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Filmmakers lost in the world of 3D animation and special effects

  1. Jul 19, 2010 #1
    When James Cameron made Titanic in 1997 it touched the hearts of people all around the world. I was a kid at that time knowing not much about love, pain, loss of loved ones, injustice around us, it still stands as one of my favorites; and it is always a new experience each time I see it. Rarely, they make movies of this kind, especially these days when they are simply busy churning out crap, trash most of the time. Anyone who can really appreciate what a good movie and movie-making is would agree, at least to some degree, that Hollywood used to make excellent and wonderful movies even when there were no computers and all this technology. Can anyone beat the excellence of those movies made even before 50's? The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Grapes of Wrath and many, many more.

    It simply stabs my soul when I hear someone saying Cameron had simply conquered himself and Titanic by making Avatar. I would say Avatar is just a temporary 'commercial' success and would soon slip into oblivion just like many others of its kind. One could argue that comparing Titanic and Avatar is not justified because they are from different genres. Is this 3D genre so exciting and better that those directors have forgotten to make movies of the kind they would be remembered for?

    How can one forget Marty McFly from Back to the Future trilogy? Robert Zemeckis did a great job and will always be remembered for it. Everything was simply perfect. Robert Zemeckis' works such as Back to the Future series, Forrest Gump, Cast Away and the like, would always cherish the memories of numerous generations. Recently, I watched A Christmas Carrol, one of Zemeckis' 3D adventures, or should I call it a misadventure? I would say he just lived out his own fantasy of transforming everything into the 3D animated world by mutilating a good piece of art which had already been captured into the movie, Scrooge (1951), so splendidly the year Zemeckis was born.

    It seems Zemeckis, Cameron, and others have lost the sense of good filming and what a film should be, and we simply support them for this by watching their movies in cinemas and buying DVDs. I would say use the internet to watch such crap!

    I would like to hear your thoughts on this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2010 #2
    3D is still a novelty, so you can expect people to flock to it even if something is substandard. Just like people flocked to the 'talkies'.

    I truly belive Avatar is an average to slightly above film at best, yet it was enhanced by the 3D. The visuals were impressive.

    It'll be a while til the 3D novelty wears off and it becomes just another tool for storytelling.
  4. Jul 19, 2010 #3
    As I recall Titanic was hailed as a visual marvel when it was released. One of Cameron's claims to fame is embracing a new(reworked) tech and taking it to its full potential. While movies can suffer from hype, Avatar will be remembered as a great movie. It amazed people even though the plot had some holes.

    The 3d wagon is well on its way and it will be a while before it is perfected. We have seen a lot of bad 3d movies due to the last minute 3d conversion of movies shot in 2d. Alice in Wonderland was ruined (IMO) due to this conversion and I have since only watched 3d that were shot in 3d.

    The CGI wagon as gotten a little out of hand and as a result we have ended up with a lot of really terribly delivered movies that would have been a lot better fifteen or twenty years ago (caugh caugh Indiana Jones caugh caugh). I could just see a re-release fad of older movies being converted to 3d to capitalize on the craze. If a bad 3d release wouldn't result in serious eye-strain, it would already be under way.

    I think good directors/producers will capitalize on the new 3D tech, and bad ones will churn out crap. Hasn't it always been that way?
  5. Jul 19, 2010 #4


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    Remember they also made a lot of crap, in the 50s studies were each making a movie/week.
    We are looking back at 2 decades and picking the top 10 of 10,000 movies.

    Movies are expensive, they are made by companies that need to make a profit.
    Mostly these are the same type of people trying to persuade you to buy their brand of Cola.
    So the safe thing to do is either to a franchise, remake a popular movie from the past or hop on a new bandwagon.

    The real villains are (IMHO) directors like Peter Jackson indulgently remaking movies he saw as a kid (King Kong, Dambusters) simply because he can.

    It depends. CG effects age more quickly, the first Star Wars movies used models which stand up today, the prequels used CGI which now looks dated. This is partly the technology and partly user experience - you see so many CG shots now that you can immediately spot them and think of a car or aftershave commercial which used the same effect - this takes you out of the story.

    Some early CGI movies like The Abyss and Terminator 2 used the effects sparingly and pretty much still work.
    There are movies that would have been impossible without character CGI, like LotR - this does look better than a Harryhausen stop motion movie from the 60s however much nostalgia you have.
    Then there are the movies that are CGI but you don't know it. Gladiator might have had pretty ropey acting by the lead, but the sets and crowds were excellent - even though they only existed in CGI

    Two problems - stereo with two cameras has inherent problems that unless they are very carefully, skillfully (and expensively) dealt with, as in Avatar, cause problems. Stereo with a single camera is much better.

    The other is just the novelty. If all you have going for your movie is 3D then more 3D must be better - so the effect is turned upto 11.
    This is just like color in the early days of technicolor - nobody could argue that the color in any of the classic 50s movies was realistic - they had color and they were going to damn well use it !
  6. Jul 19, 2010 #5
    It seems to me that the current crime being commited is post production 3D.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  7. Jul 19, 2010 #6
    I think I'd care more if I bothered to watch more than one movie every couple of years at this point. Either way, this strikes me as a superfad, and one that will become niche, rather than commonplace over the next decade. Stereoscopic 3-D of the shutter-glass variety just has limited use... 3D filming and projection into a "tank" would be the real "next step". Like motion control in gaming, it's not really 1:1 motion control, just the illusion, and 3D now is really just a semblance of the real deal.
  8. Jul 19, 2010 #7


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    Yes, not sure if it's going to be as bad as the colorization of classic Black and White movies on the movie channel.

    Disclaimer - I am working on 3D movie camera software.
    I did say to one client that we had an ethics clause preventing the system being used to make Casablanca into 3D - they almost laughed!
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  9. Jul 19, 2010 #8


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    True, in some niche areas like driving an ROV then stereoscopy is ground breaking - it just makes the job so much easier, try threading a needle with one eye closed.

    In cinema, people are still learning to use it. Perhaps we will be lucky and like cinemascope they will develop the experience - when it first came out 'scope was said to only be good for funerals, you couldn't do character shots in 1:2.37. But then The Magnificent Seven changed that.

    Remember is that you only see stereo to 10ft or so, and it's best with familiar things like faces. Using computer game type ultra-stereo for landscape shots doesn't work - your brain knows this but the directors don't!

    Stereo and moving objects works very well if it's done right - but if the motion cues, the lighting and the stereo cues disagree then you get seasick. It's exactly the same reason as when your inner ear and your eyes disagree on which way is up.
  10. Jul 19, 2010 #9
    I'd add to this, but I can't so I'll just quietly applaud a well written critique of its ups and downs. Well said.
  11. Jul 20, 2010 #10
    I heard from a game critic that apparently the next fad in gaming seems to be 3D video games. Companies other than Nintendo are trying to jump on the motion control bandwagon too. Sony already has a handful of games that rely heavily on the limited "SixAxis" motion sensor in their standard controler.
  12. Jul 20, 2010 #11


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    Titanic did well at the box office for the same reason Twilight does: it made teenage girls cry. It is a good movie, but not a great one (as Twilight shows, a movie can be terrible and still do spectacularly well at the box office if it makes teenage girls cry). It isn't any better than Avatar.
  13. Jul 20, 2010 #12
    Well, there is the upcoming "3DS" by Nintendo, which is a 3D take on their portable system. For motion control, Sony has these "wands" called Move, and Microsoft the Kinekt (formerly Natal) which is a camera system with no controller. It should be noted that none of these systems can process collision data in real time, so it's not really 1:1 motion control, just gimmicks.

    To put a twist on Russ' phrase, it will make teenage boys cry, so it will sell. Presumably the motion control fad is on because Nintendo outsold its competitors with this gimmick, and although the shine has come off it by now, Sony and MS have already invested the R&D. The 3DS doesn't require shutter glasses, and people were allowed to get their hands on them at a recent tech show; apparently it's quite fun. Keep in mind that the Nintendo DS is a portable system, so layering 10' or less of 3D isn't that tough when the fidelity is low to begin with.

    Back to movies, I wish I could agree with you Russ, but from what I've seen it isn't just teenage girls who swoon for Twilight and Titanic; it's a large number of women in general. For all that he was a nut himself, Freud would have a field day about girls swooning for bloodsucking-turned-romance. That is so Freudian it's almost as painful as movies and books themselves. A female friend convinced me to read them; I made it 50 pages into book one and then I had to stop... not only was it boring and trite, but poorly written.

    I just pity all of the young men who doubtless are being dragged to the cinema along with their sisters and mothers to see these train-wrecks.
  14. Jul 20, 2010 #13
    Was Avatar really that bad of a movie? Or are we just upset that the hype is making it sound better than it was? I enjoyed the movie, but I won't wouldn't make the claim that it was the best movie of the year.
  15. Jul 20, 2010 #14
    I was unaware of this 3D TV thing. Apparently Playstation will be offering a software upgrade that will allow 3D play of all games on 3D TVs.
    I think that it may be a neat idea to start but most serious "gamers" will likely not be able to keep up 3D play (especially if it is poorly translated) for more than a couple hours without having vision issues. I can see it becoming a niche for game developers that can pull it off well but otherwise just a fad.

    For the control immersion aspect, I have not found many gamers that particularly enjoy Wii though that may be more an issue of graphics and game quality. The Wii's primary success is with nonserious gamers, children, and females. I think that for Sony and Microsoft it will be a niche thing, like those people who go out any buy all of the extra equipment just to play Guitar Hero and such. Most gamers prefer standard controls and even get annoyed by nonstandard configurations.

    But I am diverging by going too much into game controllers.
    I never watched Titanic, assuming that I would not enjoy it. I do not really enjoy most Drama and Romance. I would default agree with Russ that it was not great but ought to be honest that I have never seen the movie. And I avoid books and movies such as Twilight like the plague.

    My favourite recent "drama" was Pleasantville which wasn't even very popular.
  16. Jul 20, 2010 #15
    CGI effects and such it was good. Otherwise it was a hack flick. You could get more or less the same story, and done much better and with more depth, if you watch Dune.
  17. Jul 20, 2010 #16


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    It can bring a tear to a grown man's eye too.

    I saw Titanic before it became popular. You may not recall that it was a sleeper; it came out rather quietly and was seen by only a modicum of people, but it just would not die. Movement for it did not build until a couple of weeks after it had opened. (Oddly, the Wiki entry about its Box Office success seems to have that time compressed more than my recollection.)

    I mention all this as a preamble to my take on the film because I formed my opinion of it utterly independent of all the hype.

    I was taken by it. I really found it to be magical. I came out of the theatre feeling ... different - older, younger. (The story was OK; what I was really taken by was the main character's story: RMS Titanic herself). Frankly, it is on my list of classics - films I will happily watch many times.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  18. Jul 20, 2010 #17


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    It's relatively easy to convert games into 3D. The game graphics are generated internaly in 3D in the OpenGL or directX engine, they actually have quite a bit of calculation to do to work out what the 2d picture would look like from your Pov and display that.
    As long as the programmers were careful about the 2d elements like backgrounds and head up displays they convert well.
    The amount of 3D is also easy to control - and nobody expects Lara Croft (am I dating myself) to look realistic.

    The nausea is mostly caused by dual camera rigs where there is a small difference in alignment of the two cameras - your brain gets unhappy about your eyes pointing in different directions, or having different focal lengths.

    True but the set of all people in the world that don't live in their parents basement and play "Call of Warcraft 98" for 6 hours a day is a hell of a market.

    Autostereoscopic displays (the ones without glasses) only work for a single person with their head in one position, and have reduced resolution. Perfect for a Nintendo DS or a cellphone.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  19. Jul 20, 2010 #18


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    Yes it was.
    Besides, I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of it, but I didn't lose much of importance, it seemed.
  20. Jul 20, 2010 #19
    lol, I guess I can see where a lot of the angst against this movie is founded, but I honestly don't think it was a bad movie. It delivered on what was promissed.

    I do have a new benchmark on which I measure movies now though. I watched Avatar:The last Airbender three weeks ago, and I feel that this is the worst movie I have ever seen in theatres. I was actually mad when I left.

    I think Inception was the best movie I have seen this year. This movie was mentally stimulating. The story was based on science fiction, but it explained just enough for the premise to make sence, but it didn't get hung up on the tech. The action was amazing and I was litterally on the edge of my seat. The story was well delivered and left nothing out that wasn't intentional. I was really happy with this movie.

    Karate Kid was an entertaining movie, and I think they did a decent job.

    Girlfriend made me watch the latest in the Twilight Saga, these movies suck, but they are better than Avatar:The last Airbender... The third was the most entertaining of the three as the action picked up a bit. Still don't want to watch the next one, but I guess I will for love.
    My girlfriend said: "The movies really give you a perspective into the thinking of a seventeen year old girl."
    Me: "I don't want to see the perspective of a seventeen year old girl."
    Girlfriend: "You made me go see The Last Airbender with you so you owe me one."
    Me:"Well I guess I owe you one, it can't be as bad as that movie."

    Conclusion: At least one seventeen year old girl is an idiot.
  21. Jul 20, 2010 #20


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    Compared to what? The other zillion "great SFX, no story" films that have glutted the market in the last decade?

    I say Avatar was not much worse than anything else that's come out in the same vein recently, but it did bump up the SFX bar. So I'd call it a wash.
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