Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Believe or Not to Believe..!!

Someone said the mark of a really good movie is that you get so caught up in what's going on, that you never even remember to think, "How in God's name did they do that?" When you finally get around to asking that question, you find that the answer is even more mindblowingly awesome than the movie itself.

I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel fan in the house) and realized my favorite character in the movie was a genetically modified raccoon - Rocket. No points for guessing that Rocket was created in a fancy high end computer (at Framestore Studio for those who want to know). The beauty of the movie is that you never feel even for a second that Rocket isn't 'human.' So many shots in the movie seem just insane – the land of Morag, the capital Xandar, the Kyln prison sequence –  the list just goes on. It got me talking to a couple of aspiring filmmaker friends of mine that are movies slowly moving from being created on 'real sets' to 24-inch computer screens?

As a lay person who has seen movies like Avatar, Gravity, Life of Pi, to name a few, I've been thinking that the amount of the movie being shot on a real stage is so farrrr less than what is computer-generated. Some of my friends agreed. Life of Pi is a case in point. The part with the lead character and his boat was shot in a wave pool on a sound stage. But the sky, the ocean, the island, the meerkats and oh yeah the tiger - making up 80 % of the movie – were created by hundreds of CGI and VFX artists. There is no doubt that without CGI and VFX we would have fabulous concepts that looked extremely ridiculous. 

But some of my other friends were keen to add that Filmmaking is not just down to extreme CGI and VFX. There are filmmakers that go to insane lengths to avoid using CGI. Everyone’s favorite example was Batman (the Dark Knight series). In every movie in the series there are scenes where the viewer must think, “I bet thats CGI. I mean how else can this be done!” The chase sequence in the first movie where Batman flips the Joker's 18-wheeler. 'Holy Shit' was the only justifiable sentiment to that shot. So was that CGI and VFX pulling out all their shots? No.. that was created by a technique in Hollywood known as – Flipping a Real Semi, like really. To get the amount of force needed to lift the Big-Rig head first, the crew actually built a huge steam piston mechanism into the vehicle. And oh yeah all this happens in the heart of Gotham city. So was that at least CGI? No again, see, because that would be too easy. Christopher Nolan and team  went to downtown Chicago and closed off a street to film this sequence. Why!?! Because that’s how the big Bat would do it.

Now both sides, the extreme CGI and the 'We shoot everything you see,' had numerous such examples. And yes most movies are a mix of both these techniques. I for one was just left awestruck by both. Full marks to everyone around going to such great lengths to tantalize our sense of awe every time we go to a movie.

Frankly, be it a creation on a computer or a real life creation, I'm just happy to be part of a world where such things are even possible. Aren't you?!?