Friday, February 26, 2010

All The World's A Greenscreen

This is what I dreamed might someday be possible in television and movie making when I was a kid. Location shoots will soon be a thing of the past, my friends:



Anonymous said...

Wow. I actually went to college for this stuff (but bailed out along the way), so you'd think I'd be the most fascinated by this... I actually have to say that I feel a little cheated.

JBW said...

Embrace the future, one L. It's only a lie if you know the truth.

magpie said...

Call me a reactionary conservative, 'cause I won't embrace it.

I didn't realize that Greenscreen was so liberally used for scenes that are neither imaginary nor some kind of spectacle. I'm faintly troubled by it.

I want to know what is real and what is not.
Stuntmen and fake punches are fine. Dragons and broomsticks are fine.

A perfectly ordinary street that the actors aren't even standing in, but I can't tell whether it's real or not.... somehow that's not something I can put in abeyance.

In the climactic sequence of the original Highlander film there's a train passing in the background. Later I found out it's not real. It's a model. Now if ever I see that scene, all I see is the model.

Good thing maybe that I don't watch a lot of TV.

JBW said...

First magpie, word on digging Highlander. I first saw it in college and fell in love with it. Based on past conversations I assume that our home movie collections are likely fairly similar.

As to your uneasiness, this was a logical progression of the technology. Greenscreening is easier and cheaper than location shooting, why wouldn't you use it as much as you could? The only reason it hasn't been used this extensively in the past was because it usually looked slightly fake, destroying the illusion of the film or TV show.

We're at a point now where, with enough time, skill and computing power, anything can be digitally rendered to look just as convincing as the real thing. The reason we've seen mostly imaginary and spectacular things in the past (dragons, giant robots, etc.) was because we had very little personal everyday experience observing those things, so it was harder to tell that they were fake. The programs that render everyday things, like grass blowing in the breeze or water splashing, are the hardest to write well because we have a lot of experience living with those things wired into our monkey brains.

Movies and TV shows haven't become more fake or misleading, the technology has just advanced to the point where we can't readily tell when they're doing it anymore. The power of our computers is quickly catching up to the power of our brains. Get used to it amigo, or you risk becoming that old guy who annoys young people by ranting about how everything was so much better when he was a kid.

The future's imminent, whether you embrace it or not. It was Highlander that taught me that.

magpie said...

I do not see it that way.

Highlander has dated badly and now looks rather shabby when I see it, but at the time it was a profound inspiration. I think a lot of it is down to the music. Not the stuff by Queen but the orchestral bits. Many people feel that way. It has a vitality, makes you hungry for life.

It’s up to me what I find entertaining – not the makers of the program - and being shown something that purports to be real life but isn’t.... is not entertaining to me. It kills my engagement with what I’m watching.

The illusion can be perfect but something wonderful gets lost. Nothing is being discovered or allowed to happen. It’s being put together by some studio geek who is then imposing his vision on me. Everything is just that little bit more vicarious.

Film was originally conceived as a way of capturing experience. Now it can be made to substitute for it.

“That old guy who annoys young people by ranting about how everything was so much better when he was a kid”....
Yeah that old guy who has BEEN to all those places and DONE all those things.
And I’d rather be him anyway if he’s right.

What Highlander taught me is that the future never comes.
You could live 450 years and the best things in life are still the same. Running on the beach, rolling in the grass with a girl, strong drink, friends, romance. People are just as savage, just as good, just as bad. The real world is still the best world, and the adventure never stops.

JBW said...

Yes, Highlander has aged badly magpie but I think I still love it because it reminds me of how young I was when I first saw it. Plus there's just something about the inherent cheesiness of so many things from the 80's that I dig.

Of course it's up to you what you find entertaining but movies and TV shows by their very definition purport to be real life yet aren't. Documentaries attempt to capture experience; scripted films have always been made to substitute for it. Whether it's a studio geek or a director filming on location, someone else is still imposing their vision on you. All that's changed as of late is your inability to be able to tell the difference.

I understand your choice to be that old guy if he's right, but in my opinion most of them aren't. The good old days they reminisce about only seem so good because they happened when they were young; youth puts a rosy glow on most anything, including memories.

Here's what Highlander taught me: when I was a kid, my old man tried to get me to learn about computers. Since we didn't get along too well and I didn't really like him that much I rebelled against it. Stupid perhaps in light of how the world has evolved since then, although in my defence he was pushing BASIC and DOS which are both pretty damn useless now.

I and some of my buddies watched the Highlander TV show in college (again, cheesy but it was a fun show). In one episode Macleod was chastising Methos, a much longer lived Immortal, for his inability to use a computer. A 400 year old man was giving a 5000 year old man shit for not learning about a 50 year old technology, and I completely agreed with him. How was he going to continue to exist and thrive in the modern era without such skills? Imagine if he had refused to learn how to use a gun or drive a car when they were first invented.

That's when I realized that if it was conceivable to me that someone that old should be able to learn a new technology, then what excuse did I have? People who refuse to embrace and adapt to the future become trapped in whatever era they last knew best, like a bug frozen in amber.

Yes, the real world is still the best world and the best things in life are still the same as they always were but refusing to meet the future is tantamount to admitting that they could never be better than they were in the past. Of course I'm not insisting that you agree with me on this but I think you do yourself a disservice by rejecting it outright.

Things change, we all evolve and the Earth keeps on spinning. I prefer to look forward to the newness of the future rather than lament a past that I can never recapture, although I of course still remember it fondly. I think Macleod would agree with me on this, although I'm not as sure about Methos.

Anonymous said...

"in my defence [SIC] he was pushing BASIC and DOS which are both pretty damn useless now."

I always say that I learned more about how to learn in college than any career-specific piece of information.

magpie said...

"People who refuse to embrace and adapt to the future become trapped in whatever era they last knew best, like a bug frozen in amber."

But it's not a trap - it's what they love and it's who they are .
"Adapt or die" is a very dangerous principle when applied to humanity. How many cultures have been annihilated or turned into reservations full of drunks because of that idea?

The past is not something we have a right to pave over with concrete and forget about. It's something to be honored and understood. Tradition is important.

Whenever I go back to Japan I look for something of the world that was there, and has largely vanished. My in-laws live in a town typically near a railroad station, but just a few blocks over the pattern of streets alters and the architecture shifts, and at the heart of that is a temple that has been there since at least the 1600s, and probably founded on something older. My in-laws had no idea it was there. It took one of my explorations to find it.

Now if our friends the neocon free-market fundamentalists have their way... it will be torn down and replaced with a Kmart, because they care nothing if whole cultures are obliterated for the narrow profits of a few - as long at it's not the myth and sham that they call 'their' culture.

I cannot describe the feeling when you find stuff like that - something that's been holy for many more generations than either of us can trace our own family.

My children and maybe theirs will remember me. At a stretch my great grandchildren might too.
But then I'll be forgotten and that will be quite okay because that which I love will live on until some 41st century archeologist attempts to piece together how someone like me lived and thought.

It's the arrogance of youth that scorns the attachment of the old to days gone by, and it's the shortsightedness of age that thinks this generation of young won't be where they are now, eventually.

Anonymous said...

I don't speak for neocon free market fundamentalists, but I'd rather see a Walmart.

magpie said...

We don't have Walmart, but I've heard of it. What's the advantage over Kmart? Do they sell guns and Jesus knick knacks cheaper?