Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Animatronics Vs. CGI, Passing Things On, and Pharmaceutical Ads

I've been hearing a lot lately about animatronics vs. CGI in movies. CGI is creating something with computer graphics, then digitally inserting it into a movie. Animatronics has to do with building the monster yourself (or a smaller scale model of it) and having it move on its own. Lots of examples of animatronics can be found in the original Star Wars movies and the flash-forward scenes in the first two Terminator movies. With CGI, your actors have to pretend that they're looking at the thing that will be digitally inserted later. With animatronics, they can actually interact with it.

One of the biggest complaints people seem to have about the newer Star Wars movies, besides "blackface" Jar Jar Binks and the complete lack of Ewok sex scenes, is that nearly everything is CGI. For the most part, you have a couple of actors walking around a big green screen, interacting with characters who aren't really there. The way I see it, it hurts the performances of the actors. Also, CGI monsters often look really fake. There are several examples of CGI being done right in the case of a monster. For instance, Terminator 2's liquid metal effects, which fit right in with the real objects around them. For the most part, however, this is not the case. Look at the recent movie Predators and the CGI monsters (the dogs) stand out like a sore thumb. Will Smith's I Am Legend is a great movie until the virus-afflicted people start appearing...and for some reason, they're all CGI and fake-looking. This one really baffles me, since they were regular people with slight deformity. Why was CGI even necessary?

From what I've said, you might think I'm anti-CGI. Not the case. I think CGI is great for creating environments that we can't create any other way. Places like Avatar's Pandora and most of the cities in the newer Star Wars movies would not be possible to create on Earth. While CGI is good for environments, it isn't good for creatures. I believe that, to have maximum impact on the audience, creatures in movies almost always need to be designed via animatronics of some sort, to have that "real look". Also, actors interacting with a real creature rather than something they can't see makes for better performances.

Is there any particular argument for using CGI over animatronics, besides it being the "modern" thing to do? Maybe a lack of creativity in Hollywood necessitates it. We don't have any Stan Winstons left.

Moving on, I want to discuss passing things on. I've been selling a lot of my old games on Amazon for a while now. A lot of these games mean something to me; some mean a whole lot. It can be tough to let go of some of them. That said, if I'm probably never going to play a game again, it gets sold. Sometimes, when I ship a game out, I wonder who will be getting it, and just for a moment my mind might wander. With Super Mario 64, I found myself thinking about the massive amounts of joy that it brought to so many people. With Pokemon Blue, I remembered what it was like as a kid having the first Pokemon game arrive and having people go crazy over it. With Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy VII, I thought of someone who spent many rainy days on those games re-capturing one of them now. With the original Legend of Zelda, I thought of some grizzled vet in a log cabin, getting a game that he went crazy for in his younger days, putting it on a shelf next to collected bear heads, and nodding at a life well-spent even though he still isn't old. There's something to be said about passing things on. It brings a certain level of joy.

One more thing I want to talk about. What's the deal with the ads drug companies run? It seems like they always have an extreme close-up of a really open and honest looking person, a person who looks like they want to sit down and have an important discussion with YOU about your hemorrhoids. There's just something odd and a little fake about these ads.

Here we have an ad about preventing hepatitis. Who is that guy, though? What does he have to do with hepatitis? All I know is that he's right up in the camera, invading your personal space, just like they always do in pharmaceutical ads, and I think he needs to back off. Is he a doctor, reassuringly telling you that you can prevent hepatitis? Is he a hepatitis patient, there to express how important it is to prevent hepatitis? Is he the vaccine, and are there scores of tiny men with pick-axes breaking off bits of his powdered body to turn into pills? Is he hepatitis itself? My God, he's hepatitis! Kids, get back in the car!! We have to leave now! BOTANY BAY!!

1 comment:

  1. Well, we couldn't find cancer but we found a man WITH cancer! TAKE THIS CANCER!