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What is it about "old" special effects that make them seem better than modern CGI?

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What is it about "old" special effects that make them seem better than modern CGI?

Old 06-22-06, 04:29 AM
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What is it about "old" special effects that make them seem better than modern CGI?

I was watching Aliens the other day, and I realized just how great the special effects are, and how they're superior in many ways to the CGI that was in Alien Ressurection and AVP. And furthering this discussion - what is it about model work that makes it seem superior to CGI generated images? i've always thought because it had a "real", more tangible quality to it than traditional CGI. Also, because CGI can draw things out in such clear cut ways, there's less artistic grunt work that has to be done. The Alien Queen was much more terrifying in Aliens than in AVP - maybe because it was so difficult to film the Alien Queen when it was a puppet, that they couldn't show as much of it as in AVP. I'm not saying that CGI work is easy, mind you, but it leaves very little to the imagination, because there are no physical limitations involved. It's the old maxim that "Jaws was great because you almost never saw the shark", because it looked so crappy they couldn't show it often, and when they did, it was only briefly.
Old 06-22-06, 06:11 AM
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There has certainly been a lot of bad "old" special effects throughout the years, too. I think it's largely a case that, here in the fairly early era of CGI, there's been a lot of people doing special effects who were more computer geeks rather than skilled artists (like Harryhausen) who really had an eye for cinema. But there's been some awesome CGI work, too.
Old 06-22-06, 06:14 AM
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Two words: Jurassic Park. No film has come close to the perfect blend of traditional effects and CGI since. Seamless.
Old 06-22-06, 06:35 AM
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One Word: Realistic.

Now 'old' effects sometimes limits the scope of a fantasy film, so I am not totally against CG, because if done right and use limitedly, it can help a film open possibilities.

But Star Wars Prequels is a perfect example of too much CG, and not enough real sets and model effects. Just watch Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith, and compare them to the Old SW movies, it is like night and day. The old SW movies just look more realistic, and you actually feel the actors are in the scene, because they are. Places like Hoth, Tatooine, Endor were all shot on location, so you get that realism in the movie.

The Phantom Menace tried to use some real locations like Tunisia for Tatooine, so that comes off very realistic and meshes nicely with Star Wars '77. AOTC & ROTS look like one big animated movie with actors in it. Just watch Geonosis, Mustafar, and Kamino, they look like a cartoon.

If you can stomach it, watch 1-6 in order, and notice when you get to the Original Movies just how damn realistic they look compared to the Prequels.

As for Jaws, I shutter to think if George Lucas had directed that, we would have Jaws SE with a CG shark that would look totally out of place with a 1975 film.
Old 06-22-06, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
Two words: Jurassic Park. No film has come close to the perfect blend of traditional effects and CGI since. Seamless.
I love that movie just for this reason. It boiled down to them using CGI when they thought it would work and using animatronics for all the up close stuff. It also helps when they tailor the movie script around certain sequences that have to be done in a certain manner.
Old 06-22-06, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
There has certainly been a lot of bad "old" special effects throughout the years, too. I think it's largely a case that, here in the fairly early era of CGI, there's been a lot of people doing special effects who were more computer geeks rather than skilled artists (like Harryhausen) who really had an eye for cinema. But there's been some awesome CGI work, too.
I think another thing too is that i'm watching a lot of "classic" movies and most of them were made at the height of the technology available to them with the best in the business behind the helm. Model work has been the basis of cinema special effects since their inception, with the exception of matte paintings. It'll be interesting to see what CGI can do in 100 years...
Old 06-22-06, 07:48 AM
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Fro me, it's real-world physics.

Even models have to obey the laws of gravity and physics. CGI doesn't, and they haven't quite perfected the physics algorithms yet. Even on the best examples, your brain can detect the subtle "that's not moving quite right" effect.
Old 06-22-06, 09:10 AM
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I'll agree that the aliens themselves (and the queen) were better in Aliens than in any of the sequels, HOWEVER, the spaceships and outdoor planet scenes in that movie look so fake it's a crime.
Old 06-22-06, 09:23 AM
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But Star Wars Prequels is a perfect example of too much CG, and not enough real sets and model effects. Just watch Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith, and compare them to the Old SW movies, it is like night and day.
I have said this at least half a dozen times or more on this forum. But nobody ever listens. Each of the Star Wars prequels used more miniatures than the original trilogy did combined. It also used more sets and set extensions than each original trilogy film. It's night and day only because there was a lot of CG in the prequels, and there was absolutely none in the original trilogy. The trilogies were made in two entirely different eras of VFX. Of course the prequels look different.

To answer the original poster's question, it's nothing more than people romanticizing and fantasizing about effects of the past. The fact is they had more problems than CG does, from horrible optical compositing, to rough, jerky, completely unconvincing stop-motion, to matte lines, and garbage matters.

The fact is there are positives and negative to each and every VFX technique. It's how they're used.
Old 06-22-06, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Terrell
I have said this at least half a dozen times or more on this forum. But nobody ever listens. Each of the Star Wars prequels used more miniatures than the original trilogy did combined. It also used more sets and set extensions than each original trilogy film. It's night and day only because there was a lot of CG in the prequels, and there was absolutely none in the original trilogy. The trilogies were made in two entirely different eras of VFX. Of course the prequels look different.
Yeah, remember going over that in the Oscar thread earlier this year. The prequels do have an extremely CG/Plastic look to them, regardless.

And to be honest, while Alien had cool alien design, the rest of the effects were pretty meh. The spaceship, which looked like it had christmas lights for, well, lights, particularly made me giggle. The problem with CG is many production companies see it as an easy-way out. CG works best when it compliments the scene, and isn't the scene itself.

Last edited by RichC2; 06-22-06 at 09:33 AM.
Old 06-22-06, 09:55 AM
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Numanoid

Fro me, it's real-world physics.
Yeah, fro me too.

das
Old 06-22-06, 09:58 AM
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To me it's easier to forgive bad effects in older movies because it reminds me of a play. Where simple things are meant to represent something else. Bad CGI comes off like an insult to the viewer, because it says "look at how awesome I look" even if it's terrible.

Another thing is the fact that models and props exist in reality. People, I believe, have an easier time believing in something that is tangible versus something that is not.
Old 06-22-06, 10:12 AM
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[QUOTE=Terrell]I have said this at least half a dozen times or more on this forum. But nobody ever listens. Each of the Star Wars prequels used more miniatures than the original trilogy did combined. It also used more sets and set extensions than each original trilogy film. It's night and day only because there was a lot of CG in the prequels, and there was absolutely none in the original trilogy. The trilogies were made in two entirely different eras of VFX. Of course the prequels look different.

Are you telling me that Hoth that was filmed in Sweden or Switzerland I believe isn't more realistic? Endor which was filmed in California isn't realistic?
Tatooine in both ANH & TPM doesn't look real?

Mustafar, Kamino, Geonosis, Kashykk, and Corusant all look like an animated movie that look cool on first look, but after a couple of times, don't hold their weight when looking at it realistically. Even if they are matte painting or not, they are not REAL environments.

That the problem with CG & Bluescreen through the whole movie, they don't feel like real environments. Say what you want about Endor, the actors look like they are really there, because they are.

And the nostalgia thing is getting old. How come it is only SW that the nostalgia argument comes out. Why can't I love the movies because they are great movies, and why can't I say I enjoy the Prequels, but they are not great movies, and are more like ROTJ, good but not great.
Old 06-22-06, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Numanoid
Fro me, it's real-world physics.

Even models have to obey the laws of gravity and physics. CGI doesn't, and they haven't quite perfected the physics algorithms yet. Even on the best examples, your brain can detect the subtle "that's not moving quite right" effect.


The other half from my perspective is that computer generators and the CG artists behind are getting better and better at replicating lighting and texture on surfaces - but not spot on, as of yet. I think CG scenery is reaching the point where it is breathtaking and can be forgotten as being "generated". However, especially with CG animals and unrealistic beings, the movement and the texture/lighting on the skin still seems to feel "replicated" and overexaggerated.

They're getting closer and closer as time goes on, but there's something magical about having a well-crafted prop on the set that adds a lifelike texture and feel to the scene. There is REAL texture in the prop that can be felt. The object's weight (referring to Numanoid's post) feels REAL in the scene, even if it may not be perfectly fluid in movement.
Old 06-22-06, 10:33 AM
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yeah, that CGI work in 'Cannibal Holocaust' looks really real....
Old 06-22-06, 10:47 AM
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I think the difference is epitmoized in Aliens where Hudson sticks his head though the ceiling of the infirmary to find they've swarmed all around. And the backwards movement of the creatures is slithery, yet not quite right, but chilling. I've never seen anything done with CGI that's had that same effect.

GCI movement reminds me of silent era movies being projected at the wrong speed.
Old 06-22-06, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Superboy
I was watching Aliens the other day, and I realized just how great the special effects are, and how they're superior in many ways to the CGI that was in Alien Ressurection and AVP. And furthering this discussion - what is it about model work that makes it seem superior to CGI generated images? i've always thought because it had a "real", more tangible quality to it than traditional CGI. Also, because CGI can draw things out in such clear cut ways, there's less artistic grunt work that has to be done. The Alien Queen was much more terrifying in Aliens than in AVP - maybe because it was so difficult to film the Alien Queen when it was a puppet, that they couldn't show as much of it as in AVP. I'm not saying that CGI work is easy, mind you, but it leaves very little to the imagination, because there are no physical limitations involved. It's the old maxim that "Jaws was great because you almost never saw the shark", because it looked so crappy they couldn't show it often, and when they did, it was only briefly.
The creatures look better than CGI because they were actually in the room with the actors. Other effects in that movie don't measure up, such as the toylike vehicles rolling down the model railroad streets of the mining colony and the terrible looking crash of the drop ship.

As for the new Star Wars movies, the CGI backgrounds look bad because they're unbelievable landscapes. The designers of these planets went too far over the top with rock formations, craters, etc.

Like any tool, CGI depends more on the artistry of the person using it.
Old 06-22-06, 10:48 AM
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For me I still perfer old ways of visual effects, example I like the old star wars to the new ones, I will even say it looks more real. There was texture almost like you could feel it, it was real. where the new star wars was too clean and shiny.


Thats why I love older monster movies etc. I mean CGI is great when used right, like King Kong, Jurrassic Park etc. and I theres so many moments in movies that you dont know that cgi is even used in the scene.
Old 06-22-06, 10:58 AM
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Terrell, let me ask you one question:

Would you have preferred Raiders of the Lost Ark like it is now shot on location in a real jungle, and real settings, or would you prefer it to be with the look of Kashykk in ROTS with Harrison Ford in front of bluescreen?

You tell me which one is more realistic looking?
Old 06-22-06, 11:27 AM
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Whether or not you hate CG backdrops, it's still a step-up from the distracting rear projection that was used from the 30's-80's.

Minimal CG effects seem to get the job done, i.e, a nail going through someone's mouth or an added bloodspurt from a knife wound.
But what I really got a problem with are the CG stunt doubles. Like Eddie W said above, just way too much fluidity on the body to make it look believable.
Old 06-22-06, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by coli
Terrell, let me ask you one question:

Would you have preferred Raiders of the Lost Ark like it is now shot on location in a real jungle, and real settings, or would you prefer it to be with the look of Kashykk in ROTS with Harrison Ford in front of bluescreen?

You tell me which one is more realistic looking?
A real jungle, obviously.

But Indiana Jones exists on earth, where we know exactly what the south american jungles look like. Wookies don't live in south american jungles (or on Endor ), they live on a planet we've never seen. Since we're always told Star Wars is fantasy, Kashykk can look however the hell GL wants it to look.
Old 06-22-06, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Jason
A real jungle, obviously.

But Indiana Jones exists on earth, where we know exactly what the south american jungles look like. Wookies don't live in south american jungles (or on Endor ), they live on a planet we've never seen. Since we're always told Star Wars is fantasy, Kashykk can look however the hell GL wants it to look.


I agree Lucas can make it look however he wants, but does Kashykk look real to you? Would you want a two hour movie of settings like that, where in my opinion they look very cartoonish.
Old 06-22-06, 12:05 PM
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There's something about those old-time model and blue-screen effects seem more tangible.
Old 06-22-06, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
Two words: Jurassic Park. No film has come close to the perfect blend of traditional effects and CGI since. Seamless.
That's always the first movie I think of as well when this topic comes up. Few films have come close to the perfection that is the combination of traditional and CGI effects. I can't think of too many movies that use CGI period that came as close to totally convincing you that what you were seeing was actually "real".

I also think it says a lot about the film industry as a whole considering that JP was released 13 long years ago, and a lot of "advancements" in technology have taken place since then. I don't think there's a question at all that studios have went to the extreme, depending on CGI far too much. That's not to say that there hasn't been some great flicks with CGI, don't take it like that.
Old 06-22-06, 12:31 PM
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I think CG, when used properly, has a lot more benefits than people give it credit for. Gollum anybody? How about
Spoiler:
Voldemort's
face in Harry Potter 4? I didn't even realize his face had been CGed when I watched this movie. They did an incredible job with that...

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