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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Math is Hard, Sez Barbie.


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When I was newly-married, I read the book Michaelmas by Algis Budrys. This was during the post-Star Wars paradise of science fiction book releases, multiple racks of them, even in hometown discount stores. The story was about the world's Most Beloved Newsreader, who wrote the news, and who was himself a CG construct.

Think Max Headroom, only interesting.

This novel led me to prophesy that the time was coming when it would become difficult-to-impossible to tell the difference between "real" and "virtual" events. I believe that I am close to being justified in this Cassandran utterance. The sheep entrails, however, do not augur a forecast dire, rather one of mild interest; "Not with a bang, but a whimper."

Movies are over-run with CGI effects, to their detriment. Yeah, The Last Starfighter was a rum go, delightsome in its odd way, especially Centauri's channeling of Prof. Harold Hill, but the spacecraft were accomplished with sheer computational brute force. No models dangling from wires nor attached to motion-control rigs, just the numbers going in, going around and around, and coming out here! They worked, but they were too perfect, too clean. Lawrence of Arabia would have loved it there. Computer spaceships have taken the solar wind from the sails of SF TV and movies. Even the venerable Star Trek was not immune to the pixelated siren's song, for they have replaced the practical, real-world effects with CG Enterprises, Tholians, Klingons, and sundry planets. The charm is gone. Godzilla (2014)? No zipper.

Math is hard, and the endless parade of mathematically-induced droids and orcs rendered me insensate. I slept through the major battle scenes in Lord of the Rings movies AND the last batch of Star Wars flicks. Thankfully, there is a move to restore the realm of "practical effects" to its rightful place and altitude. Rick Baker is seeking to preserve his effects work history, and Gerry Anderson's son is crowdfunding a return to marionettes with real models, real explosions...everything!

Let's bring back practical, real-world effects, and forestall the Virtual Apocalypse!

8 comments:

Michael W said...

Holy Magoo! You must be reading over my shoulder or something. I just finished sending an e-mail to Kez Wilson and mentioned "Michaelmas".

And we've had this conversation before (and in much more convivial surroundings). Yes, CGI has its place. But the texture of a hand-made model (especially from someone such as Greg Jein, or Derek Meddings) is undeniable in its quality.

Thank God for Rick Baker and Jamie Anderson.

Doom said...

No, I get your specific desire and artistic notions. What gets me is... the end effect is, essentially the same. Both are tricks to make you see what someone else has envisioned. For me, it comes down to how well they do it.

Not every detail can be perfect. I want them to focus on what is important. Much as with stage props, story telling props or facial expressions, and the acting itself. Can they make me believe that Ms. X is in real danger, or that Mr. Y really cares, or that the pain he feels is real.

No, no, I understand. I don't mind if they bring real fake back, so long as it stacks up well enough to lead me in. I simply refuse to be pragmatic and specific to the point of losing, or chasing off, best for simply better. More so chasing best off for worst.

Don't hate me cause I'm beautiful, smart, or superior. You WILL be missing the point. Uhrm... all of them. :) But... that's my gig.

Michael W said...

It was a lot simpler back in the days of "The Jetsons". Then they'd just put a cardboard cutout of themselves in front of the camera.

The Aardvark said...

It is the problem of the Uncanny Valley, Doom. If stuff gets ALMOST real in the CG realm, it gets...creepy. Watch a CG movie. The character catches a ball, but wait, HE DOESN'T! The ball impinges on his hand, but there is no physicality evident, no muscular feedback. The CG Godzilla has no physical feedback from its environment, like the rubber-suit Godzilla has. The Thunderbirds models may bobble a bit on the wires, but you can fanwank that as turbulence. The CG ships from, say, FIRESTORM, are too smooth in movement.

Doom said...

Michael,

You must be into theatrics? Well, when you are into it. :p

Aardvark,

Fair enough, on those points. I must admit, while watching movies, I don't... look that closely. I let them trick me. Much like when I watch stage sword fights. I know how real sword fighting works. Even when they are trained, and going through the steps, the real fear/hunger/lust/bloodlust is missing. I have to just tender some things.

But! I'm not the same detail oriented fan that you are. Or, at least, my detail is different from yours. To be honest, I am not sure I want... too much reality. CG, as you mentioned, can be too slick. But in that, there is a reality check. I need that. For you, it is a zipper on Godzirra. For me, it is an effortless endless reality of smoke and mirrors, plane to see in it's odd perfection.

I might have come into movies too late to appreciate some of the... cough... earlier special affects to hold some favor. No worries, I have similar problems with modern music that is wall-to-wall. At least with some forms of it. It isn't human, natural, or... something.

Plus... I just had to tug on the older dog's toy. See if he would still snap. He do! :)

Doom said...

It just comes down to the story, how well IT holds together. If that works, I can work with, and forgive, much else. Much CGI is junk, but then... ships on wires, especially if can see the wire? Story, ability to pull me in, the rest will be judged on how well it works with those two.

And, as I said... *tug*

Michael W said...

@Aardvark --- remember in "Forbidden Planet", how a slight wobble was given to the C57-D as it maneuvered in for a landing? That was for purpose of realism. I wonder if the CGI mavens of today would think of such a move?

Which is to say your "Uncanny Valley" comment to Doom was perhaps the best summation of the problem I've ever encountered.

Doom --- I do admit to possessing an occasional predilection for theatrics.

Jay! said...

T'is sad these days ... Cartoons trying to look live action ... Live action looking like cartoons ... Looking like ...