SLATE:Will digital effects ruin Hollywood?

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  12 December 2005
SLATE:Will digital effects ruin Hollywood?

"The uneasy marriage between Hollywood and the computer has come a long way since George Lucas made the original Star Wars in 1977. At that time, computer-generated imagery, or CGI, was so expensive that he could afford only a single 90-second sequence—a diagram of the enemy Death Star—which took a battery of computers three months to complete. But, with the doubling of computer power every 18 months, the cost of CGI came down so rapidly that by 1995, it was possible for Pixar Animation Studios to profitably make an entire CGI animated feature, Toy Story. Six years later, with another exponential increase in computer power, Sony largely erased the distinction between cartoons and "reality" movies by using CGI to create all the human-looking actors in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. (The film's digital heroine, Aki Ross, had enough sex appeal to earn her a slot on Maxim's 2001 "Hot 100" list—the first nonexistent person to appear on that list.) "


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  12 December 2005
Yeah, good work on Final Fantasy, Sony.

I guess to a n00b who hasn't done much research, it would be easy to blaim the tools for Hollywood's predilection to market mindless blockbusters.

If I were suggesting areas to research to improve his essay, I'd recommend the book I was just reading "Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution". It chronicles how Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and other filmmakers set out to reinvent the process of filmmaking with technologies like pre-visualization, digital compositing, and digital editing to liberate themselves from the big Hollywood studios - the fact that many CG companies are in the San Francisco area (where Coppola and Lucas first moved to pursue their independence from Hollywood), that's called "outsourcing" in the essay because all the companies involved aren't in LA.

It's funny how the essay describes a scene of someone doing a small greenscreen shoot, the kind of production which has liberated a new generation of indy filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez to make films like Sin City on a mangeable budget - that's described as a nightmare vision of technology taking over.

Jeremy Birn
Author, Digital Lighting & Rendering, 3rd Edition

Last edited by jeremybirn : 12 December 2005 at 02:49 PM.
  12 December 2005
Quote: Yeah, good work on Final Fantasy, Sony

Hehehe, he probably had in mind Polar Express when he wrote that. Which is not far from the truth as both movies had many uncanny simmilarities.

Quote: If this new economy of illusion allows the CGI side of a production to overwhelm the director's ability to tell a coherent story in his live-action side, digital effects may prove to be the ruination of movies.

The ruination of movies comes from the incompetence of directors and screenwriters. Nothing else.

Animusing Productions
old animation stuff.

  12 December 2005
any one of us could name a 100 movies made in the last 15 years that utilized extensive CG that enhanced the film without intruding on the story or costing too much money.....28 Mil for VFX work in T3?...Schwarzenegger's salary was 30 Mil !!!
this guy has a point of view and he seems determined to voice it regardless of the facts or actually knowing anyting about the subject...
Michael Goldfarb
  12 December 2005
Originally Posted by Dennik: Hehehe, he probably had in mind Polar Express when he wrote that. Which is not far from the truth as both movies had many uncanny simmilarities.

Final Fantasy was distributed by Sony Pictures (Square's distribution partner) and the guy who wrote this essay just didn't look any farther. You have to remember that this essay was written by someone who doesn't know much about the industry.

Originally Posted by Dennik: The ruination of movies comes from the incompetence of directors and screenwriters. Nothing else.

This guy would probably blaim the word processors for the bad scripts and say old scripts were better because of manual typewriters.

Jeremy Birn
Author, Digital Lighting & Rendering, 3rd Edition
  12 December 2005
Quote: The ruination of movies comes from the incompetence of directors and screenwriters. Nothing else.

Well I would correct or augment that by saying it's mainly studios and producers. Many of them push for things that they think might make money again. Say, the story needs to have wire-fu and bullet time, regardless if it's right for the film, or remale a TV show, etc. Many of these movies are designed by comittee and usually pander to the lowest common denominator, and many of them done by neophyte directors that can be slapped around.
  12 December 2005
I believe that high movie ticket prices are going to kill Hollywood:

Quote: December 13, 2005 -- 'TIS the winter of our cinematic discontent. New York moviegoers endure long lines, crowded theaters, pre-show advertising that rivals the length of a Wagnerian opera and now, quite possibly, tickets that top $12. That's the case at the Ziegfeld Theatre, which is now offering an "exclusive" viewing of "The Producers" starting Friday. For the first week, the price for tickets is $12.50. After this, it will drop to $10.75, hardly a bargain-basement deal.

When the price of a single ticket costs as much as a DVD, I would rather wait to watch the movie in the comfort of my own home. Few movies these days justify a theatrical release.

"No liquor? Do svidaniya, comrade!"
  12 December 2005
Possibly In Some Cases

I would partially agree that VFX are ruining Hollywood, but only in the sense that more and more directors seem to overly rely on VFX to make up for poor story line. Ex Fantastic 4 or should i say Garbage 4. I have read F4 comics when i was younger and they never sucked that bad. Ironically Hollywood is so arrogant that even when well established story lines that worked in the comics never seem to make it to Hollywood. EX. The Punisher Limited Edition story was great but the movie absolutely SUCKED!!!

F4 taught me once again that i should never trust trailers.

Hollywood should have 1 RULE - Story first....... If the story sucks no amount of VFX is going to save it.
  12 December 2005
1. Hollywood is going to be ruined, they have some of the best minds in business, so don't pity them.

2. Almost every movie has some form of Digital FX now. Even the most normal film will have some compositing and color-correction in its budget. It might as well be considered part of the editing process.
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Opinions presented DO NOT represent those of my employer.
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  12 December 2005
The problem, as mentioned, is not CG but the studio managements who treat the film-making process like assembling a car: crank out as many as possible in a short period and for dirt cheap money. The fact that Mostow felt overwhelmed wasn't so much the CG part but the scheduling of the film production. Nowadays, it is becomming more common for studios to create more demanding schedules for big budget films. What the article doesn't mention is the vfx houses also feel the pressure. Beyond that, I was reading an article in 3D World where the authore argued that CG should be considered as a part of the production process, not post-production. Because that way, the CG people can have more say and a better sense of collaboration with the director which would mean a better experience for everyone. Robert Roriguez, for example, knows this and treats CG not as a threat or a liability but as a tool and he encouraged creative input from everyone. No one was breathing down his kneck when he made Sin City. He had complete creative control.
  12 December 2005
"CGI technicians". Silly article. The proper term is "Computer effects wizards."
  12 December 2005
Quote: Since the outsourced CGI part of the production would take subcontractors, such as Industrial Light and Magic in Silicon Valley, eight months to create on computers, Mostow had no choice but to have them do much of the CGI work from storyboards before he had finished shooting the live-action part.

ILM wasn't anywhere near Silicon Valley ~ it just moved down from Marin Country into San Francisco.

It's weird if a director of an effects~oriented film would only be involved in directing the live~action shots and not the effects shots ~ if that part of the article is even true.

And since when is having work done in California "outsourcing" ~ I thought "outsourcing" meant sending work to Georgia or something.

  12 December 2005
Originally Posted by TheChosen1: "CGI technicians". Silly article. The proper term is "Computer effects wizards."

Yeh, the guys a bum.
Bath House
  12 December 2005
The title is an interesting question.

But yes, yes it could if it was left unhindred. The same way a film or studio could be ruined by an out of control producer, director, or actor. Examples are littered through-out history.

Now as for moving the studios out of Hollywood to gain indepence that's all fine and dandy, but since HW still has ALOT of influence it's difficult to impossible to make it work without billions of dollars in backing. It's alot like government.
  12 December 2005
Meh. Crappy, over-expensive films have been made throughout history, with and without the assistance of digital wizardry. Case in point, STEALTH may have been a 133 million bomb, but THE MATRIX was also a 63 million dollar smash hit.
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