Why nowadays CGI in movies feel so cheap. The magic is gone.

For weeks I was struggling with how to write this blog post. Movies are emotions. How can I write about something that I see and generates a feeling? It’s personal. Some movies that are for me a quick snack, are for others the best movie they have ever seen. (ask a random teenager and they will answer: Avengers, endgame) The first trigger for this blog post was the trailer for Venom: Let there be carnage.

The CGI felt too algorithms: like water. The magic of CGI was for me was at that moment gone. After that trailer, it hit me. There is something itching inside my head when I’m watching a modern movie. The CGI (Computer generated images) feels so cheap. The wow factor is gone. Close your eyes and think about any movie you have watched recently, one with a lot of CGI. What I see is an overload of fog. Everywhere that same thick dark layer of grainy fog. To masquerade that what you see is an illusion. Wow. Is that what I remember from movies? Not the story? I closed my eyes against and I see a scene from Tomorrow’s war. The only scene I see is the humans falling through a thick layer of fog. That layer felt so… wrong.

On my Twitter feed, I saw the tip for a short SF movie. Let me quote the comment from the corridor crew:

Oh heck yeah. okay, wow, that was something special. It’s breathtaking to enter a world so vibrant and alive.

corridor crew
Episode 1: Salad Mug – DYNAMO DREAM from Ian Hubert

This short SF video was the second trigger in the same week. Salad mug grab me from the start to the end. It so refreshing to see a video with this many details and creativity. is this what happens if someone works with passion on a product. ANd not chasing for a paycheck? It’s a feeling. How can I write a blog post about this? Shortly after the Venom trailer and salad mug, the youtube algorithm (Yes. Everything nowadays is algorithm-driven) decided to show me this video:

The ONE Problem With Modern Monsters In Film And TV from Nerdstalgic

From this inspiring video, I have learned two new sayings: Concept design groupthink and artistic self-cannibalization. CGI has crept from an art form to a fast-pacing industry. In almost every production, there is CGI applied. From small things in the background to complete scenes. Even coffee cups and poster frames are green in your favorite series so product placement can be adjusted every year. It’s completely normal that this is an industry where things need to be done fast and within budget. But it also gives artistic poverty. Most designers built on the groundbreaking work that started 30 years ago. The CGI is moving like it’s following the mathematic rules programmed by the designers.

Let’s go back to the beginning: When the first movies with CGI were released. We watched on 29 august (special date) the Bluray version of the movie Terminator 2: Judgement’s day. One of the first movies where CGI was used throughout the whole movie. This movie is from 1991. thirty years old. What I saw right away. All the scenes are so clear. With beautiful colors and lightning. The clarity when you film with real negatives without too much post-processing. The CGI wasn’t hidden behind a fog. It was in the frame. Nowadays it looks a little bit outdated. But the storytelling is so good that it doesn’t matter. It’s a damn good movie.

Can I use “Salad mug” in this blog post as a wake-up call for the industry?

In a month three youtube videos and a feature film gave me the seeds to start thinking about this blog post. It took two months before I started to write. I already know that not every reader will be with me on the same page. That’s ok. Movies are personal and emotional. I just have a bitter feeling about the future. Covid19 has given streaming services a big boost. This means that the film studios have to think about the release schedule. Will cinemas become as popular as in the past. Or do people prefer to watch movies from the comfort and safety of their own living room? Streaming services aren’t as lucrative for film studios as viewing a movie in the cinema. But you don’t want to alienate your audience. The production needs to be even more efficient to make up for the difference in loss. So less budget for the CGI. Oh, dear.

Bonus. How to make a video in your own garage.

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