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Filmmakers Reviving Sci-fi By Going Old School

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the back-to-basics dept.

Movies 422

jjp9999 writes "The special effects arms race sci-fi films get stuck in has pulled the genre further and further from its roots of good storytelling and forward-thinking. The problem is that 'When you create elements of a shot entirely in a computer, you have to generate everything that physics and the natural world offers you from scratch There's a richness and texture when you're working with lenses and light that can't be replicated. The goal of special effects shouldn't necessarily be to look realistic, they should be works of art themselves and help create a mood or tell a story.' said filmmakers Derek Van Gorder and Otto Stockmeier. They hope to change this with their upcoming sci-fi film, 'C,' which will be shot entirely without CGI or green screens, opting instead for miniature models and creativity. They add that the sci-fi genre has gone wrong in other ways—getting itself stuck in too many stories of mankind's conflict with technology, and further from the idea of exploration and human advancement. 'In an era where science and technology are too often vilified, we believe that science-fiction should inspire us to surpass our limits and use the tools available to us to create a better future for our descendants,' they said."

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Dunno... (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38265974)

The problem is that 'When you create elements of a shot entirely in a computer, you have to generate everything that physics and the natural world offers you from scratch

I don't see that as a problem, and the thing is, with GCI you can do things that are impossible, impractical, or incredibly dangerous without it.

I was impressed with Apollo 13. I don't know if they used models or CGI for the outside the capsule shots, but the weightless scenes were shot in the Vomit Comet" [wikipedia.org] .

The goal of special effects shouldn't necessarily be to look realistic, they should be works of art themselves and help create a mood or tell a story.

I disagree; unless you're shooting a cartoon, everything should be as realistic and beleivable as possible. And everything in the movie should strive to be a work of art in itself.

They hope to change this with their upcoming sci-fi film, 'C,' which will be shot entirely without CGI or green screens

Yeah, do that scene in Star Trek where Spock walks into the lift from one part of the ship and walks back out in another. Without a green screen they'd have had to have an acutual elevator.

I think it a bit ironic that a sci-fi movie would eschew real-world technology.

Re:Dunno... (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266210)

About the Spock elevator thing, that was ridiculous. No turbolift has ever been depicted operating that fast. It was a completely stupid shot.

Re:Dunno... (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266236)

I disagree with you on the realism aspect.

There is lots of times when one may not want something to be realistic looking, and that does not necessarily make it "bad".

A Scanner Darkly for instance, they could have saved a lot of work on making the movie by not rotoscoping it. However I think it worked well for the movie.

Re:Dunno... (5, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266660)

I disagree with your disagreement. When you go in to see sci-fi (or horror, or a lot of other movies), you generally accept an unbelievable premise but expect that, given the premise, everything that follows should be believable. Willful suspension of disbelief. When you see a terrible, unrealistic special effect, it snaps you out of that "zone." I'd rather not see it at all than see it badly.

Re:Dunno... (2)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266768)

When you see a terrible, unrealistic special effect, it snaps you out of that "zone."

Far too often, though, that is exactly what you get if you watch a CGI-filled movie that's more than a year old. Meanwhile model-based special effects can last significantly longer.

Maybe this is a passing thing and eventually CGI will be good enough to last forever. But it certainly isn't yet. CGI things still shimmer wrong.

Re:Dunno... (4, Insightful)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266240)

Rotate the "elevator" to the other side of the set.

Working in theater, we didn't have green screens. A well written story will pull the viewer in and suddenly, all becomes real. Don't get me wrong, i do enjoy a good movie, but special effects are for the lazy of mind.

Re:Dunno... (5, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266256)

Yeah, do that scene in Star Trek where Spock walks into the lift from one part of the ship and walks back out in another.

You know they did that in the original series, right? Without green screens. They just rotated sets while the door was closed. One of the oldest tricks in the book AND it looks even more realistic.

Re:Dunno... (5, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266480)

Yeah, do that scene in Star Trek where Spock walks into the lift from one part of the ship and walks back out in another. Without a green screen they'd have had to have an acutual elevator.

You underestimate the ingenuity of SFX artists. Take the elevator sequence in Men in Black, when J first arrives at the MiB headquarters proper. They walk into an elevator, the elevator descends, and they walk out, all in one travelling shot with no room for hiding transitions between sets with cuts. But they didn't build an elevator, it's just a room with a door at either end and some moving lights to give the illusion of movement. But even with that knowledge, go back and watch the scene, and try and convince your brain that the elevator is not moving.

Personally, I've seen very little CG that comes close to looking as good as even half-decent miniature work. As an example; to model a nice, real looking explosion in CG takes a phenomenal amount of effort with physics simulation of the debris, optical simulation of light filtering through the smoke, etc. With miniature effects, you put some dirt on a squib and use a higher frame rate. In-camera effects work a hell of a lot better than CG in almost all cases, because instead of having to simulate every physical process going on you can just use the actual physical processes going on. Of course eschewing CG entirely is silly, but it's definitely become overused to the point of "we'll do that in post" becoming a mantra, and "slap on some greebles" has been substituted for putting actual effort into designs.

The last decent science fiction film I saw was Contagion, and the only CG in that was on monitors. Moon also had some really nice miniature work and set design (though also some really glaring plot holes).

Finally, when you don't have to render your frames individually, you can greatly increase the framerate without a commensurate huge increase in time and budget. The best thing about cinemas installing stereo 3D projectors is that it also means that by default they've installed 48fps or 96fps 2D projectors.

Re:Dunno... (2)

umghhh (965931) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266510)

I think the main point is the story. There is nothing that effects can do that works without story. Matrixes did work because there was a story. I did watch big parts of star wars saga in 2/evening pace and I was shocked how infantile the 'first' (later) parts were in comparison to the one made originally. The same applies to 3d - what do I need this horse shit for if there is no story? The guys exaggerate a bit with their quest for no CGI but if they can create the same with models why not?

Re:Dunno... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266728)

Oohh... bashing the PT. I agree your assessment, though. A film (or any show) is a pyramid with concept and story as the foundation... without the story, nothing will save it from sucking.

Re:Dunno... (2)

farrellj (563) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266716)

It's all about how well the film makers can can tell a story. Too many SF movies are created by people who are enamoured with the *idea* of SF, but who know almost *nothing* about SF. This is this is similar to people who try to sell steaks based upon their sizzle, rather than how the meat tastes.

I love your comment about how they used the Turbolift in Star Trek...that is a *classic* story telling device. And it doesn't depend on on any SFX.

Similarly, It doesn't matter if the SFX are done digitally, or with models....if you are telling a good enough story, it won't matter. That is why theatre works, it's all about the story, not the props, or the sets...but how the story is portrayed by the actors.

A good example of this is the movie Dark Star. Crap SFX, but a compelling a twisted story, and this movie is a cult classic. Who wrote and produced it? John Carpenter, and Dan O'Bannon. Watch it. These guys understand SF, and that is why these people went on to produce some of the classic SF and Horror films of our day.

Well.. (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38265980)

The points these people are trying to make in doing this have been seen and well documented with the degredation of the Original Star Wars films, the more they mess with them the worse they get.

Re:degradation (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266170)

On the other hand, without *any* help from CGI, you have to be really good not to avoid all the pitfalls that the old school techniques fell into.

I think a good approach is a blend, use sets and that old tech just to get the natural basics etc, then CGI on top of it.

Re:pitfalls (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266212)

bleh sorry I didn't proofread, I scrambled my point

"to avoid and not to fall into the pitfalls".

Re:Well.. (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266230)

I attribute that more to the fact that George Lucas directed. Something that didn't happen with the original trilogy. Besides which, the orginal trilogy's CGI was no less cutting edge for it's time than the prequel trilogy's is for it's day. Lightsabers, hovercars, holoprojectors, it was 1977 for goodness sake!!

Re:Well.. (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266526)

George Lucas directed New Hope

Re:Well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266252)

That may be the point they are trying to make, but too me there point seems to be that models and 'old school' pre cgi are better than modern special effects.
I don't have any problem with cgi, it is as you say the over use that is the problem, but if you have the 'discipline' to not use cgi at all, you should have the discipline to just not over use it.

Re:Well.. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266548)

Star Wars wasn't "science fiction", it was a _fantasy_ morality play series for children.

Re:Well.. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266746)

And Heinlein's stuff was .... ?

Bullshit. (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#38265988)

Derek Van Gorder and Otto Stockmeier? WHO? The real reason that their film will be shot entirely without CGI or green screens is more likely that they can't afford CGI.

It's *not* the CGI, it's the tripe that producers and directors *DO* with it.

Re:Bullshit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266122)

Arrogant prick.

Re:Bullshit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266312)

your mother has a penis.

Re:Bullshit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266154)

You do realize that CGI and greenscreen is WAY cheaper than the model and set-based filming they are doing, don't you?

  Why do you think i caught on so quickly in Hollywood, even when it wasn't nearly ready for prime time? Heck, I've heard several interviews where Lucas himself gave cost as the primary justification for using CGI in the new Star Wars films.

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266268)

You do realize that CGI and greenscreen is WAY cheaper than the model and set-based filming they are doing, don't you?

He's not talking about the crap you pound out on your Mac. These goods *can not* afford either the computers nor the CGI artists to run them.

They're going to be building spaceships from plastic model kits, dude.

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266280)

You do realize that CGI and greenscreen is WAY cheaper than the model and set-based filming they are doing, don't you?

Not really. Good CGI isn't cheap. I think that's the real source of their complaint; there's so much CGI crap out there because producers and directors see it as a short-cut to professional results and it's not.

(captcha: ordinary)

Re:Bullshit. (3, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266360)

You do realize that CGI and greenscreen is WAY cheaper than the model and set-based filming they are doing, don't you?

That completely depends on what you do with the CGI and the complexity of it. If you use a green-screen instead of building a huge set and mostly just do composition, sure that can be a good bit cheaper. On the other side doing a bit of makeup and going into the next forest is a heck of a lot cheaper then trying to replicate all that detail in 3D via CGI Avatar-style.

If you look at the budgets of current day blockbusters compared to what they had in the 80's, prices haven't exactly gone down, even so CGI is used almost everywhere.

Re:Bullshit. (4, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266168)

Exactly. Pixar films are entirely CGI, and I don't hear anyone calling them soulless or lifeless. Not even the Cars films.

But hating on CGI is an unfortunate geek trope.

Re:Bullshit. (3, Informative)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266426)

Maybe they're just trying to make a point? They don't seem to say that nothing should ever be done in CGI, I think they're just saying that it has its place. Sure, some things, even goodthings, are entirely in CGI (well, actually, a lot of those "completely CGI" films use motion capture, so they're not really completely CGI; with exceptions, e.g. Ratatouille), but who among us would disagree that a bit less CGI would have made the acting in the Star Wars prequels less, let's say, plastic?

Re:Bullshit. (2)

strack (1051390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266650)

the cgi in the prequels should have had more respect for physical reality and movement, and been a bit less ridiculous and cartoonish

Re:Bullshit. (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266732)

Well I was also referring to the excessive green screening, that made a talented actor like Portman look like some B-movie extra.

Re:Bullshit. (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266702)

Actually, there is one very god example of sci-fi movie, without (almost) CGI, and it is "BattleStar Galactica". StarGate Universe also looks promising, but unfortunately, they have run out of fresh ideas...And of course, lets not forget "Fringe".

Really? (1)

oGMo (379) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266502)

Is this a geek trope or some sort of pretentious "vinyl sounds better than CDs"/"old stuff is more real" sort of thing? That's not geeky. Geeky is going to SIGGRAPH, developing 3D tools and hardware, etc. I'm not sure what sort of geek normally hates Computer Generated Imagery.

(Though, geeks hating the other CGI [wikipedia.org] makes sense, I'd say.)

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266516)

I called them souless and lifeless. Have you seen any GOOD Japanese anime? Akira, entire studio gimli, Princess Monokoke, ghost in the shell, or french such as the works of Rene Laloux http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0482537/, or GOOD american such as the works of Ralph Bakashi http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000835/. Pixar has boring, cliched stories. They are lifeless and incomparable to original works by almost any other animator.

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266400)

The big of special FX movie of the past few years I want to see the most is The Fall which is supposed to be be mind-blowingly beautiful, and uses absolutely no CGI. Take a look at the previews.
 
The problem for me is that whatever flaws there are in CGI effects tend to distract me much more than whatever flaws I find in physical special effects. In fact, the few memorable times I've had trouble with physical FX in my adult life have been times where I've had inaccurate expectations. For instance: watching the ferry crashing down the river in Fitzcarraldo, I knew beforehand that it was a real ferry Herzog basically destroyed on camera, but it looked like a toy to me. I'm not really anti-CGI -- I have no complaints about its use in Pan's Labyrinth, for instance -- but it think it's typically very poorly used, and often in scenes where physical FX would work better.

Re:Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266498)

The question here is that these guys appear to be saying: Since there have been so many bad films with lots of CGI, doing a film without CGI will grant that our film will be great! And posting this senseless idea in /. will give us some much needed publicity!

Really nothing to see here, move along please...

Sounds like someone saw Hugo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38265992)

One of the oft-leveled criticisms of CGI movies is their lack of soul. But rather than removing special effects altogether (which I suspect is a primarily cost-centered move anyway) I feel they should be treated differently.

Start by calling it by the correct name (-1, Troll)

trolman (648780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266020)

It is called Science Fiction.

"Never underestimate the potential of Human stupidity." --Heinlein

Re:Start by calling it by the correct name (2)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266130)

"Never underestimate the potential of Human stupidity." --Heinlein

Given that the trend is that the majority neither understands science nor knows what fiction is, we are on target.

CC.

Re:Start by calling it by the correct name (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266386)

I'm a fan of hard, oldskool science fiction, and I don't see any problem calling it sci-fi. I would prefer the original name "scientifiction" though.

Re:Start by calling it by the correct name (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266678)

I wouldn't sully that name by calling anything out of Hollywood by it. They barely manage 'fiction', never mind 'science'.

we need a scifi channel not owned by NBC comcast (-1, Offtopic)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266026)

As they have took a lot out of it and soon it may just be come NBC sports network 2 or they can merge g4 into it.

Re:we need a scifi channel not owned by NBC comcas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266478)

Super secret intern info: You hit the nail on the head. Syfy is merging with G4 in the spring. Syfy will stay the channel but it will be G4 programming at night.

Similar to Cartoon Network and their Adult Swim shows

Reminds me of Moon (4, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266060)

Moon didn't eschew CGI and other effects completely, but it *did* make use of more model work than most of the SF movies I've seen recently. I think it's one of the reasons why I liked it so much.

There's a certain something about model shots in movies that CGI just doesn't quite match. Possible the models are actually less "real looking" than the CGI in some way, but there's something undeniably real and tangible about a model shot that CGI can very rarely deliver.

Re:Reminds me of Moon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266208)

There's a certain something about model shots in movies that CGI just doesn't quite match.

I don't know, it's been a while since I watched the "making of" documentary on the Star Trek DVD, but they spoke of the CGI and the tricks they used to make it look like film and models rather than CGI. It looke real to me.

You need a script before you even discuss HOW. (4, Insightful)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266078)

Yey, another win for planning your process ahead of knowing where your process is going.

Without a script, how do they even know they don't want CGI. Maybe it'll happen not to need it - suddenly their "NO CGI!!!" isn't so meaningful anymore.

Re:You need a script before you even discuss HOW. (3, Insightful)

ghjm (8918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266436)

They have a script. Their decision to avoid CGI *and green screens* is pretty radical, considering that their script is interstellar space opera.

Serenity, case in point (5, Interesting)

Droog57 (2516452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266102)

Fans of Firefly, the old Joss Wheadon Fox Sci-fi show that was fan-driven into a movie a la Star Trek TOS, will understand this argument. That was a (damn good) story driven show/movie with limited and low cost CGI, but still managed to innovative. I remember reading somewhere (OK don't kill me, but I did read it years ago) that the Serenity movie was the first to use a virtual camera style that moved around a lot giving an effect almost like a hand held camera. Have noticed that style of CGI in many movies over the last few years, and I suspect that CGI in general is not as expensive as George Lucas would have us believe. There is probably good software solutions out for that industry, pop in a model and manipulate the shot. Why not, "we have the technology..."

Re:Serenity, case in point (1)

jitterman (987991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266220)

"Agree" post here.

In addition, whether or not individuals liked BSG "2.0," sure there were lots of effects, but the story was the point behind the series, not the scenery. Another example of how sci-fi film/TV should be approached.

Re:Serenity, case in point (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266356)

To bad that the Serenity movie suffered the problem of many post show movies. It was not good. As much as I loved the show but the movie simply was not the show anymore. The actors partially were not into the role anymore, the script did not have the vibe of the shows anymore, and to the worst, the part of Morena Baccarin (which was my favorite on the show) was cut down to a minimum and she was not able to get into her role anymore.
Classical fate of a post show movie.
I would have loved to see Firefly live more than one movie, but the movie simply did not cut it to justify another one.

What about frame rates? (5, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266114)

I'd like to see something shot at faster than 24fps. Having fast motion turn into nothing but a smear it getting kind of annoying.

Re:What about frame rates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266544)

The whole point of the "shaky camera technique" used in garbage like 28 Days Later is that they can't afford decent special effects so they don't want you to see stuff. If FPS shooting rate is up for negotiation, expect it to go down.

Re:What about frame rates? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266642)

Turn on a TV. 60fps baby. Enjoy.

I Blame Michael Bay (1)

Kagato (116051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266126)

I blame Michael Bay. His stories are just vehicles for his elaborate FX sequences. And I blame the general public for seeing his crappy films enough where he'll keep scoring great sci-fi franchises that deserve a better director. It's not that I don't enjoy his FX serquences, but the plot, dialog and direction aren't even as good as the Star Wars prequels. That's a pretty low bar to start with. DO NOT WANT.

Re:I Blame Michael Bay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266636)

What about Spielberg? Sure, his films might have had less FX than Bay's (but they were earlier) and a little (not much) more script, but with him there was already a lot of "forget the script and watch the fireworks".

Of course, the real culprit is not anyone else than the public, who will promptly consume as much shit as it is produced, as long it is canned with enough FX.

And don't forgive that film is a show, an spectacle. Grandious FX have been an important part of it since the beginning ("The Ten Commandments", "Metropolis"). Maybe the issue is that now you can use FX for the entire length of the film (instead of a few selected scenes to entice the public). Maybe the problem does not exist at all, bad and good films flourish with good FX but the bad ones just get forgotten over time.

What a funny way to justify a small budget (2)

webbiedave (1631473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266132)

It makes Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus look like a real thinker.

C? (3, Funny)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266138)

So what is C? I did a Google search and the term "c film" returns wonderful results such as:
C-film: a new spermicidal contraceptive.
B movie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
C-film: A new vaginal contraceptive - Elsevier
Coating paper, coating color: Cargill C*Film starche for papermaking ...

Re:C? (2)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266282)

C-film: a new spermicidal contraceptive.
New? I remember it being new in the 1980s. I also remember it being demonstrated to be jolly unreliable, before (I hasten to add) I had any reason to be involved in the use of such a product. Keep wearing those condoms, kids!

Re:C? (2)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266448)

Reading The Fine Article provides some links to follow. If you did, you would wind up on their KickStarter Page [kickstarter.com] . That page includes a short trailer as well.

Re:C? (2)

sunbird (96442) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266604)

There is also the film's website. [c-themovie.com] Which, of course, appears to be /.'d.

Sounds fun... (1)

bhunachchicken (834243) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266146)

Although, at the same time I'm a little nervous that this may end up looking a bit too much like Red Dwarf, Space 1999.... or Team Amercia :|

Re:Sounds fun... (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266394)

Or Starship Troopers or The Fifth Element, both of which used models extensively with green screen compositing and CGI. Seriously, check out the special features on the Fifth Element DVD, the New New York scenes were mostly done in a giant model.

Re:Sounds fun... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266484)

Oh, also, counterpoints: The Thing (1982) vs The Thing (2011), Star Wars 4-6 vs Star Wars 1-3.

Lets see what he can do (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266158)

You know, there are many great sci-fi films that came out using these old school techniques. If the story is captivating and the modelling is done right, sets, costumes, etc; it could be something really cool. Lets see what this guy can do to backup his claims.

Re:Lets see what he can do (1)

TehBanz (2525000) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266272)

I agree, not to mention there's a certain "Charm" associated with these old-school methods! I'm a huge fan of 70's~80's Japanese Toukatsu and most of those used similar methodology, while looking horrendously corny that's where the charm comes in! I'll go see it in theaters (if it makes it there!)

Re:Lets see what he can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266434)

I agree, not to mention there's a certain "Charm" associated with these old-school methods! I'm a huge fan of 70's~80's Japanese Toukatsu and most of those used similar methodology, while looking horrendously corny that's where the charm comes in! I'll go see it in theaters (if it makes it there!)

No, 70 and 80s era tokusatsu shows had charm because most of us saw them when we were kids.
Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, but it also tends to distort the real value of those shows.

Koseidon
I-Zenborg
Megaloman
San Ku Kai
Spetraman etc.... all Corny to the 10th degree.
The Charm was in the novelty and age of the viewers.

Re:Lets see what he can do (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266600)

I see the potential too, but my concern is, you can't go back. Classic Mustangs are still cool today because they were so cool then, but release the identical car today, and it would be a laughable. The 1966 V8 Mustang had a quarter-mile time right in line with a modern Toyota Camry.

What he really said.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266172)

The special effects arms race sci-fi films get stuck in has pulled the genre further and further from its roots of good storytelling and forward-thinking.

No one will give us a decent FX budget.

The problem is that 'When you create elements of a shot entirely in a computer, you have to generate everything that physics and the natural world offers you from scratch There's a richness and texture when you're working with lenses and light that can't be replicated.

We're pretty good with a camera anyways so we will just shoot it without effects.

 

The goal of special effects shouldn't necessarily be to look realistic, they should be works of art themselves and help create a mood or tell a story.'

We'll still do some cheap-o matts and maybe some models.

The sci-fi genre has gone wrong in other ways—getting itself stuck in too many stories of mankind's conflict with technology, and further from the idea of exploration and human advancement. 'In an era where science and technology are too often vilified, we believe that science-fiction should inspire us to surpass our limits and use the tools available to us to create a better future for our descendants,' they said."

We can't really come up with a SF story that can be made with effects so we're just making a regular movie and adding ray guns and shiny computers.

As a VFX practitioner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266192)

For one thing, it's visual effects, not special effects. Special effects is explosions and whatnot.

So, how are they going to shoot heir models? All of Star Wars models were shot over blue screen - it is true that they were composited optically and no digitally, but you have to use some kind of process photography.

I agree that with models one gets a lot of realism "for free", dirt and weathering for example. There is a place for everything.

I eagerly await the new Godzilla and Mothra battle (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266194)

I always loved those model ships in a bathtub being attacked by Godzilla scenes.

Now if they can only re-animate Raymond Burr.

Re:I eagerly await the new Godzilla and Mothra bat (5, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266296)

"Now if they can only re-animate Raymond Burr."

Hire Rosie O'Donnell, trim the excess body hair, and have at it.

Surpass our limits and use the tools available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266226)

By not surpassing our limits and not using the tools available.

2011's The Thing is a perfect example (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266260)

Look at the special effects in The Thing (prequel, from this year). They're nowhere near as scary as the original. They don't look any more real IMO. The special effects in the original were disgusting and horrifying. The new one just looks like the necromorphs from Dead Space.

Re:2011's The Thing is a perfect example (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266662)

I find your description (I've not seen the movie myself yet) amusing and ironic given that Dead Space's Necromorphs were so obviously and blatantly based on The Thing.

Dark Star (1)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266262)

Proof that sci-fi doesn't need fancy effects to make a great film [youtube.com] .

Re:Dark Star (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266348)

Moon was also done on a tiny (by today's standards) effects budget, the outdoor scenes were just miniatures.

What? (1)

BMOC (2478408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266270)

The goal of special effects shouldn't necessarily be to look realistic, they should be works of art themselves and help create a mood or tell a story.'

So are they saying that CGI artists are not artists? I know a lot of people who would disagree.

Film is much more than just visuals (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266278)

If you want to create a good scifi movie, they should start with creating a good story. Otherwise, they will just end up with another Space Odyssey.

Wrong capitalization (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266294)

The usual capitalization for the speed of light is lowercase c not uppercase.

Roddenberry (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266324)

They add that the sci-fi genre has gone wrong in other waysâ"getting itself stuck in too many stories of mankind's conflict with technology, and further from the idea of exploration and human advancement. 'In an era where science and technology are too often vilified, we believe that science-fiction should inspire us to surpass our limits and use the tools available to us to create a better future for our descendants,' they said."

Sounds like something Gene Roddenberry would have said.

Nope, sorry (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266358)

Things that are clearly props don't look good any more than obvious CGI does, unless you're going for a "Who framed Roger Rabbit?" style movie. Toy scale models don't act like the real thing would either. Early CGI often looked too clean, too perfect, too cartoonish but recently they look more real than you can manage with rubber masks.

Of course "realism" in sci-fi is relative to the context. If there's a shot of the Enterprise I want to think that's a real space ship, not a cardboard prop or a computer animation. I want to think it's a "real" spaceship. Same with various monsters, I want to think that's a real monster, not a guy wearing a monster suit nor a badly painted in CGI monster.

Take something like Gollum, I don't really consider that he's a CGI character and the hobbits are real actors. Both do a good job of looking very different compared to the humans, they don't look like humanoids with pointy ears like series who had to rely on human actors had to. The actors in Avator too, even though the world is a bit of an acid trip in colors.

Yes and No. (4, Informative)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266372)

I disagree that there's anything inherent to CGI that is less artistic than physical model building, and i also disagree that there is any practical effect that cannot be duplicated by a computer (given enough desire to do so).

i do agree wholeheartedly that the focus on special effects arms race comes at the expense of good storytelling and forward thinking, which is the true value of Sci-Fi. but how is vowing to use only practical effects not just another special effects gimmick?

these guys hearts seem to be in the right place. i wish them all the luck in the world. but i would implore them to make the best use of all the tools available to them in order to tell their story.

How about a Smarter Script? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266380)

Some of the sci-fi shows today are so cliche and manufactured that it makes me yearn for the days of ST:TNG. If you're doing sci-fi, get some 'sci' in there!

demote the F/X and tell good story first (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266396)

I've seen Asimov's Nightfall down well as a play. A good word-smith will create most of the scifi you need in your imagination.

The problem is not CGI. (3, Informative)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266420)

In the scheme of things CGI is still in it's infancy. Even the use of models have advanced a good deal over the last several decades. So I'm not going to be critical of a medium simply because it hasn't had time to evolve. CGI opens up opportunities filmmakers have never had access to before. Certainly there were filmmakers doing impressive work previously, but it pales in comparison to what's possible today.

The fundamental problem is not with CGI, it's with film-making. Movies today emphasis the spectacle over substance. Writing today is crap, it's as simple as that. It's like they're writing a video game, the plot present only to move the film from one set piece to the next. Look at movies like Blade Runner or Alien. Both feature elements that could be considered contrived. A dystopian future with flying cars in one movie and exotic, vicious aliens in the other. But those aspects take a backseat to the store-telling so that they enhance the story instead of distracting from it.

The thing is that any one of these movies could look even more impressive today. But it would all get slathered under a layer of Hollywood flavor-of-the-day gloss. Look at Avatar, visually it's amazing, but the story is simplistic to the point of being patronizing.

Re:The problem is not CGI. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266772)

Simple story != bad story. I'm not insecure about my intellect, so I don't need to make myself feel smarter by "getting" a complex movie. Star Wars and Lord of The Rings are captivating and have a wide appeal for the same reason Avatar does - they tell a simple story and they tell it well.

No special effects? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266470)

So are we going to see a giant hand moving the spaceships around?

Is the Problem Really CGI? (2)

ideonexus (1257332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266490)

I donated money to this project because it sounds like a hard-SF storyline that focuses on technology and a positive vision of humanity's future. We need more of that.

Where I differ with the people working on this project is the idea that CGI is somehow inherently a bad thing. CGI has lowered the bar for people to make science fiction films because the effects are so cheap and greenscreens make them so easy to implement. 20 years ago, a special effects-laden film cost far more to make and the studios made sure there was a marketable plot and storyline to ensure its success. Today, Hollyweird can churn out movie after movie on cheap, so a lot of films that we would once consider B-movies now have A-Movie special effects (Transformers, the glut of superhero films, etc) so it's getting harder and harder to know what's going to be a great film from previews alone. CGI and an overabundance of funding has produced this state of things, but great films are still being made that use CGI.

Like I said, I support this project because I support Hard SF, but it does sound a little snobby to claim their foregoing of CGI will make their film better. It reeks of misguided nostalgia.

Re:Is the Problem Really CGI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266676)

Like I said, I support this project because I support Hard SF, but it does sound a little snobby to claim their foregoing of CGI will make their film better. It reeks of misguided nostalgia.

Exactly. Filmmakers tend to forget the old adage of "too much of something is harmful".
10 years of films being filled to the brim with cgi hasn't really done good things to the industry. Cgi is just another tool that has to be used. But its just another tool, not the only one. And most of the films are crap precisly because filmmakers tend to use cgi as the end all of filmmaking. And thats just stupid with a S.

Go back to the basics, get good narrative material, do a good film transposition of said material, remember film is not a music video (do you hear that Michael Bay ?) , use cgi and other tools.
The end result is most probably a film that doesn't suck.

Do you really need CGI??? (3, Informative)

51M02 (165179) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266562)

For your information, the most realistic Sci-Fi movie ever made, 2001: A Space Odyssey, did not used any CGI nor green screen. Of course those technologies did not exist back in 1968 and it was 9 years before Star Wars which again did not use CGI nor green screen at the time of its release.

The first movie to include most of its action in a computer generated set was Tron in 1982, almost 30 years ago. In that time we went from miniature models and ingenuity in creating special effect to a software based point-and-click interface.

LoTR still used sets, some being really large. I can't imagine Rivendell or Edoras being 100% CGI. Some TV shows now use CGI almost everywhere like Sanctuary, to make them cheaper to produce and in that it makes senses. In the end I think CGI is used not because it gives the best result but because it's cheaper and easier to produce than miniature models. On the other hand, we have shows like Doctor Who who still is a show produced on a budget with minimum CGI films with proper and "real" props and set, proving it still can be done.

In the end knowing the battle cruiser in the beginning of Star Wars is a lot smaller than you typical Sedan car and still being blown away would maybe not happen if we knew it was only done by a computer file.

Eh (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266566)

The problem i see with most CGI is it's used as a crutch. Many filmmakers rely on CGI to make something so real and perfect that the audience will get drawn in. Then they slack off on actually doing the story telling that does draw us in.

These people seem to be making the polar opposite assumption. They assume that a good miniature is going to really make the film. They are making the same mistake. I would like to point out Disney's The Black Hole. That film has some incredible miniatures. That film sucks.

C may turn out to be a great film in spite of the filmmakers elitist attitudes. However, from the look of the trailer, it could use some well crafted cgi.

Blah blah models blah kickstarter blah (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266572)

They aren't using CGI because they can't afford it. They can't afford it because they're penniless nobodies with no track record and a dull sounding arthouse premise who can't get funding any other way than by begging for it retail. This is essentially online panhandling.

seen the trailer? (0)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266586)

No CGI? How about no talent and no budget either?

Into the Lens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266588)

They should do the entire Lensman series. Updated so that everyone isn't constantly lighting up, or using dated language. Talk about exploration and human (and alien) advancement. Even just the first book, Triplanetary, would make a cool three-part miniseries.

Returning to the basics (1)

jjp9999 (2180664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266592)

I think their point is that filmmakers are focusing too much on special effects, and not enough on the story. They're not against CGI, which they make clear in the article, but they think filmmakers are forgetting the fundamentals. So they're going to the other extreme to prove that good Sci-fi films can be created without all this. At the same time, while computer graphics have improved a lot, so have cameras and their abilities to shoot good footage in low light -- meaning they can shoot convincing space scenes by just turning down the lights. It's an interesting concept, if nothing else.

Models vs CGI (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38266652)

See: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Side note: It's interesting that Hollywood at one point claimed that piracy was resulting in the loss of jobs in the movie industry, upon closer inspection the jobs were carpenters, set designers, construction teams, backdrop painter, and the like, the loss mostly due to green screen and CGI.
But hey it's Hollywood and they know how to sell it.

More pseudoscientific bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266682)

"There's a richness and texture when you're working with lenses and light that can't be replicated."
Bullshit. Lenses and textures aren't magic - they work based on laws of physics. If you can emulate those realistically enough, the end product will be the same.

Also, this ties into the whole stupid argument put forward by what I can only assume are uneducated hipsters who like to see film as some kind of set-in-stone ideal which should not be tampered with, or else the gods will be displeased. The old movies were better, CGI is bad, yadda yadda, all the same pseudointellectual crap from people who like to feel that their taste is special and privileged.

District 9 and Avatar were awesome as far as I'm concerned and felt no more or less "rich" than other movies I enjoyed.

This is the Blade Runner approach (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266690)

No computer graphics in Blade Runner and that was an awesome sci-fi movie. OK, it did also have Ridley Scott directing and Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford, but no CGI and if you didn't know that you'd think it did.

You're still missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38266730)

Sci-fi is absolutely no different from other genres. The conflicts that form the basis of the story are exactly the same. Anytime you deviate from good storytelling you have made a vast mistake. CGI and green screen can aid in that deviation but ultimately they are only a crutch with the real problem being solely on the shoulders of the producers and directors. Any use or not use of some sort of storytelling technique is simply hype and nothing more. Very good movies can be made on shoestring budgets as well as on multi-hundred million dollar budgets. The technology makes absolutely positively NO difference whatsoever. Don't believe me? If you truly love film watch A Streetcar Named Desire and tell me that technology makes any difference at all. That movie looks like a filmed stage production and is one of the single best movies I have ever seen. On the other hand come the recent super hero movies. They haven't all been great by any means, but most of them are at least good and they have tons of CGI and green screen work. The point I'm making is that they are pointing a finger at something that is not the culprit and I have to wonder if they are doing it as an experiment in storytelling or as a bunch of hype to sell their movie high while it costs low, but I can be an acerbic cynical snipy jerk.

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