If you want to get into a true geek’s heart, mention “practical effects.” It makes us all gooey inside.
Rian Johnson is set to direct Star Wars Episode VIII, but during a recent interview on the Girls in Hoodies podcast Johnson was asked about his thoughts on the whole experience of journeying to a galaxy far, far away. While he naturally can’t say much as of yet, he mentioned visiting the set for Episode VII, being directed by J.J. Abrams, and confirmed that many sets and props are being handled via practical effects.
They’re doing so much practical building for this one, its awesome. They’re doing it all right, yeah. … I think people are coming back around [to practical effects] yeah, it seems like there’s a gravity pulling us back towards it. … I think more and more people are hitting a critical mass as far as the CG-driven action scene, lending itself towards a very specific type of action film, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick, and I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it. I do wonder, kids are growing up watching those and that’s the thing they love now. So I don’t know if it’s a generational thing.
For those of you not in on the lingo of film making, CG (or CGI) are computer generated effects. Over the past two decades or so they have become the most commonly used special effects in films, but sometimes they are raised to insane proportions. For instance, in the prequel Star Wars trilogy, no Clone Trooper armor was built for actors as none of the suits were real. All of the clones were computer generated except for when they removed their helmets, and then it was motion capture. Practical effects are physical sets and props that are used on set that you can interact with. For instance, this would be considered a practical effect.
Yes, it could have just been computer generated, but it has been confirmed by multiple sources and leaked photos that this new version of the X-Wing is a practical effect and exists on the set.
I know you’re asking yourself, “Why does this matter?” It matters in a slew of small ways in it allows the actors to interact with the environment in a more natural manner. It also means you don’t feel like you’re watching a cartoon. Avatar, for instance, did use motion capture, so all of the actors did act out those motions, but it still felt to me like I was watching a cartoon. Sure it was pretty to look at, but none of it was real in the jungles of Pandora. In the Transformers movies, when actors are talking to the Autobots or Decepticons they are speaking either to cardboard cutouts of the robots head on a poll or a tennis ball on a stick.
The other beauty of going practical effects for the new Star Wars films is the pace they are coming out at. Take for instance the fully realized Millennium Falcon we’ve heard so much about. That is a set that can now be left standing throughout all of these films and the cost for building it can be spread either across each film’s production budget, or they can offload it all on to the first film and it then essentially becomes a free prop for the follow-up films. No computer graphics guy is going to have to sit there for each film and keep manipulating the same wire frames over and over either. If a character walks up the ramp in every film, they walk up the ramp. Someone won’t have to sit at a computer and shade the ramp different each time and align the markers.
Also? It just makes geeks happy to know that somewhere in the world right now there is an X-Wing you can touch, or a Millennium Falcon you can walk on to. Sure we will probably never get to touch or see them, but we know they’re out there.
So, kudos to Disney for going the practical effects route with these new films. We appreciate it.