Friday, June 3, 2016

20 Behind-the-Scenes Photos That Prove Practical Effects Will Always Be Better

Fun entry over at (that last line is hilarious[and true]):

What can really be said about practical effects that hasn’t already been said? There’s no denying that the horror genre was at its game-changing best when the blood was Karo syrup and the monsters played by men in costumes, and there’s also no denying that something was lost when makeup effects artisans were mostly replaced by computers.
Seriously. Watch Carpenter’s The Thing and The Thing (2011) side-by-side. You’ll cry.

Click below for the article:

I kinda blame practical effects for my interest in Yard Haunting.  I feel like movies in my youth were inspirational things where you spent so much time wondering how something was made, and then wanting to make something similar.  My brother made Slimer from Ghostbusters.  We'd make eyeballs and fake blood and dummies to scare our mom.  We made super 8mm movies with burning spaceships and stop-frame animated dinosaurs.  It was time-consuming stuff, and it always seemed to be during the brutally hot days of Summer vacation.  It was great.

Do kids today get inspired watching CG creatures?  I have no idea.  I recall that feeling of knowing something was tangible and that someone was inside, below, or out-of-frame controlling it, making it live.  There were like six guys who made Jabba the Hutt come to life...four of them were stuffed inside.  Crazy.


Jay's Shadow said...

CG can and will never replace practical effects in our time. It's a shame that the generation now probably won't really get to see what we viewed as great effects. Everything now is just TOO digital; commercials,movies, tv in general. Of course, if we had the tvs then that we have now, we would probably see the puppeteers.

All I have to say is they better not change Pumpkinhead (my hero) or Starship Troopers (first one. The ones after that sucked)

I'll go postal.

JHMDF said...

I feel the same, hand made movie monsters are what made me want to build my own props.

Joel said...

Might be able to give another perspective on this. Being born in '88, my childhood coincided with a lot of the first CG creatures. Can't speak for other folks my age, but I can say that Jurassic Park had a huge impact on my kid mind. I knew there was something different between the CG and practical shots, but I loved them all. Watching and rewatching Jurassic Park and The Lost World, I remember relishing the CG parts because I loved seeing the dinosaurs' complete bodies in motion - running, leaping, etc. They moved like real animals, and I thought that was just amazing.

By the time I was 10 or so, I knew that certain creature effects were puppets and suits, and others were computer animated. But because my first exposure to it had been the two mediums working in such harmony, I never saw one or the other as more real or more pure: I just loved creature effects. Stan Winston and Jim Henson were just as much my heroes as Phil Tippett, ILM, and Blue Sky. The other monster movies that impacted my childhood - Dragonheart, Starship Troopers, even Alien: Resurrection - all featured CGI creatures to varying degrees of success. Looking back at them now, yeah, they look dated. As a kid though, they still captured my imagination.

Do kids today get inspired by CGI creatures? I think so. Weta Digital's Smaug is just wonderful, and what kid doesn't love dragons? Well-done CGI has its place, and there's a lot of it that's worthy of praise for its artistry. The decline of practical effects is a loss, and I think Jurassic Park is still a relevant example because the near-absence of Stan Winston-style wizardry from Jurassic World was felt by a lot of fans. Plenty of shots in that movie could easily have been practical and probably should have been, because it just has an intimacy and physicality that audiences connect with. What happened to ADI's work on The Thing sequel was a real tragedy, but projects like Harbinger Down prove that there's an audience who misses practical movie monsters. And I think The Force Awakens bodes well in terms of modern filmmakers making room for both disciplines again.

Sorry for the wall of text - having grown up with a fondness for digital and practical, I sometimes want to defend well-done CGI. At the end of the day, they're both tools for storytelling and immersion, and my hope is that more filmmakers in the future will consider their entire toolbox. Shiny power tools can be great, but sometimes what you really want is your trusty old hammer :P

Willow Cove said...

When my dad got a video camera ( the vhs tape kind) I commandeered it and made it mine. I used to aim fireworks from the roof of the house down to the camera to recreate tie-fighter explosions. Memories...

Rot said...

Great comment, joel.
perfect points. Jurassic Park's a great example of CG and practical being one entity... and I still marvel at the first Starship Trooper's CG (but only the first film).

I wonder how a young me would have reacted to all this CG. Part of the enjoyment of practical effects was the "i wonder if i could do that" feeling/desire. I fear i would look at giant digital monsters and find out they were done on computers and feel like it was over my head. Like watching ALIENS with all its practical effects was something I'll never forget. Seeing AVATAR made by the same guy was a strange experience. Like a giant cartoon to me.

The Force Awakens is a great example of trying to bring back that practical feeling. As was KRAMPUS.

again, great comment.

Sara said...

I also agree, Joel. When this debate comes up I always remember Jurrassic Park. I still remember seeing it in the theater and being overwhelmed at how huge it all felt. In a good way. I was old enough to know CG vs practical but I was still a kid and so I just enjoyed it for what it was: a good story.

Joel said...

Man, the scene with Krampus running along the rooftops was one of most effective uses of CG I've seen in a while. You really felt that this thing was both agile and weighed a ton. And yet he was still tastefully silhouetted and obscured by the snow, and I think it's rare to see a CG shot that holds back and doesn't fully reveal the monster. Made the full reveal later, in all its practical glory, that much more awesome.

Jay's Shadow said...

Don't get me wrong though, there are some great CG out there. I'm just really partial to the puppets and full body suits and having multiple people making one huge monster come to life.

And thanks Joel, you said you were born in 1988. I graduated in that same I feel really old. :p :)

ShellHawk said...

I totally agree! It was my privilege to be on the special effects stage for a short time while my dad was working on Dune and on Conan the Destroyer. I also had a summer job in the post-production shop and got to see them pull together their practical footage and make it look as great as it did. I blame that time for loving to make props and show them at Halloween.

One of the "kids" who used to help out in my garage even went on to get work in Hollywood, so I think it is something that can be passed on by people like us!

Jeff said...

Yeah it's tough for us geezers to admit but in many cases practical just isn't all that practical. That said, if they made a sequel to ET, easily in my top 5 films ever...and subbed that strange looking little puppet with a gaggle of pixels...I'd be fn fuming, pardon me.

JP is such a great example of when the two sciences...and they are, mesh well together, as is Krampus. The first sighting on the rooftop of St Nick's Shadow was absolutely brilliant and legitimately gave me a bit of a chill, even moreso than the eventual close up reveal.

I think they both have their place, but I do wish we'd see more practical when possible and I hope Krampus has maybe shown how magical it can be when both are used to their fullest potential and most effective means possible.

Jeff said...

Not to pile on but man do I wish we'd stop making cgi sharks and werewolves and just go practical with them, the next poorly executed rendering of either is gonna leave me somewhere between laughter and tears. Enough already. Somewhere Lon Chaney Jr, Jack Pierce and Bruce are spinning.

Joel said...

I'm with you on werewolves, Jeff. I thought Cabin in the Woods had a pretty awesome practical one, which was fun to see. The ones that bewilder me are everyday animals like deer and birds. I kinda had to laugh at parts of The Revenant - the bear attack looked good, but do we really need to animate an elk drinking from a stream?

Vintage Seance said...

Couldn't agree more with you Rot! I was born in 1991, and even for me, having grown up watching many movies with CG effects, I still prefer practical effects by far. Our brains just know the difference. I was (and still am) inspired by anything involving stop animation. As a young girl I'd watch Nightmare Before Christmas and constantly wondered how they achieved the look and movement they did. I grew up reading about it, watching behind the scenes, and studying the process just to get the answers. There is absolutely something to having effects that make us wonder. CGI (though great in some instances) has completely taken that away. I think Joel makes a great point about both mediums working together though (take Harry Potter for example, particularly the earlier films - great combo of both practical and CG) and I agree with Joel again in that kids will always find one way or another to be inspired. However, when it comes to special effects, they just don't have to wonder, anymore, how what they are looking at was created, as it is ALL done with computers these days - something they're already mastering by the age of 10 anyway.

girl6 said...

when i was a kid, i was so into magic, makeup & masks, all of which have became great loves of mine, totally shaping my views on everything i guess.

the 2 (special) effects that i love the most, aren't from film tho. the first & dearest to me, is from my childhood, my pops took us to this crazy, old school, outside carnival. whenever i think of it now, i always imagine ray bradbury's "something wicked this way comes". so there's a tent w/ a banner hanging over the entrance, announcing.."come see so & so, the wild gorilla girl"? idk..i was tiny, like 5 (my pops has since passed on & my mom won't talk about the night, she's STILL mad HAHA!!) i'm all curious about this gorilla girl. we buy tkts & enter the tent & man, it's so dark inside, like pitch black. finally a hazy golden light touches over the center of the stage, where there's some pretty chick tied to a post. the drum beat slowly picks up & i'm feelin right tingly, straight down to my bones. something about beating drums, they make your heart feel funny. & the chick like starts to change, like i swear, i can see her full skeletal frame & then it sorta changes, back & forth to this human female beast like thing & Bammmmmmm, she's now this furry, ugly ape, like thing with nasty fangs. she rips the ropes free. she's roaring, tearing up the wooden post & then..OMG..she jumps down into the crowd & everyone runs outta the tent screaming, while she runs after them & i'm just...standing there, ALL eyeball, ALL alone. i think, i maybe even peed a little. i'm frozen, totally can't move. & then this angle, holds out his hand to me (my pops) he takes my hand & says, "don't worry rocket, it's not real, just some mirrors & fun, let's go get our girl"...he was laughing too. cause my mom was like seven blocks away!!!...HAHAHAHA!!!

the second is...when we saw doug bradley at a horror convention, a few years back, i think maybe 2007. doug did an early morning, sorta like a seminar thing in one of the (very) small conference rooms. he talked about his theatre history, a book he wrote on masks (their impact on society) & he acted out a scene from hellraiser. he pretended to open the lament configuration puzzle box & it blew my mind, cause, what he used was a replica of the box made outta one solid piece of resin, made like a heavy paperweight. you can buy these pieces online or at the conventions. i have one too, so there's nothing tricky. everyone in the room gasped & ALL agreed that we had seen the same thing. doug bradley was able to make an immovable object, give the appearance that it was actually elongating, like it was moving, as if to actually open. AMAZING. technically, even more amazing than "gorilla girl" because it was ALL just doug.

i love guys in suits!!! nothing makes me scream with happiness like old school godzilla.ultraman.johnny sokko..ant-man when he becomes Gigante Man, in the new, captain america, "civil war" film...HAHAHA!! beautiful homage!

i will always love, ray harryhausen's army of skellies, (nice homage done by stephen sommers in "the mummy")

a real sweet favourite of mine, is from the original dark shadows, tv series..when the ghost of josette collins, walks down outta of her portrait, right off the wall in the old house, where the portrait hangs. man it IS just perfect & oh so sweet. i think, you can maybe see a slight reflection (on the steps she walks down) but man, i don't care. it's so beautiful & so ghostly!!

awwwww & gizmo swingin around in his pink barbie convertible!!!..<333

ps..Rot i love hearing stories about you & your bro aka the Cat Eater..HAHAHAHHA...<333

Autumnleaf said...

girl6, I'm lovin' your old school. I wonder how many millennials can boast of such rich old memories. Are there any left? I guess they might exist in CG or VR in the not too distant future.

Jeff said...

Loved Cabin, Joel. A different, fun film. Werewolf was great. The Revenant bear brings up an interesting thing for me...I am terrified of bears, I am. I guess we all have our thing...I've seen black ones in the wild and prayed to every God I could think of they would pass me by, but that one that attacked, left me unaffected. Now the bear in "The Edge"...a very real bear...scared the piss out of me. That bear should have won some kind of acting award because no movie has ever given me nightmares like that.

girl6 said...

Autumnleaf...not too long ago, i overheard 15 yr olds talking about how they missed the old days & old school pokemon. hahahaha!!. but at the same time,it did make me wonder, what old school really means. maybe, it's just happier times, maybe it's that feeling of being/coming home. i love rosemary's baby sooooo much (my fave) & yet there are no special effects. it's also from before my time, yet it feels like home to me, so, idk what i'm trying to say. i think stories are the most important part of any art medium tho. it's the stories that give you all the feels, the ones that you save for rainy days. : )

& Autumnleaf..i thought of you the other night when we were watching, "the thief of bagdad" the silent one from 1924 with douglas faitbanks. man oh man, is it ever beautiful!! & the sets are amazing!! &&& douglas is one sexxxy dude!! it was the total home school pkg from worlds ago. : )

people tell me i look like a kid, they can't ever seem to place me. : D

Autumnleaf said...

Yes, I think it's all about the stories..and what brings us 'home'. Even if it is before our time. But some things are more timeless than others and never seem to lose their 'feels'. I'm just wondering about today's accessibility rate. Instant gratification seems to be the order of the day. We don't seem to need to wait for anything. What does this do to art and film which seems to hit the big screen one month and Amazon the next. Can it still retain that quality of timelessness. Ok..sorry for throwing this thread way off-topic but it seems to somehow relate to 'practical fx versus cg'....and all the cg in the world will never replace Douglas.

girl6 said...

i agree Autumnleaf!!
& even tho Douglas is gone, thank God, he's not lost. thanks to preservation, he'll always be there waiting for us!. : )

& here's some reddd eye candy for you via Lon Sr..<333

Autumnleaf said...

Ha!! That skull mask..priceless! And it seems RED is the strongest hue in their colorizing arsenal.

The Creeping Cruds said...
An on-set photo of Hollywood using REAL sharpshooters in the Cagney film The Public Enemy.
That's Cagney, with real bullets hitting around him because squibs etc didn't exist then apparently..
Pre-practical effects! How far we've come..