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[Debate] – CGI Or Live Actors?

 

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Posted September 28, 2015 by

 
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The first time I ever heard of CGI, was in 1994 when the movie “The Crow” came out. While filming, the lead actor Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), died. Though close to the end, a few scenes were missing with the actor, and they decided to recreate the actor with a CGI (Computer Generated Image). At the time it was big news, and conversations about the death of ALL actors were not rare. Many celebrities were asked if they were worried about being replaced by their own CGI selves, and due to our ignorance about CGI, we were very worried.

Time went by, and we still use actors and CGI combined in almost every movie, but also TV shows, commercials and music videos. What I find interesting about the whole CGI controversy, is that many movies have the success they have, because of the lack of CGI. “Alien”(1979) and “Jaws”(1974) are two of my favorite creature movies, and for good reasons. In “Jaws,” the mechanical shark was not working properly, and because of that, its visual absence makes it even more stressful for the audience. In “Alien,” though they used CGI for the landing sequence, the monster is a human in a costume. By not showing it much, makes us feel as if it could be anywhere.

In “Star Wars” the use of CGI was not good enough in the 70’s and the wise George Lucas, decided to start with Episode IV, V and VI, and wait until progress were made to go back to Episode I, II and III. Recently I binge watched all six movies, as I had to work on a Star Wars script that was submitted to me for doctoring, as I watched the Bluray all digitally mastered versions of the series, I actually didn’t like the CGI alien characters that were added. I think they look fake and don’t bring anything special to the movies, even though the “Yoda fight’ is absolutely incredible.

Maybe I’m a little of a purist, when it comes to using actors. I started acting in theater, like most actors of my generation. We didn’t have access to film school for actors, we had to work on the classics and learn our roles from mornings to evenings and for months at a time. I truly believe that the best movies are the best because of the work the actors have put into. Let’s take “Taxi Driver” (Scorcese 1976). One of the most famous scene is when Robert De Niro is looking and talking to himself in the mirror. That famous phrase “Are you talking to me?” would never would have been in the movie without the actor. Martin Scorcese knew that he had about two minutes left of film in the camera, and he asked De Niro to improvise… Would that work on CGI?

In another movie, Dustin Hoffman was being filmed on location, in the busy streets of New York City, when a yellow cab almost ran him over. Dustin, as the great actor that he is, made the cab stop, crossed the street and shouted “Hey, some people are working here.’ This is something that happens all the time on film sets. Actors will make mistakes and improvise lines as their characters, and many times the scene is better by it. It’s the power of adaptation.

But CGI is still very special. How, since 1993, could we see the beautiful dinosaurs of Jurassic Park? Or the incredible effects in Titanic? The different worlds and characters of Avatar (2009), or the first facial deformation in a close-up in “Fight Club” (1999) and that same year, “The Matrix” was combining CG characters with real actors for the first time.

From the first CGI movie of a speeding car on a highway in 1961, to a movie like “Gravity’ (2013), the CG world has evolved quite a bit. Though it is already 50 years old, it’s really in the last two decades that we have seen a huge step toward making CGI more realistic. I personally tend to prefer real people with make-up, it helps me to feel the reality of the characters, but being a fan of movies in space, I’m all for CGI.

What about you? What’s your favorite movie? And does it include CGI?

Thanks for reading…

 

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Saba
Cloudy Sky Films
@CloudySkyFilms
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