One of the things that struck me about Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World (and judging by the other reviews, I’m not alone in this), is that in the 20-odd years since the originals came out, the visual effects seem to have gotten worse, not better. I’m not an effects supervisor, so I can only speculate as to why, but in Vulture’s new oral history of T2‘s “liquid metal” effect, they talk to some people in a better position to know, who offered up their own insights on the matter:
Rebecca Keegan (author, The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron): People talk a lot about ILM, but actually, [special makeup producer] Stan Winston played a huge role. A lot of the shots people think are digital are not, including the, “Hasta la vista, baby” shot where the guy shatters. That’s a Stan Winston model.
Gene Warren Jr. (effects supervisor, Terminator, The Abyss, Terminator 2): The computer is another tool, and in the end, it’s how you use a tool, particularly when it comes to artistic choices. What the computer did, just like what’s happened all through our industry, it has de-skilled most of the folks that now work in visual effects in the computer world. That’s why half of the movies you watch, these big ones that are effects-driven, look like cartoons. [Vulture]
It seems that in the rush to hire people who could do the heavy computer graphics work that modern blockbusters require, people forgot that a lot of the reason CG worked in the first place was because of context – practical effects, framing, and meticulous planning to figure out how to make a shot look believable. Now it seems like we just assume computer graphics can handle it all, and they aren’t quite as advanced as we think they are. Maybe now that our huge, collective boner for computer graphics is detumescifying, people can start going back to learn the old skills they may have missed.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep being the artless doofus who can’t draw a cartoon turkey without tracing his hand. Thank God for Photoshop, man.