Live & Fictitious
The curiosity to enlarge the misleading narrative structure of the cinema has always been one of the driving force of this communicative language, since its origins.
There are many examples of integration between live action and imaginary world inside cinema history, a long way that lead us from cartoons to digital animation.
The first experiment of integration was realized by James Stuart Blackton in 1900 with a short film entitled The Enchanted Drawing. In this film, the director “interacts” with a portrait, from whom he receives objects, this effect comes moving the object between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.Some years later, Max Fleischer, with his short series of films entitled Out of the Inkwell, used for the first time the rotoscoping technique, which was made up by himselfes and gives the opportunity to animate the main characters drawing frame by frame in the film played on a window panel, used as a guide. But the revolutionary tecnology was introduced by the Disney’s in films like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks e Pete’s dragon: the “Screen Vapor Process”
The procedure consists in positioning the scene objects and the actors in front of a white screen illuminated by a sodium vapour lamp and in filming with a movie camera in tecnicolor, this camera records everything simultaneously on two films and thanks to a prism which isolates the yellow effect due to the sodium vapour lamp, is possible to have two different films, one with the scene without the background and one with the background and the templates of the objects and of the characters in the scene.
Moreover, with an optical printer the different levels of the film are photographed again so as to recreate the final film.
Other improvement arrived with the film Who framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis in 1988. Industrial Light&Magic, a Lucas’motion picture visual effect company, added hand-drawn animation cells into live-action sequences with fine, artistic details, ILM’s artists seemed to magically blur the mind’s perceptions of depth, light, and tangibility by seamlessly translating the film’s effects for the unconscious observations of its audience.
To give the actors something to act against, rubber mannequins, robotics arms were introduced.Post production lasts about a year, in which 82000 frames were handmade by the animators to give life to the characters.
During 90’s there was a fundamental innovation: the introduction of the computer- generated imagery. One of the films that has imposed the CGI in the cinema is Jurassic Park, in this film the dinosaurs are both animatronic and CGI models.
But What is CGI and how is it used in movies?
The simplest way to explain computer graphics without getting overly technical is to think of typical hand-drawn animation or stop motion, which consists of a series of drawings or photographs to create the illusion of movement. Similarly, a lot of CGI animation in movies involves series of drawings or renderings on a computer screen. These are used to create that same illusion to make something look photo-realistic. The production used CG for velociraptors, brachiosauruses, and the tyrannosaurus rex, which were drawn and realized as rubber models. After they scanned models, including ones for the T. rex and the velociraptors, into the computers.
They then reconstruct the data to make it work in the computer, with a software called Alias, an animation piece of software called SoftImage 3D is used to figure out the joint placement on the dinosaurs.
After that, the data has to be “rigged” with a digital armature in wireframes. Next, the dinosaurs get their skin. To put all of the separate images together, they needed to be rendered by massive graphics computers. From there, the dinosaur needs to be put into a scene through a process called compositing. This process use “the green screen ” or chroma key. a keyer is a mathematical process that would make a range of colors in a video signal and make it transparent.
Once it’s put together, the images are reviewed to make sure they work. When everything looks good, the scene is put to film.
From 90’s cinema has made a large use of special effects in CGI. In fact, if CGI was used in only 40 shots during “Jurassic Park”, “Casper,” the friendly ghost required approximately 250 CGI sequences. Special-effects artists spent two years on the project, altering many scenes frame by frame. As the exhibit shows, a 90-second chat between Casper and Ricci took eight months to create. It’s fist time that a cgi animation interacts with real actors, and talk with them.
Nowadays, with major advances in technology creators can go a little too far with CGI making the realistic looking aliens or monsters not so realistic looking and instead creepy or annoying but when they get it right it is nearly perfect.
One CGI masterpiece that comes to mind is Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.
To create Gollum, actor Andy Serkis had to wear a kind of costume which was a tight grey unitard and small little sensors all over his body and face. The sensors would capture his body movements and facial expressions and this allows the computer to create a replicated 3D model of the movements and the creating of the physical appearance can begin. But it wasn’t just the geniuses at WETA Digital and Peter Jackson that helped create such a great character, one can argue it really could not have been done without Andy Serkis. The actor role is again essential.The use of the computer graphics seems to have conquered a well-defined area in the cinematographic ambient. There are less films that don’t use these kind of techniques that make the animation closer and closer to the reality, even if we can’t find anymore the magic that that irreality had. Talking about this subject we can mention a film that will be pubblished in the summer of 2016, a full-lenght film that we have already found: Pete’s Dragon. In this remake is easy to find the differences between the two versions: now the dragon Elliot is a 3d model and no more a cartoon!
Anyway Will be possible to find the magic atmosphere that characterized the past character?
We will discover it….