Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Example of the Genre of the Making of VIsual Effects Films

One of the weird phenomena that surrounds the tremendous "success" of visual effects, is the self-destructive documentary that describes how the effects are done as part of the publicity of the film, no matter how irrelevant the visual effects may be to that film. Whatever movie it may be, it has a documentary about how the visual effects were done. First the premise of the documentary is silly, the visual effects are anything but glamourous yet the documentary will almost always make them seem so.  Second, it is self-destructive because telling everyone how we do the work is like a magician revealing how the trick is done, it takes away the magic. How "special" will "special effects" be if everyone knows about how we do what we do? Third it is often lies, that is often not the way the effects were actually done. So that is good at least, you see we didn't tell everyone how we did the work, although we did tell them how we often do the work, just not that particular shot which was complicated and annoying and who would want to be bored with the actual details? Besides maybe the details of how that particular shot was done would reveal a mistake or maybe that bold new technology that we were using to sell the show didn't actually work all that well, and had to be augmented by animators and technical directors fixing every frame, and how much fun would that be to tell the movie-going audience who doesn't really care about the boring details anyway?

Fourth, anyone who knows the world of visual effects knows that it would be extremely unlikely for one of these documentaries to be in any way humorous, satirical, sarcastic or self-critical. Not in a 100,000,000 years. With a few exceptions, people in visual effects are deadly serious. Tell a joke, go to jail. Use a big word, they think you are making fun of them (seriously). At least in this country.

So it is to the UK that we must turn for the best commentary about visual effects I have seen in any media, and it is in the form of a mock documentary looking back at primitive visual effects as they were done at the end of the 20th century as part of a 2006 BBC show called Time Trumpet.

Did he really say working with actors is like "herding zombies"?  Oh my!

Avoiding annoying and unnecessary spillage of beer on the set.

Notice how they call a green screen stage a "CGI studio". I think it is somewhat funny that computer graphics has become so famous that people think that a standard visual effects technique is or must be "computer graphics". Nevertheless, this is one of the best satires I have seen about visual effects.

The documentary is at

Information about Time Trumpet is at

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