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CG vs Hand Drawn/Models for Large Objects in Sci Fi


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I`m really fascinated how some people say that CG looks good in comparison to hand drawn or large scale models in anime and science fiction.

The SDF-1 in DYRL vs the Macross Quarter in Macross F? The SDF-1 looks much heavier, textured and realer to me because it is hand drawn. The Quarter looks too smooth and light. Like a toy.

Have a look how great the AT-ATs look in Empire Strikes Back and then look at the Clone Armies in one of the new movies. No comparison. The large models in Empire look obviously better and realer - more massive.

I think for living things or smaller objects CG can work. Take the Ton tons in Empire done with stop motion. Not so good and CG would have looked a little better.

However I really think CG on EVERYTHING is just a trend and people like it because its new.

I know models cost more but in the future I think hi-end productions will go back to using models for large ships because it just looks fvcken great.

Do you think CG technology can ever match models for large ships etc? Or do you think it already has?

Edited by MilSpex
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Two words:

Battlestar Galactica

(and Battlestar Pegasus, while we're at it).

CG, when properly done (that is, with the right budget to provide a very detailed mesh and texture), can very appropriately match physical models.

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There is the "evil" in CG in that it allows "tweaking". Most notably, the Enterprise-E was modified between movies. (Well, the CG model was, the "real" one wasn't). Nacelles were moved back and up, with the pylons re-shaped to accomodate. It's supposed to "look better" but it totally violates all sense/canon to do so. Plus the saucer extensions which remove the possibility of saucer separation. (the E was designed to separate, plenty of drawings from its creator showing such)

Real models are of course modified, but only with good sense/reason, since you have to physically go and make the changes. You don't change the tilt of a large part of it by 2.4 degrees to "look" better just because you can do it with 2 mouse clicks.

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Large scale models are still used in the movie business, they just do a lot of post production and CG tweaking to them that people no longer can tell what is a physical model and what is CG these days. The LOTR movies used a lot of CG enhanced physical models as the base for their large sweeping building/scenery shots.

One thing to keep in mind is that it' all about the "evil pyramid". The evil production pyramid is: You can have something be two of the three... cheap, fast or good. When it comes to effects shots, most of the time they have minimal time to perform them in. Which means they then either get by doing them cheap... or doing them good (and expensive). The expensive shots look... well, expensive. They look like someone spent a ton of time and money making the best possible shot they could make. But a lot of the time, especially in the television market, effects shots are not quite as polished or as produced as they are for multi hundred million dollar movies.

To a good degree that is possibly where your complaint stems from: Budget. CG can and does match physical models in all areas... provided it is done to a good enough quality level. Just like a physical model, if you "rush" CG it looks like crap. It clashes and just looks "wrong" against your shot footage. At the same time if you rush building a miniature or model then it "looks like a model" and people will complain about "seeing the strings".

I think the "fault" of CG is not that it is overused, but that people think they instantly "know" what is a CG effects shot, focus on it and then pick it apart. Some of the best CG effects shots in movies today go completely unnoticed. People really only pick up on the overt, the in your face pink dinosaur driving a cadillac effects shot. They hem and haw about how the dinosaur looks plasticy, how the cadillac looks like a toy and how it moves like a puppet on strings... the whole time they miss the fact that the entire city behind the car driving dinosaur is CG as well. And so is the sky... and that big patch of trees.

Then again when you are talking about "realism" in CG you run the risk of entering the "uncanny valley", the place where something artificial looks so real yet it is missing that certain intangible, indescribable thing that would give it that final push into reality. I think that once the CG world figures out how to property push through the uncanny valley we will reach a point where CG and reality are completely indistinguishable... then again folks will always complain that they can "see the wires" no matter how good you make something.

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JsArclight makes a ton of good points - I will comment based on some movies...

Spideman two is a good example of mixing CG with models. The scenography of the place where Doc Oc and Spidy have their final battle is a giant model - even the water is real.

Nevertheless, the crew went and CGed the whole thing to make it look "better" - even rendering more texture to the water.

The train fight scene is a mix of real footage of Chicago and CG footage of Chicago (and to make the CG footage of Chicago they had to go shoot footage of Chicago anyways).

I think what we're seeing is a bit of a competition between the CG guys and the model/visual effects guys.

Every time the visual effects guys say "look we can do this scene more realistic!" the CG guys get edgy and are determined to show that they can do it on computer.

The best directors hone both elements and get the best of both worlds (Michael Bay's Transformers is a great example of the best of both worlds).

Lucas did the entire prequel in CG because Lucas is a revolutionary and crazy - and since no one had ever done an entire film in Blue Screen - and he had the budget to do whatever the flip he wanted with SW - he did it in blue screen - so whatever we say about Phantom Menace and the other prequels - we have to admit that Lucas pushed the limits of what is possible.

Personally - I do tend to prefer models; but I wonder whether a lot of that is due to the fact that I am an old fellow who is sentimental about certain visual effects.

Heck - I love Terminator and Alien, but I am not so excited about Termintor 3 and Alien IV...

Why?

Because part of what I love is that back then - with no fancy computer gizmos to render what they wanted - people worked their butts off to make the things look real AND had to LIMIT how much screen time the scary real things got - this made them EVEN SCARIER.

Nowadays CG lets us put a trillion aliens on screen or a million terminators - it lets Doc Oc and Spidy do a gazilion "cool" movements in their fights.

This dilutes the "surprise!" factor we feel when we see something suddenly out of the ordinary.

This is why, ironically, GOOD ACTING is becoming more crucial to the success of CG enhanced movies.

Look again at Transformers: the film would have flopped without Shea Labeuf and the likes of John Torriceli giving it that surrealistic romping stomping good time feel. Having the Pope onboard also helped. Without good acting and good character interaction; CG enhanced films risk becoming extremely banal.

In the original Star Wars trilogy - the bad acting was not important - the visuals were so awesome and the scope so grand that we just forgave them.

But in the prequels; since the CG has made us EXPECT "incredible" things happening every 2 seconds - the bad acting and plot problems came out more visibly than they would have otherwise.

As to whether CG will cease being so widly employed: I don't think so. It will continue to be improved to the point of making actors and actresses a thing of the past.

In the future, films will be tailored to individual needs; produced and directed by computers which we can hook up to and which record a personal emotional and psychological history profile on us and tailor our movies to what we expect, dream of, fear, want etc. In fact - we'll probably be IN our movies.

Movies in the future will be like Total Recall. People who want to see a movie will just go to the company like Arnie did to buy a vacation - only they'll just buy a LIFE - literally.

We will all want to be hooked into the Matrix.

Eventually - humanity will actually allow itself to serve as batteries for super intelligent machines which promise to put us into a fantasy paradise of our own choosing.

It's a matter of time - it is our destiny as humans.

we will either annihalate ourselves by war - or we will voluntarily become organic batteries powering super computers which in turn fulfill our deepest desires and fantasies - even perhaps giving us the illusion of immortality as our bodies slowly decompose.

VFTF1

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I`m really fascinated how some people say that CG looks good in comparison to hand drawn or large scale models in anime and science fiction.

3D in anime is extremely hard to get 'right'. Strain got the closest before they brought in the spaceships then it went down hill.

Old school SDF has line detail that "implies" something else and a new 3D versions have huge amounts of easily seen detail. So far the 2 design ideals just haven't met. Macross Frontier is a clean example of mismatched ideals. With it's low end character detail and it's high end mechanical detail.

Do you think CG technology can ever match models for large ships etc? Or do you think it already has?

In time when the 20's-30's somethings have died off and they are willing to throw money at getting it right. :lol:

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Check out the "Art of..." books of SW EP 1-3, you'll be amazed just how many physical models were used in the FX shots. The modelers did a perfect job in making it impossible to distinguish the physical models from the CG sets.

At the same time, I was totally surprised to learn that no single clone trooper costume was build for EP II. The animation/motion capturing was perfect.

Edited by electric indigo
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Actually I've been thinking about this and I think I've figure out what bugs me about modern CG in movies... the "fake" cameras.

Old school model movies used very restrictive camera motions in which you really only saw the models doing very simple things in very reserved, staid paths. This was more or less a limitation of the technology but it "balanced" the effects shots with the practical shots. You'd cut from a conventional camera shot with the actors to a conventional camera shot of the effect.

Today CG has enabled directors to create their own worlds and scenes but it has also allowed directors to "take the camera off the dolly" and make some really outlandish shots. Many directors keep their "fake" cameras on a nice leash but some directors take it too far. They envision these totally freaked out camera paths and motions that they could not achieve practically and to a degree it's that element that really makes me step back and say "wow, this looks totally fake". There are just some CG shots in today's movies that would "sell" so much better had they had a more traditional camera move... but instead they have some crazy sweeping camera shot that just screams "this is an effects shot". Usually those shots are the 100% effect, zero practical ones... whereas the shots that are comped, that feature prominent real scale elements and actors, IMHO turn out the best.

A movie that exemplifies this in my mind is Peter Jackson's King Kong... some shots that are obviously CG'ed / effects out the ass / exist only in a Mac G5 and look very good and others just look corny. Most of the time the effects shots that look corny to me are the ones that seem like the director said something like "wouldn't it be cool if we could like... take the camera and start it upside down, then move it to a top down shot, then track the hero along the edge, then move to a super low angle...". Yes it's "dynamic" and all, but a shot like that just hammers home the "fake" so much more to me.

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Check out the "Art of..." books of SW EP 1-3, you'll be amazed just how many physical models were used in the FX shots. The modelers did a perfect job in making it impossible to distinguish the physical models from the CG sets.

Quoted for truth. The number of times I saw people bitching about "zomg teh CGI" on these boards about shots that in fact were executed with scale models proves that most people prefer to talk out of their asses on the matter. Then when cornered on the matter, they'll usually resort to some emotional argument, citing how "it feels like this" or "the love in that." :rolleyes:

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This starting to remind me of an article I read on the making of the Iron Man movie. Looking over some of the scenes, Favreau would ask them about how well the suit had worked filming that shot, only to be informed that it was CGed. In another scene, he comlained that the suit looked too CGed, and it had been the physiical suit, there.

I just wish they'd loose shaky cam FX shots. I can see it being used occasionaly, for more impact, But, when they use it in every freekin' scene it gets kind of annoying.

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Check out the "Art of..." books of SW EP 1-3, you'll be amazed just how many physical models were used in the FX shots. The modelers did a perfect job in making it impossible to distinguish the physical models from the CG sets.

I suggest that you re-read those SW "Art of..." books because many, if not all, of those models were concept sculpts and not practical models. Sculpts that were then scanned into digital by the folks at ILM. Lucas learned a lot from Ep 1 and eps 2 & 3 show that with a better mixture of FX.

Also those SW were polished by digital artists to ensure it worked.

@JsARCLIGHT, I completely agree with you! That 'impossible shot' tends to break the immersion that the producer/director/writer intents with the scene/world. Very distracting. <_<

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im with js on the fake camera path thing...that's always bugged me the most about movies based in reality that work in too much cg. You want to make it look realistic, put the time and energy into the models and animation and then stick with cameras that are possible in real life. You'll get a much more believable piece and you'll draw the audience in.

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I suggest that you re-read those SW "Art of..." books because many, if not all, of those models were concept sculpts and not practical models. Sculpts that were then scanned into digital by the folks at ILM.

While there was a large number of conceptual models that were photographed for textures and lighting reference, there was also a large number of physical sets that were build & filmed in miniature. Of course the shots of these models were enhanced with additional CG elements and matte paintings, but this is still different from an all CG surrounding.

Examples: The pod racer hangar, architecture on Naboo & Coruscant (interior & exterior), Tipoca city, Mos Espa. The list is endless.

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Wrong.

Well, not entirely, actually. The "Art of..." books show indeed only the conceptual models, while the filming models can be found in the Cinefex issues or the "Making of..." books.

post-1187-1211116024_thumb.jpg

Looking at the books again makes me cry a bit, because they show how great the prequels could have been...

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At the same time, I was totally surprised to learn that no single clone trooper costume was build for EP II. The animation/motion capturing was perfect.

I`m not suprised. The Clone soldiers looked like crap.

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Part of the problem is the age of the technology involved. Models and stop-motion effects have been used since Ray Harryhausen did the magic in Jason and the Argonauts. If you go back and watch it, you'll see how crude and stilted the animation was, but the medium was in its infancy. George Lucas stepped model-filming up several notches with Star Wars, and the technology has just gone higher from there. CGI is still (reletivly) in its infancy and, while amazing in what it can do, there is still major room for improvement. CGI is smack-dab in the middle of the uncanny valley and is slowly digging itself out. Give it time to grow up and it'll become even more amazing than it is now.

I just wish they'd loose shaky cam FX shots. I can see it being used occasionaly, for more impact, But, when they use it in every freekin' scene it gets kind of annoying.

Amen. I despise that shaky-cam style of filmaking with a passion.

EDIT: me no speel reight.

Edited by CoryHolmes
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