Why does CGI age so poorly?

Discussion in 'General Movies' started by Overread, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    So I'm rewatching LotR Fellowship of the Ring at present and some of the CGI is standing out to me as "fake" more so than it ever did in the past. Now I admit its been a while since I saw the film so its a little more fresh to me than it was.


    Now many will say "ahh the CGI looks weaker because its older and CGI today so so much better". And that is true. CGI improves all the time, especially with the higher ends of the film industry. However it still doesn't really answer why it stands out in individual films more so over time. In theory it shouldn't matter if new CGI is better as the old hasn't changed as a result; so it should still be as impressive as it once was.

    Thus I'm coming to the conclusion that CGI works partly by mind tricks.

    Our mind sees partly what our eyes see, but because our mind has to interpret information its also capable of being tricked. There are many instances of this and I think films are one of them. The first time we see a film we don't know what to "see". We don't know what to expect and thus the film is fresh and the mind has little time to really "think" on what its seeing and takes it at face value more so. Thus the CGI blends in far more easily. However as time passes we get used to seeing the same film, we start to "see" more so rather than let our minds be clouded by what it thinks we should see.

    I think then the CGI starts to stand out, we pick out the smaller differences and it loses the ability to trick our minds.




    Of course the weakness with this theory is that it makes the assumption that we remember the film; or at least have some relation with it mentally that allows us to change how we view it over time.
     
  2. Richard Falken

    Richard Falken The Best Epic Literature Ever Written.

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    When you have a stuntman jump through an explossion, it looks real because the stuntman was real and the explosion was real. If you watch the same scene 5 years later, that realistic feeling won't wear out.

    A CGI dummy jumping through a CGI explosion will look like a CGI scene. 5 years later, people will compare it to more modern CGI and realize it is inferior.

    This does not hold 100% of the time, as some conventional special effects were very obvious to begin with, and some CGI is still very good even if recognizeable as CGI.
     
  3. DITF-Ninja

    DITF-Ninja Chaotic Neutral

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    Well there is a technological aspect consider as well. Look at some of the old tricks film makers were able to use back in the day. They worked because of limitations in screen and picture quality, IE clear wire being used to lift something to make it appear it was floating. But as technology has progressed so has the quality to both record as well as display. Now how that work in context to movies that have not been remastered or altered the only factor to take in is the advancement of what it is displayed on. That LoTR movie looked amazing at the time of its release whether you enjoyed the movie or not. That is because it was both recorded in a high quality (at that time) and displayed on generally good t.v. sets (also at that current time). But if you wait several years then play that movie on a newer t.v. set with higher or finer pixelation then the movie becomes distorted because the quality in which it is now being displayed is currently higher than the quality in which it was recorded. That distorts color schemes, highlights inferior lighting and back drops, and also make CGI look even worse. Its the same as if you started playing one of the old Quake games on a UHD or 4K 3D t.v. The computer generated images were never meant to be displayed in such fine pixelation so distortions become noticeable. That eventually will come to an end however once we finally create a display that truly operations at the maximum perceptive capabilities of the human eye but until then as movies become older they will become uglier as well.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Ahh but in my example I'm playing LotR on an old CRT television ;)

    Certainly if the fidelity of the viewing medium and the size increase thn the viewing quality can be affected; size is a big thing because all those huge TVs people go for they often sit far too close to. Bigger images are supposed to be viewed from further away (in theory) rather than right up close looking at every skin pore.
     
  5. Midnattblod

    Midnattblod Ranger of Shadow

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    I like my biggish tv. :D

    I would assume that this would probably be the case as well with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when they're underwater and they turn into the skeletons. back when that movie came out it was so awesomely awesome, but now I have a feeling it would look strange just because of aging.
     
  6. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    There was no excuse for poorly executed CGI, even way back in the mid-1990s. Nor is there any reason that those movies should suffer because of the higher screen resolutions of today. I was doing CGI work from 1994-thru-1998, most of it produced on a PowerMac 7100, an 80mhz computer with 40mbs ram, running second rate 3d modeling and animation software... and never taking a professional lesson or going to school to learn how to do it!

    These are just test renders from that time... but you can still see pores in skin and fine details, it was all resolution independent!
    All done on a computer that is now outclassed by a cheap cell phone!

    [​IMG]
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  7. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    CGI often looks too "shiny" and new, that and CGI shadows tend to wobble a lot. it's subtle but very off-putting.
     
  8. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    It's three things to me that stand out:

    1) Shiny and new factor - most certainly. Even if the CGI element is grubby and rusty it still looks "new"

    2) Edge zone - CGI and greenscreen doesn't have stray hairs. Whilst this has gotten better you can still often see the outline around where one element has been cut and pasted over the other.

    3) Shadows/lighting. Subtle but when you look for it you realise that often whilst the CGI has a shadow not much cases a shadow over it; or if it does sometimes its not quite the same as the live action or what would be life action in its place.
     
  9. zmunkz

    zmunkz Member

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    Freddiew / RocketJump has a good video on this topic:
     
  10. Lady Galeth

    Lady Galeth Member

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    We keep upgrading to more hi definition TVs that really show the CGI. New movies made specifically for watching in hi-defy, particularly using 48 Frames Per Second or more.
     
  11. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    In my opinion the CGI in LOTR and in a lot of films wasn't good. I don't know what they were boasting about. It depends on the company of course. I think when it comes to a company like ILM compared to WETA in its early day, then you see a clear difference in quality, though of course there will always be something that looks fake to it. But isn't that the case with every special effect? I think CGI has made a lot of progress to create semi-photorealistic renders, that make it difficult to tell what's real and what's not. The last film I saw in cinema was The Force Awakens, or that was at least one of the last. And when I saw a behind-the-screen feature on SFX I was surprised just how much CGI there actually is in the film. Of course I wasn't paying attention at all times to point them out during the film so that's my excuse. But the feature just turned the whole 'practical effects' campaign into a joke, just because there's as much in it as in the prequel films, which is accused of its over-use of CGI. Some do have a point in pointing out that special effects looked more realistic in the olden days because they had poorer quality screens, which explain why people freaked out when they saw the poorly made puppet of King Kong in the original film, thinking it looked so real.
     
  12. zmunkz

    zmunkz Member

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    Yeah, that blows my mind how much they use in places that don't feel like CGI at all. Check out this reel from a studio:


    Tons of CGI is just for set extension, and things like that....
     
  13. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    People may already know that during the filming of the Hobbit (mainly the first one I think) Ian Mckellen felt down a lot, almost depressed because mostly he was just surrounded with green screen during filming. For Lotr when he was with the Hobbits they used a lot of camera tricks and other methods to make him look taller and the Hobbits smaller, but because the Hobbit films were all in 3-D they couldn't use those same tricks again, so they had to insert him in all the scenes with the Hobbits where he would just be surrounded in green screen on his own. That loneliness lead to him feeling down most of the time because the filming of these scenes in green screen took its toll on him.