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CGI and its varying quality

  • 02-12-2021 9:53am
    Registered Users Posts: 7,988 ✭✭✭

    Something that I've been pondering a while regarding CGI and a lot of the callouts on bad instances of it. A films I watched recently - venom : let there be carnage, Outside of the obvious main charachter effects, which are always going to look wrong, it has a scene where over the main actors shoulder, you can see helicopters with searchlights on patrol, and it's just glaringly obvious that minimal work has been done on the animation and rendering of it.

    How much of it is down to the fact that a lot of us are now consuming our media on 4K high resolution displays? It surely making it much easier to see these instances where grubby cinema screens with poor lighting would hide a multitude of sins.

    Similarly - The Harder they fall on netflix, its so brightly lit, and the colours so vibrant, that it feels almost like a stage play, you can see the textures of the cloth in the costumes, and make out every pore on an actors face, making the whole thing feel less real. I would assume that shot composition is getting increasingly difficult to balance.

    I'm not sure what the point of the thread is, but I'd be interested to get peoples thoughts on it.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 28,974 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    The problem is definitely TVs - effects-heavy films look worse on a 4K display than they do on the big screen, no matter how good the TV and calibration. It's likely a mix of mastering, compression, HDR etc... Services are aiming for ultra-clarity above all, but really it's the 'noise' of celluloid that always created that welcome layer of remove.

    I think a properly projected film in the cinema will address many of these issues - and not because of grubby screens or anything like that. I saw The Harder They Fall in a cinema and it looked absolutely fine, whereas I was taken aback at how artificial it looked when I saw a YouTube trailer. I watched The Last Duel on Disney+ last night with the HDR bells & whistles and the CG sets looked distractingly artificial - a problem which likely wouldn't have been anywhere near as bad on a decent cinema screen. Not that things can't be pushed too far in the cinema, of course - high frame rate The Hobbit is a good example of how 'extra clarity' doesn't mean 'greater immersion'.

    Post edited by johnny_ultimate on

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,887 ✭✭✭TheIrishGrover

    I remember that with The Hobbit. There was one particular scene where you could clearly see that they were in a room about 4 meters square. Simply because of the High Frame Rate (Thankfully another abandoned gimmick in general).

    Corridor Crew on Youtube do some good breakdowns of good/bad effects.

    I don't know if it is really so much a TV thing (Especially once you turn off all the processing that a TV does, seemingy by default for some reason. Smoothing etc). But more a case of how much time these teams have. Dune for example simply looks stunning. It was delayed by over a year due to Covid/schedule clashes and this gave the teams times to work on the effects and they are simply stunning.

    However, Part two is due out in 2023 and has a production time of about 1 year. Sure, a lot of pre-production has been in place since the start but it will be interesting to see how this restricted timeframe will affect the effects.

    Return of The King was on TV recently and, in general, it holds up AMAZINGLY. Sure, there are issues but in general it still looks great (My favourite scene is still Gandalf riding out and the slightly jerky camera casually pans around and Minas Tirith just peeks in. Y'know, it's just there). While the timelines were tight for these, they had a lengthy pre-production/development time. It also helped that the all the teams worked SO closely together: practical effects team in same building as digital effects teams etc. Costume makers/armorers able to show their work to the effects teams for references.

    Look at the Planet of The Apes reboot. While there is an element of uncanny valley with Ceaser (That feeling in the back of your brain that something is not quite right. But you can't figure out what), this was actually intentional in that physically he looked flawless as an ape but his mannerisms were very slightly off. The other "normal" apes were totally convincing.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 35,203 CMod ✭✭✭✭pixelburp

    Funny that The Harder They Fall was mentioned as while yes it had a really bright, popping pallette, it had a lot more CGI than you might have imagined. Certainly more than I twigged on first watching. To be reductive, it's often how the tools are used - and craft or care put into it all.

    Similarly, this video does an excellent comparison of why something like Black Widow - with a huge Marvel budget to hand - had such shoddy and flat-looking FX, especially in its finale; while Dune had probably MORE CGI than Black Widow, yet felt infinitely more real and tactile. I never once "thought" about its obviously fictitious world. Again, it kinda came down to a director and production given the time and latitude to use the tools correctly, and appropriately.

  • Registered Users Posts: 495 ✭✭Full_Circle_81

    Having bigger TVs with their higher resolution and dynamic range can often allow some of the seams to show on effects work (particularly older practical effects/make-up) but that in no way renders the effects themselves shoddy. Although I'd still maintain that quality practical effects work will hold up much better over time than even the best CGI, which just dates very poorly in comparison.

    The biggest problem with CGI these days is mostly down to two things, both of which are working against each other: movies have far more CGI effects than ever before and yet at the same time, the effects teams have desperately short windows in which to complete their work. I always go back to the example of Iron Man. In the first Iron Man movie, the CGI effects were relatively limited (and actual physical suits were used at times as well) and the teams could spend a lot longer getting the fewer shots to look good. Then compare this to Iron Man in the later Avengers movies and the difference is very noticeable. Even with an army of animators behind the scenes, they just couldn't pull off the same quality of work as before. Not to take from the overall incredible effects on display, but the pressure these folks must be under is immense.

    And as Pixelburp mentions above, when given the time to actually work on the effects (in a movie like Dune) they can still look appropriately convincing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,574 ✭✭✭✭loyatemu

    there were a few scenes in No Time to Die where the CGI was quite obvious, which was surprising in such a big budget high profile film. The last Bond movie I recall really noticing the effects in was Die Another Day where a couple of scenes looked straight from a video game (among many problems with that movie).

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,666 CMod ✭✭✭✭Sad Professor

    I don't know if I'd blame tvs that much. I feel it mostly comes down to an over-reliance on CGI (practical effects are often more expensive or time consuming to create) and a lack of preparation/planning in the filmmaking process (handing incomplete sequences over to an effects house and expecting them to finish it). On the latter point, the Marvel films often have a lot of reshoots or pick-ups hastily shot against green screen and inserted into the film. I also think there's a lot of pressure on digital effect companies to make their shots look huge, epic, massive, etc and that results in them going overboard. I think this is partly how you end up with things like that ridiculous elevator sequence in the last season of Star Trek Discovery.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,152 ✭✭✭Ridley

    I'm curious as to how quickly Lucasfilm's Volume™ system (used on The Mandalorian) will look like people standing against a wall.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 35,203 CMod ✭✭✭✭pixelburp

    What makes it stand out so much is that it can recreate the subtle, accurate ambient lighting that helps merge characters and scene far better than most CGI can manage - assuming the right amount of time needed isn't given. The backdrops aren't any more complex than many equivalents we'd see but the fact the actors are surrounded by a "real" version projected around the makes a huge difference. There were a few scenes in the TV show I'd have sworn were physicals sets but weren't. Well. They ARE physical sets, in a sense. TBH I'd like to see more productions get to use it - for now it seems only Mandalorian gets to play , so a ways to go before it's old hat. Certainly quarries and the forests of Vancouver could become a thing of the past for "cheap" alien vistas