in Digital Effects?.
FX are great to watch, but they are no substitute for a
quality writing, acting and direction.
in digital special effects have opened a new world for
motion picture and television producers. As an example,
look at modern movie monsters.
In the "good old days" of
special effects, the giant dinosaur wrecking the city was
an actor sweating profusely inside a rubber suit.
Swinging his arms blindly under the blazing lights,
venting rage on flimsy scale-model buildings, spots and
fills pouring down hot light, the actor finally passes
out. Monster fall down, go boom. The doctors murmur about
heat prostration. Equity files a grievance.
Today that same scene of
destruction likely is being created in virtual reality.
Crumbling city buildings are constructed from gigabits of
data by advanced CAD imaging systems. The monster is
digital, too, created on a computer screen from a
"wireframe" model that's fleshed out and then "painted"
with sophisticated software. The monster is animated by
an actor in a motion-capture suit, sensors attached on
the legs and torso and arms and head. Sensors on the face
help the creature give an angry roar.
If the project has the budget, a
scale model of the monster may be constructed with
miniature servos built into the beast to make the arms
swing in fury and the head tilt back in defiance.
Animating the lifelike animatron might be an actor in a
motion-capture suit, or all actions may be pre-programmed
with advanced robotics applications. The camera may be
automated, too, attached at the end of a flexible arm
rising from a massive dolly mounted on a moveable track,
another movie monster in the making.
Amid all these gee-whiz gizmos,
however, studios risk placing more emphasis upon
technology than scripts, placing more stress on digital
methods than method acting. A syndicated series about a
mythical Arabian sailor serves as one example of fine
digital effects being no substitute for solid
When style takes precedence over
substance, we all suffer from a lack of essential
Consider the batch of new TV
series. Digital FX has a starring role in "Seven Days"
from Paramount for UPN, "Brimstone" from Warner Bros for
Fox, and "Charmed" from Spelling for the WB.
Digital effects permit producers
of these and other shows to add magic and excitement to
programming that in previous seasons could never have
afforded such special treatment. Viewers clearly enjoy
the cleverly rendered realism, never before possible with
prior techniques. Even cartoon series for kids benefit
from digital tools that streamline the tedious job of
creating and shooting one cell after another.
Yet be alert to danger here.
What holds a viewer's interest above all of the other
factors? Compelling characters. A strong story. An actor
in a flat role, be that actor living or digital, talented
or not, is still going to come across flat. Weak acting
and weaker scripts remain the bane of
Take advantage of the new
technologies, certainly, but don't forget the proven
fundamentals. Quality prevails every time.