Old School Effects and CGI

by LoveUniHateExams 10 Replies latest social entertainment

  • LoveUniHateExams

    I was just thinking about old school effects and CGI (computer generated imagery) in film. First off, CGI is certainly an advancement in technology, in what can or can't be portrayed on screen.

    My knowledge of films and film-making is by no means extensive. It's just I feel that sometimes film-makers rely too much on CGI, assume that more CGI = better film, or assume it's better to use CGI in every instance.

    Take A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). There's a scene where Nancy is dozing in Tina's bed and Freddy pushes against the wall, as if he's after her. This was created in the original film by stretching a sheet of Spandex across a rectangular-shaped hole in the bedroom wall. It looked great, the way the director lit the shot as Freddy pushed against the 'wall', then the Spandex sprang back smooth as Freddy withdrew. And it cost about 10 cents. The ANOES (2010) reboot had the same scene but with CGI, costing thousands of dollars. And it looked crap. Although the original film's budget was only $1.8 million, it was a much better movie than the reboot (budget: $33 million).

    Consider the Star Wars franchise. The prequel trilogy had huge budgets and lots of CGI. They did look good but the dialogue and plots were worse than in the original Star Wars films, IMO. Even though technology was limited in 1980, The Empire Strikes Back is, for me, the stand-out film in that franchise.

    On the plus side, CGI has often been used to great effect, but I can't think of many films that used it moderately and intelligently to great effect - one exception being Jurassic Park (1993). This classic had a great mix of effects. The T-rex was a life-sized physical model, as was the sick Triceratops, whereas the flock of Gallimimus was CGI. I think they got the balance right and it worked really well.

    Are there any other great films with a decent balance of CGI and other effects?

  • compound complex
    compound complex

    Greetings, LoveUniHateExams:

    I grew up with the FX of the '50s.

    Forbidden Planet, which had a designer from Disney, I recall, did the monster of the ID scene. It was nominated for an AA but lost to The Ten Commandments. Then, there was Ray Harryhausen with stop-action motion. (Is that what's it's called?) Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts.

    As for new blockbusters -- yawnfest. I really get bored with one superhero slamming another into a skyscraper and vice versa. Losing the city's beautiful skyline is a travesty. Arrival, with minimal but superbly effective, understated visual treats, is about story and character. Suggest terror and mystery. Hitchcock said suspense trumped over surprise. You can figure that one out, I'm sure!

    An excellent and favorite subject for me, LUHE!


  • darkspilver

    haha! someone's watched the JW Broadcasting May 2017 Episode

    The best CGI is when you can't see it's CGI


    Also take a look at the work of Union Visual Effects (I think the front page video on their website below is better at showing the before and after effects than the show reel below)


    They also have a Vimeo channel:


  • Funchback

    Good topic, LUHE.

    The movie 'Alien' was well done. It came out in 1979. It was just a man in a rubber costume but it was really realistic. 'Jaws' was also incredible.

    For me, CGI in today's films take away from the realism as opposed to adding to it. Some really bad ones, in my opinion: A Perfect Storm, 2012, the latest King Kong...especially the Godzilla monsters he fought at the end, World War Z. All of the 'Hulks' are so computerish (except for the TV version of Hulk)

    Some goods ones, or at least some scenes, have been done really well, though: The plane crash in 'Castaway'; 'Rogue One', 'District 9', and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The most recent 'Jungle Book' movie was pretty decent.

    I was kinda torn about 'Life of Pi'. The tiger sometimes looks real, sometimes fake.

    Just some of my opinions.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    Arrival, with minimal but superbly effective, understated visual treats, is about story and character. Suggest terror and mystery. Hitchcock said suspense trumped over surprise - yes, I agree. Building tension is often much more important than quick scares. These can be quick and easy to do but too many kinda makes them cheap and pointless.

    The movie 'Alien' was well done. It came out in 1979. It was just a man in a rubber costume but it was really realistic. 'Jaws' was also incredible - I thought Alien was a very good film, too. The effects worked very well - IMO the only time it really looked like a man in a rubber costume was at the end, when Ripley blasted it out the airlock and the alien was dangling in space.

    The most recent 'Jungle Book' movie was pretty decent - agree. In addition to the acting by the Indian boy who played Mowgli and the voices for the animal characters, I liked the CGI effects here - particularly Shere Khan. My only criticism with it would be that they made Bagheera the black panther slightly over-sized - panthers aren't that big in real life. There's a scene where Shere Khan is chasing Mowgli and Bagheera jumps between the two and briefly tussles with the tiger. In this film the size difference between the two cats isn't great, whereas in real life it definitely is.

    Believe it or not, I actually love The Jungle Book (1967) by Disney, too. The songs are great and there's some kind of character development for Mowgli (he learns how to forage and survive in the jungle, he sees off Shere Khan with the help of Baloo, then he finds 'the man-village' and decides to live there, to be with his own kind).

    I also like the drawings and animations. The illustrators got the sizes and proportions of the animals well. The wolves are rangy, Bagheera the panther is of similar size to the wolves but is low-slung, with shorter, muscly legs and a long tail, Baloo the bear and Shere Khan the tiger are much bigger, etc.

    'Jaws' was also incredible - yes, it was an example of what can be achieved with limited special effects (shark model and footage of a great white).

  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic

    I think one of the biggest problems with CGI is - when it's done really well - most the time you don't know you're watching CGI.

    If your watching two robots fight while knocking over skyscrapers - sure - you're going to know it's all in the computer. But in so many movies you watch these days - not even action films - the planes, trains, and ordinary cars are often partially or entirely CGI elements. There's a great video essay on this showing off some stuff you would never have guessed was rendered in a computer. Check it out.


  • glenster
  • Diogenesister

    Interesting LUHE!

    As a Walking dead fan we all love Greg Nicotero's 'mechanical' or I guess you'd call it handmade special effects. Time and again the cgi in TWD is a huge let-down *and* big budget eater and we are unanimous is saying forget the cgi unless there is an over arching need for it in the story line! I think TWD has learned its lesson this season and even Shiva the tiger combined the puppet makers skill with robotics ('animatronics') and some cgi.

    The skill of effects guys like Nicotero still beats cgi hands down every time imho.

    Edited to add: I do appreciate that some films that demand detailed shots of, for example, WW2 submarines in action as per Dark spliver's Union effects cgi is obviously necessary *and* impressive, though.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    Here's a clip from what Funchback was referring to: The Junglebook (2016), with Idris Elba voicing Shere Khan.

    It's a good example of CGI working well.


  • LoveUniHateExams

    And here's an excellent example of old school effects. Everything in this scene was done behind the camera. No CGI. It's the famous scene from The Thing (1982), where an ill Norris is receiving treatment and his chest opens and forms jaws that bite off the doctor's hands. Love Palmer's reaction, on seeing Norris' head scurrying away on spider-like legs ... "you gotta be f**king kidding!"


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