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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hollywood Without Special Effects

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 10:14 AM

THE MUPPETS Not pictured: stuff happening.
  • Via Before VFX
  • THE MUPPETS Not pictured: stuff happening.

Despite 90 goddamn minutes of inane red-carpet coverage, and however many millions of words that've been written about how boorish the famously boorish Seth MacFarlane somehow turned out to be, one thing that didn't get mentioned much about the Academy Awards was that, as the event was happening, visual effects artists were protesting outside. Or that Rhythm and Hues—one of the effects houses that helped Life of Pi win Best Visual Effects—had to declare bankruptcy just a few days before the ceremony. Garnering a bit more attention was the fact that Ang Lee didn't thank Life of Pi's effects artists when he accepted his Best Director Oscar. Given his excitable state, and how generally charming Lee seems to be all the time, that was probably an oversight—but it also underscored how undervalued effects artists and effects houses have become in recent years. While Hollywood's become ever more dependent on CG, studios have also started farming out work to cheap overseas contractors and giving effects houses less and less time to do more and more work.

Via Badass Digest comes a heads up about Before VFX, a tumblr crammed with images of "blockbuster movies without visual effects." Like the still from The Muppets, above, or how The Avengers would've looked without an Iron Man suit, a New York City, or a Hulk:

THE AVENGERS Awww, yeah. Unitard Ruffalo.
  • Via Before VFX
  • THE AVENGERS Awww, yeah. Unitard Ruffalo.

The whole thing's worth checking out. It's easy to complain that contemporary films relying too much on CG—they do—but it's also worth pointing out that, unlike in the olden tymes, the vast majority of mainstream films, regardless of their genre, contain CG that audiences never even realize is there. CG has become one of the most valuable and versatile tools in the filmmaking industry—and if a whole bunch of its top practitioners are sounding the alarm that something's wrong with the system, it's worth listening.

UPDATE: This morning The Film Stage put up a solid post that's also worth taking a look at:

With its permeation into the world of filmmaking, one may be surprised at the vast majority of films nowadays (and pretty much every modest release) that takes advantage of VFX techniques. We’ve rounded up six examples of films from the last decade that either use subtle CGI or visual effects in places one may not be aware of, all in an attempt to shed light on just how vital this work is to keeping the current system afloat.

Stuff like Zodiac:

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