Open discussion about ILM and the magic they create. Also VFX and movies in general. Anyone can post topics here.

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By ShaneP
#34261
Here is an article I read yesterday at Vulture. I read the headline and thought "Oh, not another one of these again", but the article does make a good point about vfx today and how there are so many in so many films.

Read it here:

https://www.vulture.com/2018/12/special ... again.html

What do you think? Are we in the midst of a golden age and so take so much of the great work for granted? Or have vfx hit a plateau?

This article suggests vfx have hit a plateau but that innovation is still occurring in places.

My opinion is that vfx today are in a creatively high place. I can't call it a golden age because the labor side of it is such a wreck in many cases. I think you can still call many vfx today "special" and that piece even points out in by ILM in particular, the Leo being mauled by a bear in The Revenant(one of my favorite films of the last several years). But then, when it came to marketing that vfx, the film studio underplayed the work so much it wasn't properly recognized. Then you have Star Trek: Beyond, which is my favorite Trek film of the new-Trek...verse(if you want to call it that). DNEG did such a great job at infusing the film with news and exciting ways of depicting the Trek galaxy(The Yorktown was terrific and even the shot of the Enterprise launching from it face-on as the station retreated into space was fantastic!) I loved that film and the work but it...well, it did poorly enough at the BO that now the new-Trek verse seems to be either in full retreat or stalled.


What do you think? Thoughts? Ideas? Rants? Takedowns? :D
By Kmart
#34263
Article kinda lost me up front when it claimed SUPERMAN leveraged off STAR WARS, but I agree with you about most points.

I do find a lot of 'big' vfx shows to be producing material that is seamless, but unengaging and usually unconvincing (this is especially true for the Marvel films -- I don't know what dropping a city block from a great height looks like, but I don't believe for a minute that it looks anything like that. Then again, the Wakanda fight was like a video game to me ... while tons of stuff in DR STRANGE looks really cool.) But there are shows that take my breath away (a lot of BEYOND's space stuff was excellent, and every bit of FIRST MAN seems impressive as all get-out. )

The 'invisible' work (that I know of or recognize as such) is mostly really good -- it is more rare for me to be taken out of a scene owing to a matte painting not looking right to me than it ever was in the optical era.

I think what Barron said, which I think related to the problem being volume of shots. Iincreasing the vfx shotload by a factor of 10 to 20 over what it was 30 years back really damages the storytelling. 80 mediocre shots in a 21st century fantasy epic don't have the impact of one great shot of the mothership rising behind Devil's Tower.

And another aspect that probably impacts visual storytelling and emotional engagement is film score. I find that melody has just about disappeared from filmscoring this century, like it left the building when John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith died. There have been impressive scores, but nothing like the scores that you re-listen to over and over again, or scores so good that you watch the sequence they play against repeatedly. And when the music doesn't put the audience over the top emotionally, the imagery probably can't do it alone.
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By ShaneP
#34264
https://www.vulture.com/2018/12/special ... cenes.html

Another article from Vulture that covers a lot of ground and different films and tv shows. Some ILMers like John Knoll and Scott Farrar talking about Rogue One and Deep Impact respectively.

There's a lot of tv shows and films I've never seen. It ties into this topic as it shows how extensive and far ranging vfx are today.

Give it a read.

Kmart:
"Article kinda lost me up front when it claimed SUPERMAN leveraged off STAR WARS, but I agree with you about most points."

LOL. Yeah, I'm not sure that Star Wars pushed the envelope on front projection that was then used for Superman. That film always seemed to me to be more connected to the James Bond British types of vfx work rather than anything that was coming out of ILM. I know Lucas experimented with front projection techniques early on to see what was possible for some Tatooine land speeder footage but that was ditched early on and never used. Not only that, but Superman was shooting before Star Wars was even released and came out about 18 months after Star Wars.

It is obvious that Battlestar Galactica did leverage some of the vfx work from Star Wars and Dykstra and Muren have both mentioned how they could do things they learned from that film and improve it for the Galactica tv show. But, Superman? I don't think there was the time and even the types of vfx work that connected Star Wars to Supes. Even Trumbull, another stateside vfx guy like ILM and Dykstra had his own way of doing things and continued to do so well after Star Wars was released. Dykstra and Apogee and ILM on Empire, sure they did leverage what they learned on Star Wars, but Superman? I don't see it.
By Kmart
#34268
I'm not sure if that driving stuff in SW was using FP or RP. They were supposed to use FP to project the backgrounds for the approach to death star and some of the battle when they escape from it, but that was a total fiasco, where ILM's work was too short (process in the optical era is ALWAYS too short) and apparently didn't look good.

I can't think of anything in SW that SUPES leveraged off of. But when you mention GALACTICA, it made me wonder how good the pilot looks on blu-ray? That has all of Muren's excellent work in it, and I'm thinking so long as I avoid dialog scenes, that might be a good watch, assuming the stars don't look too golf-ball like.
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By ShaneP
#34269
But when you mention GALACTICA, it made me wonder how good the pilot looks on blu-ray? That has all of Muren's excellent work in it, and I'm thinking so long as I avoid dialog scenes, that might be a good watch, assuming the stars don't look too golf-ball like.
I have that series bluray that came in the Cylon head box. I'm not sure how the transfer quality stacks up against previous releases or not. Galactica is a frustrating show. It has elements story-wise that are very interesting. Cylon race all but made extinct by their creations and human survivors fleeing from them. But, as you said, it has some very cheesy dialogue and some hokey elements. Great vfx though. The space scenes with the vipers in formation coming towards the camera(or rather the camera coming towards the models ;) )still hold up very well.
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By PaulILMFan
#34272
For many years now to me most VFX shots are not special at all as there is no emotional core like Kmart said the stirring score to pull you deeper into the scene.

Wall to wall VFX blowouts with weak storytelling & characters you do not care for are quite literally video game cutscenes. You watch them once & your brain switches off as there is no emotional reason to return again & again. Well done to all the people creating them some are impressive but the optical photochemical era produced many fantastic memorable FX sequences. This modern CG era produces very few as its soulless fast food production line work being done to a tight budget outsourced to the lowest bidder most of the time.

Compare that to the golden eras of modern VFX in the 70s-80s-90s when a strong score & effective VFX would pull you into the scene as you really cared about what happened & the VFX underscored that effectively making it powerful entertainment.

Until these modern VFX blowouts start to fail financially its going to be more of the same so I do not see it changing at all. Apart from Star Trek Beyond I cannot remember the last time I saw impressive VFX & a decent score pull me right into the movie. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation did well with the Opera sequence (so simple, effective & memorable with minimal VFX). I hope Christopher McQuarrie gets his wish to make a Star Trek movie as he is one of the few people who gets how to pull audiences into the movie & make them care (although MI Fallout was pretty tedious it did have a few impressive practical-CG meld sequences). DNEG should be a lock for the next Star Trek movie they did fantastic work on Beyond.

For now the only way to get a fix of this is to revisit excellent 4K UHD HDR Discs hitting the market right now. I have been buying a lot of these (discs are way better than 4K streams as higher bandwidth & superior audio & picture) & recently re-watched 2001 A Space Odyssey (stunning flawless picture from the remastered 8K wetgate scan) Superman The Movie (looks fantastic), The Hunt For Red October (looks fantastic), Jurassic Park (looks pretty good although you can see the low res FX at times), & The Matrix (looks stunning). ALL have memorable music & VFX sequences & despite having watched them many many times I still get the same happy emotional feeling from the content & characters which is missing in action from most films made in the past 20 years. Nowadays ALL my entertainment budget goes to 4K UHD HDR catalog discs so I can rewatch them & keep forever (streaming is under the control of Hollywood Studios so can be revoked or downgraded in quality without you ever have any say in the matter!)

2001 is 50 years old & I have seen it countless times but the new 4K UHD HDR is a stunning presentation in your home (if you have the equipment) its as close to a 70MM home presentation you will likely ever get & the film shows how far ahead Kubrick was & how far behind modern films are from being able to generate a memorable lasting impression like Kubrick could achieve all those years ago :thumbup:
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By ShaneP
#34276
Thanks for your response Paul.
Kmart mentioned the Marvel films and vfx. I have found the MCU films to be largely consistent vfx-wise in that in creating this narrative continuity they have also found room for some great vfx(thinking of Dr. Strange's crazy flipped cities and interdimensional work and Infinity War's Black Watch and Thanos).
My favorite MCU films though have been the ones like Winter Soldier or even the two Ant Man films where they have pursued their own mini-stories within the larger meta-narrative of Thanos and his plans.

DNEG's work on the last Trek and the last two Mission Impossible films were terrific too. The skydiving sequence, which included real skydiving, was still exceptional in that you couldn't see what might have been live-action, or shot, and where vfx took over. That is what it should be. You should just forget it and enjoy the story. But it also creates a rub: if you forget the vfx, are you appreciating the work? I suppose you are but does that mean you are minimizing the effort that goes into it? Maybe that's not our job as an audience? Maybe enjoying it on its own is enough.
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By TylerMirage
#34300
Kind of reminds me of the 4-page "essay" I wrote for fun when I was 16 entitled "VFX: We're Used to It". Except, that article's probably not terrible and it's written by a professional. :lol:

I can't really add much that hasn't already been said, because we're mostly on the same wavelength.

You've got two problem sides to the same problem coin. On one side, you've got mediocre or terrible movies that have great VFX. And then you've got great - or at least competently made - movies that are so jam-packed with wall-to-wall CGI that it just becomes noise. And audiences are simultaneously getting wise to it and ignoring it at the same time, if you know what I mean.

Actually, this is kind of a good time to bring up this video I found (I'm sure KMart will love it :D ): "Marvel Overuses CGI | Analyzing Bad VFX".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdMArSn ... gs=pl%2Cwn

Surprisingly, the video author is a.) not unpleasant to listen to, b.) not a raving lunatic and c.) raises valid points. It's not too jargon-y, but also isn't afraid to get a bit technical. As the title says, it's mostly focused on the fact that the Marvel movies are so bloated with CGI and replace many of their practical elements seemingly unecessarily, but it's also refreshing to see that someone is capable of criticizing the high-and-mighty Marvel movies, albeit about VFX.
DNEG's work on the last Trek and the last two Mission Impossible films were terrific too. The skydiving sequence, which included real skydiving, was still exceptional in that you couldn't see what might have been live-action, or shot, and where vfx took over. That is what it should be. You should just forget it and enjoy the story. But it also creates a rub: if you forget the vfx, are you appreciating the work? I suppose you are but does that mean you are minimizing the effort that goes into it? Maybe that's not our job as an audience? Maybe enjoying it on its own is enough.
I think you should be capable of doing both. Nothing says you shouldn't or can't sit back and watch the big picture, while also being able to notice and appreciate the artistry in whatever area of filmmaking you want. Does noticing VFX negate it? No. Does not noticing it devalue the work and effort put in? I don't think so.

People talk all the time about great actors and being able to be lost in a performance or "forget that the actor is there" because they "become the character". But that in itself does NOT inherently devalue the time and effort between the performer, the make-up artist, the costume designer, the writer, the director and everyone else who brought that role to life. Same goes with VFX. If you don't notice it, that's great. But if you "snap out of it" and can suddenly take your binoculars and say "I want to focus on the FX work", that's also fine.