busy and a CGI rant

May 13, 2015

No real post planned for today.  I’m in the throes of revising stories and trying to clear off my appallingly messy desk.  I’ve got a couple of trips planned for the end of the month, and if I can just get some of this done by then. . . so yeah. The usual story.

In the meantime, here’s a really great article on the failures of modern CGI.  Very illuminating, and the reason why I still love going back to watch the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies:  there’s something about models that have weight and dimension to them. Weight, dimension, and realistic camera angles and tracking.  I’m glad to hear they’ve been using a lot of models on the new Star Wars movies.  We’ll see how that goes.  The color saturation comparisons are really shocking when you see them side by side — and I agree, it’s one of the reasons the Marvel movies looks so good.  There’s actually something there to jolt our eyeballs.  Favorite quote from the article:  “They really were so preoccupied with whether or not they could have 88 dinosaurs throwing exploding helicopters at each other that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

I’ve had a lot of CGI rants over the years, like during a stretch where they seemed mostly to be used to replicate reality rather than to create wholly imaginative new worlds.  And yes, about how they often look so very cartoony.  And about how computers move so quickly the human eye can’t actually track some computerized effects.  It’s why I actively don’t go see 3-D movies anymore — I simply can’t see what’s going on a lot of times.  Maybe I’m just getting old.

7 Responses to “busy and a CGI rant”


  1. Right there with ya – I can’t stand fakey 3D effects. Film was just fine on a big flat board out in the outskirts of town. Uphill. Both ways.

    Get off my lawn.


  2. The first scene of the new avengers movie hits me a really fake, too. Way too cartoony. Now the Ultron intro monologue is superb, probably because the modeled life is so flawed, that the uncanny valley is never encountered.


  3. The thing that these rants don’t acknowledge is that these sorts of movies aren’t aiming for 100% photorealism — they’re usually meant to be a slightly stylized version of reality, sometimes known as “heightened reality,” and just as well, seeing how such movies are usually supposed to be escapist fantasy.

    Incidentally, regarding the latest Indiana Jones film, I am continually perplexed by the people complaining about things like the fridge sequence or the swinging monkeys, when the eponymous hero spent the last three movies with his hat nearly always on his head, regardless of the circumstances, to the point where the one time it did fly off was a pretty big deal (not to mention surviving a jump from a plane in nothing but an inflatable raft).

    (*deep breath*)…Okay, rant over.

  4. Carbonman Says:

    My wife and I can’t stand 3D movies; we walk out with raging headaches. As for CGI – sometimes there’s no way to create the images with practical effects, such as Alicia Vikander’s robot body in ‘Ex Machina’.
    My view is that 3D is used primarily for movies that aren’t well enough written and directed to survive without “Gee, Wow” effects to distract viewers from the fact that it’s a crappy story (or lacks a story at all), or are intended for the Asian market, which apparently loves 3D for some unfathomable reason.
    I’m old enough to remember seeing the biopic ‘Lenny’ by Bob Fosse in the theater. It was shot entirely in monochrome and still drew you deeply into the story. It’s proof that a good tale doesn’t need to dazzle us with technology to invest us in the story.

  5. carriev Says:

    “Ex Machina” is the best possible use of CGI I think — making something that can’t possibly exist in live action.

    But making every action scene a hyper-kinetic cartoon? Not so much.

  6. Kyle Says:

    Respect to sci-fi moviemakers who are avoiding CGI as much as possible.

    Out and about in the world, it’s hard to see any truly perpendicular or parallel lines when I’m looking for them. An easy example is how poorly a line of telephone poles lines up. Or how slightly off the verticals are in row houses, where one meets the next. Non-row houses are even “worse”, just farther apart. Also, on closer examination, even on a single house, just the moldings are at least slightly askew from each other. If one were to put a level on each different brick or tile of a sidewalk, the level’s bubble would be all over the place. Whatever effects this contributes to natural visual experience, I think CGI must be lacking.

    On unnatural camera angles… Mathematical panning is another distracting technique. Watching various parts of the Hobbit 3 movie on cable, I started noticing the “camera” keeps slowly panning almost non-stop. One I started noticed this, I noticed it in every scene. It’s as if the “camera” was mounted on the slow-moving ball in an ancient “pong” video game.

    Something can go very wrong with the scale of CGI buildings from a distance, sometimes. They can end up looking more like tiny models than a tiny scale model would have. Focal length issues? Gradation of haze over a distance? Some other flaw in perspective? Don’t know.


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