love both, would hate to see the death of practical effects altogether. It's a dying craft. Yet, with all the technical achievements we've had in just the last decade, the doors are wide open for innovation in that department. A shame it's not exploited.

CGI isn't the enemy. I don't believe that. And when it is done well (Prometheus, The Avengers, Avatar) it looks near flawless and great. When done poorly it looks like horse shit on parade day (I AM LEGEND, AVP: REQUIEM, the Burly Brawl in THE MATRIX RELOADED, etc.)

I get your disdain for the saying, but again, as long as you can back that statement up, then you're good to go. If you are in the midst of debate and someone throws that your way, then ask for examples. It's the best way to "call out" the argument.
12:56PM on 06/12/2012

off-topic

Hand grenades don't do that :( .. I am disappoint.
Hand grenades don't do that :( .. I am disappoint.
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12:57PM on 06/12/2012

on-topic

The practical set on Prometheus was wonderful. I agree with this article
The practical set on Prometheus was wonderful. I agree with this article
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1:27PM on 06/12/2012
Yeah, I've always thought the Star Wars prequels might have gone over better with an abundance of model-based effects. Peter Jackson even did it with LOTR, and the mix with CGI was excellent.
Yeah, I've always thought the Star Wars prequels might have gone over better with an abundance of model-based effects. Peter Jackson even did it with LOTR, and the mix with CGI was excellent.
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1:56PM on 06/12/2012

Agreed with the Problem but

I don't agree with the solution. Bad CGI doesn't mean we have to go back to Practical Effects. That would be a regressive step. Hollywood has to find a way to make CGI more seamless.
Don't you think all those famous practical effects would have been done by CGI had the technology been available then.
I don't agree with the solution. Bad CGI doesn't mean we have to go back to Practical Effects. That would be a regressive step. Hollywood has to find a way to make CGI more seamless.
Don't you think all those famous practical effects would have been done by CGI had the technology been available then.
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2:05PM on 06/12/2012
My argument isn't for practical effects to replace CGI, just for a move to utilize it more frequently when it suits the material better.
My argument isn't for practical effects to replace CGI, just for a move to utilize it more frequently when it suits the material better.
2:33PM on 06/12/2012

10 things that are fixed with cgi but not with practical

I think you are pretty much forgetting some major reasons why studios switched to cgi.
1. location location location Some times filming on location can be more expensive than renting a studio lot.
2. Special effects take significant time to do right and many cases the results can some times be hit or miss with some things not transferring well on camera.
3. Makeup and wardrobe are a process that takes several hours to do properly unlike cgi which can be mere minutes.
4. Pyrotechnics are
I think you are pretty much forgetting some major reasons why studios switched to cgi.
1. location location location Some times filming on location can be more expensive than renting a studio lot.
2. Special effects take significant time to do right and many cases the results can some times be hit or miss with some things not transferring well on camera.
3. Makeup and wardrobe are a process that takes several hours to do properly unlike cgi which can be mere minutes.
4. Pyrotechnics are an unpredictable animal. You never know when an explosion will look fantastic or just crappy.
5. Is that person supposed to be there? Often times even the best movies can be screwed up cause someone is doing something wrong on the set.
6. Is that effect even possible to do on camera? Some things these days just can not be done without cgi.
7. Actors demand more money thus less money is availeable for special effects.
8. Weather conditions and problems on location can ruin things. Just ask the makers of the wolverine in japan movie.
9. How damn long is the movie gonna take to be made. Some of the greatest of movies took a very long time to be made.
10. All those things together combined can litterally push a movie way over budget. If it gets too over budget it gets put on the shelf or worse it gets cut altogether.
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8:06PM on 06/12/2012
@ Paul Shirey:
I think that eventually its gonna reach a point where props just cant help things any more and the more people rely on props the less they will focus on improving cgi. As cgi improves we will see things get better.


@ foxgate:
You are forgetting about adjusting for inflation. If raiders of the lost arc was adjusted for inflation to todays standards the cost of the making of the movie would be far higher than what we see now. As for time wise, there is a number of reasons
@ Paul Shirey:
I think that eventually its gonna reach a point where props just cant help things any more and the more people rely on props the less they will focus on improving cgi. As cgi improves we will see things get better.


@ foxgate:
You are forgetting about adjusting for inflation. If raiders of the lost arc was adjusted for inflation to todays standards the cost of the making of the movie would be far higher than what we see now. As for time wise, there is a number of reasons why it takes longer to do practical effects over cgi. If you look at some of the making ofs for several classic movies and how long it took to make them you might think cgi would be far faster than the craziness that some studios went through just to make a simple movie.
7:00PM on 06/12/2012
My experience with even basic CGI work (such as anything done in AfterEffects) is that it can take several hours to do the simplest of things between making the effect (sometimes frame by frame) and rendering it. It's also rarely ever cheaper, and you certainly wouldn't ever do it for makeup/wardrobe (not if you're smart, anyway).
My experience with even basic CGI work (such as anything done in AfterEffects) is that it can take several hours to do the simplest of things between making the effect (sometimes frame by frame) and rendering it. It's also rarely ever cheaper, and you certainly wouldn't ever do it for makeup/wardrobe (not if you're smart, anyway).
2:40PM on 06/12/2012
I didn't "forget" any of those reasons and I'm not opposed to them using CGI for the reasons you listed. My argument is simply for more of it when "they absolutely would have done the film more justice and given it a sense of visceral reality than pixilated fantasy."

I didn't "forget" any of those reasons and I'm not opposed to them using CGI for the reasons you listed. My argument is simply for more of it when "they absolutely would have done the film more justice and given it a sense of visceral reality than pixilated fantasy."

3:09PM on 06/12/2012
Just wanted to say that I completely agree and really enjoyed reading your article and checking out the clips. I could watch Stan Winston talk all day long; such a shame about him and Michael Crichton.
Just wanted to say that I completely agree and really enjoyed reading your article and checking out the clips. I could watch Stan Winston talk all day long; such a shame about him and Michael Crichton.
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4:19PM on 06/12/2012

Examples of Practical Effects

The Dark Knight's car chase scene that involved the Batmobile, a Joker-themed semi, a dump truck, a paddy wagon, multiple cop cars and God knows how many bystander vehicles.

The Lord of the Rings' Hobbits and Hobbit-sized things.

Cutting into Arnie's head in The Terminator 2.

Everything in Dracula, the one directed by Coppola.

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey being in two different places at the same time in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Weightlessness in Apollo 13.
The Dark Knight's car chase scene that involved the Batmobile, a Joker-themed semi, a dump truck, a paddy wagon, multiple cop cars and God knows how many bystander vehicles.

The Lord of the Rings' Hobbits and Hobbit-sized things.

Cutting into Arnie's head in The Terminator 2.

Everything in Dracula, the one directed by Coppola.

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey being in two different places at the same time in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Weightlessness in Apollo 13.

Digital representation of NYC on the glider's computer screen in Escape from New York.

The rotating hallway in Inception.

Anti gravity in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the star gate.
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9:17PM on 06/12/2012
double post
double post
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9:18PM on 06/12/2012
I agree on all points. There's quite a few films that could have been saved if they would have gone the practical effect route. I Am Legend deserves special mention because it showcases that CGI still can't do believable faces.
I agree on all points. There's quite a few films that could have been saved if they would have gone the practical effect route. I Am Legend deserves special mention because it showcases that CGI still can't do believable faces.
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