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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > CGI Vs. Models and the 'Magic' of the Movies

CGI Vs. Models and the 'Magic' of the Movies
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Waragainstsleep
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Jun 5, 2012, 10:28 AM
 
So I just watched Star Trek: Generations for the first time in years. General quality of the film apart, I was struck by how well some of the effects have held up since 1994.

I still think some things look better if you build a detailed model and actually blow it up, even today. Anyone else? It has to be cheaper too a lot of the time. CGI is expensive.

On a related note, I recall the joy of watching films as a kid and thinking "How the hell did they do that?" whereas now, its just "Oh that CGI was pretty good. Better than the last one I watched." Yawn.

Has CGI stolen the magic of the movies? I think it has for me.
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Eug
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Jun 5, 2012, 10:50 AM
 
I was not impressed by the CGI when I saw TNG for the first time. For example, the ship just looked far too polished. My impression of it remains the same today. I just never liked it much.

But no, CGI these days is usually a lot cheaper, which is the reason why it's done. Models for ships for example generally have looked better, but that's changed in the 21st century IMO. But for other things, CG often can be way better.

eg. Not that District 9 is exactly a low budget movie, but it's not super high budget either, and I thought the CGI looked totally awesome for the most part. A couple of parts looked bad, but the grit of the ship, and the CG of the prawns were great. The ship would have been extremely expensive to model, and the prawns would have been impossible to do with a model, too. Here I think the CG greatly added to the impact of the movie. Just imagine how bad it would have been if it was just some guy in a prawn suit.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 10:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
I was not impressed by the CGI when I saw TNG for the first time. For example, the ship just looked far too polished.
wat
     
ort888
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:04 AM
 
Exactly... ???

Them be models dude.

At any rate, I 100% agree. I'm not some sort of bitter old man who tells CGI to get off the lawn or anything... but I'll always have a special place in my heart for old school models and make-up.

That's one of the things that pisses me off the most about the Special Editions of Star Wars. They took out all the great models and replaced them with mediocre late 90s CGI ships. It looks terrible and is an insult to the artists who made the original film.

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Jun 5, 2012, 11:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
wat
Not polished as in super well done. But as in they made everything look brand new all the time, with no detail. Any detail would have been polished off with high contrast, low texture, metal CGI. This was used in some of the scenes.

Contrast that to the ship in District 9 (CG), or even the ship in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (model).

By the way, apparently the main model alone for Star Trek: TMP cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. So definitely not cheap.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:15 AM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Not polished as in super well done. But as in they made everything look brand new all the time, with no detail. Any detail would have been polished off with high contrast, low texture, metal CGI. This was used in some of the scenes.
And thusly why these discussion usually aren't worth it. You thought they were using CGI in '86? Did you see what Babylon 5 was doing 10 years later?

The overly polished Enterprise was a six foot model. They replaced it around the 3rd or 4th season with a smaller more detailed four foot model.
     
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:18 AM
 
Ha you're right. They used CG for stuff like the space organism or the crystalline entity, and some other ships later, so I just assumed the ship was CG as well, because I hated that too. I guess that goes to prove that a model can look just as sterile.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:25 AM
 
I always thought the yarn tentacles of the jellyfish entities from Encounter at Farpoint was the biggest giveaway that they were using physical models for most things.
     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:30 AM
 
King Kong.

Is it realistic? No. Did they care a whole lot? Yes, and it shows.


The raptors from Jurassic Park.

Some pretty early full character CGI. It still holds up. Why? Because the animation was done one frame at a time by one of the best stop-motion animators.

Did he care? Do you see where I'm going with this?
     
Eug
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:41 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Did he care? Do you see where I'm going with this?
Not sure where you're going with this.

Are you saying that great CGI looks good? If so I agree.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:46 AM
 
I think he's saying CGI holds up better when it gets some TLC.
     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 11:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Not sure where you're going with this.

Are you saying that great CGI looks good? If so I agree.
I'm saying the opposite. CGI capabilities get better with time, but what makes effects good is a dude or dudette who really cares about making it good.

This is why Jurrasic Park holds up even though it was during the infancy of full-character, live-action CGI.

The same goes for King Kong. We got a whole lot better at models since the 30's, but it holds up because those people really cared about their work.
     
Eug
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:17 PM
 
Well part of that is just because the movies are better. I just started watching GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra yesterday, because of Rachel Nichols, who is starring in a new show I'm watching called Continuum. I thought the CG in GI Joe was decent, but the movie itself sucked donkeys' balls.

In fact, after watching the first 5 minutes I realized I had the seen the movie already several months ago, but it had sucked so bad my brain had expunged it from conscious memory.

No matter how good the models or CG are, they can't save a bad movie.

BTW, Continuum is off to a reasonable start, but the writing needs to get cleaned up because it has some hokiness to it, just nowhere near as bad as GI Joe. The CG isn't high budget, but it's decent enough, and is relatively limited since it's actually set in 2012 (with a Rachel Nichols from 2077).



     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Well part of that is just because the movies are better.
Jurassic Park sucked.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:29 PM
 
God damn it, subego.
     
Eug
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:34 PM
 
I thought Jurassic Park was decent, albeit not one of my faves.

In contrast, Terra Nova sucked royally.

     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
God damn it, subego.
Spielberg is a hack.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:45 PM
 
God damn it, subego.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Jun 5, 2012, 12:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I'm saying the opposite. CGI capabilities get better with time, but what makes effects good is a dude or dudette who really cares about making it good.

This is why Jurrasic Park holds up even though it was during the infancy of full-character, live-action CGI.
Sorry, but AFAIK, most of the really realistic dinos in Jurassic Park are puppets.

I saw it when it came out, and I distinctly remember thinking how fake and shitty the brachiosaurs looked. The CG really didn't sit right in that movie, which monstrously annoyed me because it was de facto the only thing that even supposedly made this otherwise abominable atrocity worth watching.

God, what a shitty movie.
     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 01:04 PM
 
One of the reasons I singled out the raptors specifically.

Part of the point is it doesn't have to be perfect to be compelling.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 01:08 PM
 


That's still better than shit you'll see on the Discovery Channel.
     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 01:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
God damn it, subego.
I blame film school.

Ironically, the same film school as Spielberg's cinematographer.
     
andi*pandi
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Jun 5, 2012, 02:00 PM
 
Sometimes you can get by with less than stellar effects if the story and acting sell it. I'm rewatching very early doctor who episodes, and yeah yeah, trash cans and plungers and tin foil oh my, not the epitome of cheesy special effects... but it works.

The Nestene of the 3rd Doctor were nearly as creepifying as the modern ones.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Jun 5, 2012, 02:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post


That's still better than shit you'll see on the Discovery Channel.
Yes, but it was also several dozen times the budget of the Discovery Channel's documentaries.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jun 5, 2012, 02:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Yes, but it was also several dozen times the budget of the Discovery Channel's documentaries.
Prices go down, technology gets better. That was 15 years ago.

I didn't watch it, but did Terra Nova hold a candle?
     
subego
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Jun 5, 2012, 02:37 PM
 
I bet Phil Tippett still costs the same, if not more.
     
andi*pandi
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Jun 5, 2012, 02:55 PM
 
Terra Nova was remarkably light on dinosaurs from what I recall. They tried to do suspense (trapped in a car being slashed by raptors) without showing them for the most part. Then again, I stopped watching a few eps in.
     
Eug
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Jun 5, 2012, 03:22 PM
 
The quality of the CG in Terra Nova was mostly decent. The stories and the characters just sucked though, so you didn't care about the dinosaurs anyway.

I preferred watching Sanctuary, even though the writing in that was hokey too, and the CG was absolutely horrid.

P.S. This is one of the worst examples of writing and animation in recent history (Sanctuary):



Nubbins

But I still preferred it to just about any Terra Nova episode.
     
BadKosh
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Jun 12, 2012, 12:48 PM
 
CGI only works when you can plan out everything. I watched the 2011 Thing movie because of their use of mechanical models with enhancements done with CGI. I think that is the best way to go. Pure CGI can have lots of issues from incorrect color balance (T2 was a good example - Every SPFX shot was a little more blue than those w/out SPFX) or a change in focus/depth of field. Alice in Wonderland had well done shots with varying amounts of depth. Motion is what kills the illusion. If the subject doesn't move in a convincing manner, either because it doesn't imply weight, or it doesn't reallly look 'alive' you've blown the illusion again. You'll never see the best CGI.
     
design219
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Jun 12, 2012, 02:35 PM
 
After many years, I started to re-watch TNG on Netflix the other night, and within the first couple minutes I realized why I couldn't stomach it...

 


The show had some neat episodes, like when facing the Borg. But the cheese was often hard to take.
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Jun 12, 2012, 02:46 PM
 
John de Lancie is awesome and can have my babies.
     
olePigeon
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Jun 12, 2012, 03:47 PM
 
I think a great mixture of models + CGI is the best way to go. The first Jurassic Park still remains as one of my favorite movies from a special effects standpoint. Same with the 1982 version of The Thing (no CG, just props + pure genius.)

Lord of the RIngs had to be one of the worst movies in terms of special effects and the amount of money they spent on it. A hundred years ago when the first movies were being made, directors quickly found out that physics work differently on a miniature scale. You can't have a 4" tall waterfall look like a 150' waterfall without at least slowing the film down. The water doesn't move the same.

So I just recently saw the trailer for The Hobbit. I thought I'd give it a chance because at least it didn't have Elija Wood in it. Then I saw their "waterfall" in Rivendell. Apparently with their hundreds of millions of dollars, they're still hiring high school students to film their miniatures and do their compositing.
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Waragainstsleep  (op)
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Jun 12, 2012, 06:55 PM
 
I have to hand it to Snow White & the Huntsman, there was some excellent CGI in that. But they didn't blow much up, so my point stands
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ghporter
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Jun 13, 2012, 06:48 AM
 
TNG was made with physical models for the ships for just about its entire run. The ship models tended to be VERY detailed, but because of the quality of the medium (usually 35mm cine film to network video), a lot of the detail seemed to fade. The model makers worked hard to make the Star Trek universe look like it was always new ON PURPOSE, because that is part of the Star Trek universe; the Federation is so wealthy and comfortable that they can spend money/energy to keep stuff maintained like new all the time.

I hope nobody actually went to see Jurassic Park or King Kong expecting high drama, nor that they watched Star Trek for philosophical insights. These were all adventure shows and intended to be fun, not anything else.

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olePigeon
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Jun 13, 2012, 03:22 PM
 
I think it was in season 3 of Voyager when they first moved to an all CGI ship model, except for reused exterior shots from season 1 or 2.
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subego
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Jun 13, 2012, 05:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I hope nobody actually went to see Jurassic Park or King Kong expecting high drama
I expected more out of Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs are cool enough on their own. You don't need to tart things up.

Gladiator hit me the same way. I wasn't expecting I, Claudius, but it could have taken more lessons from that than it did.

If stuff blows up (or the ancient Roman equivalent) people will go see it, even if it's (gasp), intelligent.
     
subego
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Jun 13, 2012, 06:13 PM
 
There's a Jurrasic Park IV script out there about mutant, uplifted, special-ops velociraptors in body armor.

With assault rifles.

Killing drug dealers.

Written by John ****ing Sayles.
     
Waragainstsleep  (op)
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Jun 13, 2012, 10:58 PM
 
Yeah, they are on a third island belonging to Dr. Evil.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
knifecarrier2
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Jun 14, 2012, 02:12 AM
 
I used to hate CGI... but I have to say Avengers is the first one where I was like... WOW. This is so much better/more impressive than traditional stuntwork and special effects. It looked superb.
     
   
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