Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Bladerunner FX Still Rock

Mythbuster Adam Savage explains why the special effects in the 25-year-old Bladerunner are still unsurpassed. Key quote:

But they did all of these effects in camera, which even back then was a much more complex way to execute them. The key to this is a motion-control camera — a smart robot, basically — that moves through the city on the same track, over and over again. It's accurate to within a couple thousandths of an inch. They did separate passes, rewinding the film each time and then re-exposing it to add each new element. So they did one pass for the lights on a building, another for the video projection, then a pass for the rain lighting and so on — as many as 16 passes in some cases.

I think part of what Savage is getting at in this article isn't that Bladerunner's FX are perfect. They aren't. But that these non-CGI effects capture something perfect that makes the movie better. That is, their very nature creates a mood; the medium helps the message.

Modern CGI effects approach and often attain complete photorealism. But they really only work when they are completely invisible or retain some kind of Hollywood dreaminess--for example, the Lord of the Rings. But when the fantastical is reduced to mere reality--the latest Star Wars trilogy, the Harry Potter movies, the new Transformers--the most expensive effects in the world become not so very special after all.

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