Monday, April 16, 2007

Computerized Graphics: A new aura, not no aura

I actually had a quite a different reaction than Ben regarding Grzinic's thoughts about computer graphics (see Computerized Graphics Just Can't Cut It). I agree with Ben that the 3 new Star Wars movies sucked compared to the first three, but I will get into that later. My biggest point of contention is Grzinic's claim that computer-generated graphics of virtual reality collapse the exposure time down to nothing. This strikes me as a very ignorant claim by someone who knows very little about computer graphics. Computer generated images take a really, really long time to design and an extremely long time to render. I view both of these processes as a form of art and I think most people would only disagree with me about the rendering. In this way, computer-generated images actually have a really long exposure time and I think this imbues them with a very strong aura. My thoughts may be biased because I am a computer scientist and have worked with computer graphics before and know how painfully tedious and difficult it is, but when I look at computer-generated images I think primarily about the process that went into making it.

But, as Ben pointed out the new Star Wars trilogy sucked. I blame a lot of that of George Lucas' naive misuse of CGI with Jar Jar Binks being a great example. The current level of computer graphics cannot adequately imitate reality in many cases. Any person who has a good command of the art knows how and when to use it and not use it. Computer graphics is a tool for a director to use and it is not the answer for every situation. Most directors and the film community realize this which is why the most extensive use of CGI you see today is in the many animated movies that come out such as Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, etc. These people know that CGI is not yet capable of displaying a completely convincing reality so they avoid the issue by creating made up realities in which they don't have to play by the normal rules. Yes CGI is used by most Hollywood movies these days, but it is used mostly for effects, scenery, background shots, etc. Human perception is much more lenient when looking at these things as compared to a close up of a speaking character.

Lord of the Rings is, for the most part, an example of a director who knows how to use computer graphics in film. Peter Jackson knew enough to make sure that his main characters were all real human characters and that whenever possible the audiences main focus on the screen should be real as well. Instead of making the entire armies using CGI (as Lucas did in Star Wars), Jackson used real actors for the front of the army and then CGI to fill in behind them. Most of the detail is then seen in the real actors so the viewer is given the perception that the whole army is more real. Of course during long shots Jackson knows he can use almost entirely computer-generated shots because the level of detail is not high enough to easily notice differences. One of the main differences between Lucas and Jackson is that Jackson used CGI to augment real images and Lucas tried to use it as the whole image of at least the main focus of the image.

Anyway, I am going off on a tangent about these two director's films. My main point is that in all these films, even when they suck, there is an aura in the images that I very strongly identify with. Grzinic's idea that computer-generated images collapse exposure time and kill the process is unfounded. These technologies do get rid of some processes but they create other ones that are also etched with aura from the creation process. In conclusion, I'm definitely not trying to say that CGI is better than reality. I am saying that instead of being seen as the end of art and the destruction of the aura of the image it is actually very artful and because of the way it is produced has a lot of aura contained in it.

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Blogger Ifan Wei said...

I agree with your opinions on George Lucas. I felt that the new Star Wars trilogy was one big advertisement for LucasArts and ILM. I also agree that when I see photorealistic scenes from a movie or videogame that I consider the time, effort, and skill put into producing the image. However, I have to disagree with your praise of Peter Jackson. Jackson utilizes CGI to the same extent as George Lucas. Gollum was an entirely CGI created character that sought to show off the technology in much the similar way as Jar Jar Binks.

4/19/2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger Ifan Wei said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/19/2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger Felix Wong said...

I honestly don't see why so many people hated the Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III. I thought they were perfectly fine. Could have used some fixing here and there, but overall, they were decent films. Anyhow, getting onto the use of CGI, I think its the best thing in the world. I mean, why do we go to see a movie? To escape the limitations of everyday life. With movie magic and CGI, we can do such things. I mean, we can simply design planes and characters to new levels of detail. They pay so close attention tot he physics of each character that they are almost lifelike. If anything, they increase our imagination by expanding on what is humanly possible.

4/19/2007 8:37 PM  

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