The year is 1979. The movie: Star Wars.
Like so many people that year, I sat in the theater, enthralled by the characters, the story and the visual effects. At the time, the Special Effects technology was impressive and inspiring.
Now, those Special Effects are outdated and – dare I say? – cheesy.
Thirty-five years later, the movies are still classics. At the very least they’re still Number One for science fiction buffs. But the technology for the Special Effects has virtually been left in the dust, along with the set for the home of Luke Skywalker, I might add. Seriously, it sits slowly decomposing in the desert. What a waste and a shame, I say.
The Special Effects for Star Wars was advanced for its time. After all, in the fifties and sixties Special Effects were hardly more than dry ice and mirrors.
Be that as it may, technological advances in the Special Effects department continue to escalate as well as astound.
Allow me to state up front that I’m one of those people who like to look at the scene around the actors. I guess that’s why I see these things. Anal? I suppose it may seem so. But my father, Heaven bless him, trained me at a very early age to pay attention to the background of scenes. He enjoyed looking for mistakes, glitches and inconsistencies. Not in an attempt to make himself feel superior or to show off in any way, but in an effort to pass on to me his self-learned knowledge. As well as to teach me how to teach myself.
Compare the Special Effects of Star Wars to the Special Effects of the television series, Once Upon A Time as an example of just how far those Special Effects have come in the last thirty-odd years.
Most of the Special Effects of Once Upon A Time are CGI – Computer Generated Image(s). At least, the last I heard that’s what they’re called. Castle interiors are created electronically.
The techno-wizards of Once Upon A Time do an outstanding job in this department. For the most part, the images work seamlessly with the actors and the difference between the CGI and the real thing is so minimal as to not be noticeable.
Even so, there are a few times (a very few) when the effects are in evidence.
For instance, in the Pilot episode when Regina crashes Snow White’s wedding. As she walks down the aisle toward Snow and Charming it appears as if the floor itself is gliding, rather than Regina walking upon it. Which is weird. It’s a very quick scene and not noticeable if you’re not looking at the floor.
The clock tower in the middle of Storybrooke is a CGI. I’ll be the first to tell you that thing looks authentic. Unless…..
There have been a few scenes where the clock tower was used as background as two or more characters engaged in conversation. If you look closely at the clock tower in the background during those moments it is clear that it isn’t real. It still looks real enough in the big picture. It’s the details that give it away as a CGI. It does nothing to diminish the scene itself nor does it stand out like a sore thumb. But it’s there.
From time to time, especially when filming a dark castle scene, the actor appears a little too bright for the surroundings. This is only a matter of a little too much on the lighting but it does give the surroundings a less than authentic look.
These are the things I have noticed about the CGI used in this one particular show. I am not pointing them out as mistakes or glitches or in any attempt to diminish the quality of the work. The work itself is excellent. The techno-wizards who create CGI for Once Upon A Time are nothing less than geniuses. Heck they made a bluebird out of a parrot. They’re good. They’re very very good.
I point them out merely as examples for future reference. Because I cannot help but wonder if the Special Effects and CGI of Once Upon A Time will be considered cheesy thirty years from now? Only time will tell.
I also can’t help but wonder how much better the Special Effects technology can get.
Where does it go from here? Will the CGI of today be outdated tomorrow? Will today’s Special Effects be able to stand the test of time?
Chances are, today’s CGI will still be considered good quality in thirty years.
But there is an even better chance that today’s CGI will appear inferior to the technology available even twenty years into the future.
We’ve come a long way since dry ice and mirrors.
And still have far to go.