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(YouTube)   1993's Jurassic Park dinosaurs, with their primitive CGI and practical effects, is still better than all the sequels that followed it. Why? Short answer: Steven Spielberg. Long answer: Click the link   (youtube.com) divider line
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517 clicks; posted to Fandom » on 09 Jun 2021 at 9:05 AM (6 days ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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6 days ago  
I got my journalism degree in a Bible college. (I promise this is going somewhere!)

One of the interesting things about studying literature and writing in a religious college is that they weren't skittish about studying the Bible as literature as well as scripture, and vice-versa: They weren't afraid to study the Koran or Bhagavad Gita as literature even though they disagreed with its spiritual message.

Anyway, one of my favorite classes was a literature class that compared Bible versions with the literature most influential at the time: The King James Version and Shakespeare, for instance. The prof in that class said something that has influenced both my reading and writing ever since:

There are three levels of communication, she said. The lowest level is little ideas expressed with little worlds.

The next highest level is big ideas with big words.

The highest and most difficult level is big ideas expressed with little words.

That description of the highest level rocked my world from then until now. I'd often heard it said that only the world's best writers can produce children's literature. I used to think that was silly until we had to write a Dr. Seuss-length story for children. It didn't take long for me to realize why Dr. Seuss spent a year writing The Cat in the Hat.

(I totally pinky promise I'm going somewhere with this!)

This is why literature like Twain's Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn books; Sid Fleischman's Mr. Mysterious and By the Great Horn Spoon!; or Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; Jack London's short story To Build a Fire; or even The Grapes of Wrath--they're all still studied by college students and are still popular YA literature. They tackle HUGE subjects, mostly as seen through the eyes of child protagonists: Slavery, racism and the injustice it thrives in, poverty; starvation; man's arrogance and carelessness when dealing with nature's casual deadliness (I read To Build a Fire in 5th grade and it scared the CRAP out of me).

We studied Jesus' parables alongside famous speeches like MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. Jesus would describe mundane things like a farmer planting seeds or a woman making bread; MLK's speech is almost laughably simple: A hundred years ago my children and I would have been slaves. We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go. I hope I can inch the world even a little bit toward the world my children will be fortunate enough to see.

(Stop whining; this really is going somewhere!)

I delivered my dad's eulogy back in 2018. I noticed all the friends and family who came to pay their respects said the same thing: Don was simple--he was a simple guy.

Not stupid--we're not talking Forrest Gump simple. More like Albert Einstein simple:

Einstein wanted to understand and describe, well, everything--life, the universe and everything: Where we are; why we're here; where we're going; how everything works. He was definitely an off-the-charts genius; but he was also a simple guy:

He took all the stuff I just listed and described it in a formula you can print on a T-shirt. Hell, it was so small it would get kicked back as too short if you used it for an online password: Three letters, one number and one punctuation character:

E=mc2

It's so simple even kids can grasp it. I think the hallmark of real genius is just that: You look at what someone said or did and think "Pfft. That's easy! I could do that!" But you can't.

You can learn from what they did; you can mimic it and maybe learn a bit more and add some wisdom to your own efforts. But you also learn that just because it looks easy doesn't mean it is.

Spielberg fits that mold perfectly, IMHO. He's tackled what you can do with film so ingeniously he almost ruins it for everyone who follows. Spielberg directed Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, Munich, Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park.

And you can go to a freshman film class and once you know what to look for, you learn why his movies are so powerful.

You also learn why he launched so many franchises in which Hollywood tried to capture and exploit what Spielberg did, and failed so hard I can't think of a good description for it. The original Jurassic Park was followed by forgettable sequels that think more CGI and bigger dinosaurs and more gore and blood will surpass the original. Same thing with the Indiana Jones franchise and all the pathetic Jaws wannabes.
I noticed a number of years ago that some of the worst bloopers in film history are in Spielberg movies--take Jurassic Park, when the ground behind the fence was level with the road when the T-Rex showed up, but a few minutes later there was a hundred-foot drop. I didn't notice it the first few times I saw it; more important, once I did see it I didn't care.

Spielberg's methods are so simple: He used just a couple of simple tricks to blow the audience away with Saving Private Ryan:

He put all the cast except Matt Damon through a two-week boot camp to help them show the camaraderie that comes from grueling shared experience (and helped them resent Ryan at first), and for the opening and closing battles (I forget the technical names here) he used handheld cameras with the high-speed, but grainy and washed out film stock (not digital, but physical film stock). It looked exactly like documentary footage from the 40s.

I also liked learning that he used extras with amputations for some of the effects shots. There's a quick shot during the Normandy scene where a guy with his arm blown off wanders around looking for it; he finds it, grabs it and charges at the beach defenses like he just dropped his rifle instead of his arm.

Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.

You'd think after 45+ years Hollywood would learn. 45+ years of trying to duplicate Spielberg's success by throwing more and more money at the stuff that doesn't matter until all they'e done is milk a franchise until its nipples, and they still think it's easy to duplicate what he does. But they keep failing.
 
6 days ago  
In response to the reply above.

I also like dinosaurs.
 
6 days ago  

Sensei Can You See: Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.


Your point would have been correct if this was 2001. But it is 2021, and viewers have become more sophisticated than Twister or Independence Day or any of the CGI romps that were the fad of the time. If you're saying that movies (and the streaming world of prestige TV) are worse today than they were twenty years ago, I will 100% disagree with you.
 
6 days ago  

Sensei Can You See: You'd think after 45+ years Hollywood would learn. 45+ years of trying to duplicate Spielberg's success by throwing more and more money at the stuff that doesn't matter until all they'e done is milk a franchise until its nipples, and they still think it's easy to duplicate what he does. But they keep failing.


Also, what are your thoughts on Spielberg's Ready Player One?
 
6 days ago  
Speaking personally, ever since BBC and others have been able to put out semi realistic documentaries like Walking with Dinosaurs, Jurassic Park has lost a lot of its wow factor. They're more just schlock disaster films these days.
 
6 days ago  
Did that comment go anywhere?
 
6 days ago  

Sensei Can You See: Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.


We do (you must have been thinking of Dredd when you wrote that).  That was the disappointing thing about Hacksaw Ridge, for instance.  While it *did* win the Oscar for editing, I think a bunch of it came off as campy and pandering and while the real even was probably more gruesome than what we saw on the screen what we *did* see seemed forced and gratuitous and a little over the top.  In contrast, Private Ryan did a way better job of conveying the horror and stress of the situation to the audience.

But there are still good movies that handle this - if you haven't seen 1917, it's a masterpiece IMO.

I didn't watch the entire video but what they describe is seen way back during Close Encounters.  *That* movie was just example after example of Spielberg's style and genius.  I have a hard time explaining it but things like this scene:

Fark user imageView Full Size


Taking an insignificant character (the keyboard player) and transmitting their stunned awe to the audience for huge effect is something only few film makers can do well.  And he does it in a way where most of the audience doesn't even know how they are being drawn in.

Also, in the linked video, I think the narrator is overlooking parts of the ambience in the first scenes he describes.  That was another thing Spielberg is really good at.  You see similar in other movies with other directors like the oak tree scene in Shawshank - the combination of visual, sound and light make it feel like you are there.
 
6 days ago  
One BIG reason that the CGI Dinosaurs look so good, is that they brought in a number of stop motion animators to teach the guys doing the CGI how things really walk. How they shift their weight. How gravity and momentum work.  How things MOVE and react. It gave the Computer creations a mass and presence that far too many CGI FX still miss today. They even created a stop motion armature that could be manipulated by animators and have that converted to computer inputs ( called the dinosaur Input Device) Look at how often you see CGI creatures and humans in films that feel weightless and with no mass or momentum (and how they fall far too fast as if gravity somehow is relative to size) THAT was the big difference. 
Fark user imageView Full Size
 
6 days ago  
The lackluster Jurassic Park sequels are due to the last-minute decision to kill off Robert Muldoon and thus eliminating the possibility of his sexy legs appearing in subsequent films. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
 
6 days ago  
Make the viewer enter the story, not watch the story. Never noticed the cgi back then, other movies it is all you see.
 
6 days ago  

cocozilla: One BIG reason that the CGI Dinosaurs look so good, is that they brought in a number of stop motion animators to teach the guys doing the CGI how things really walk. How they shift their weight. How gravity and momentum work.  How things MOVE and react.


Making things look like they have weight and mass is a HUGE part of why most CGI looks like a bad playstation 1 cut scene.
 
6 days ago  
Alright, now that "framing" has been covered for 8 minutes.... let's get to the vfx nuts and bolts:

1. Big things have less color: the best that the dinos have looked are in the two movies that have the least colorful dinosaurs (Jurassic Park and Jurassic World). By JP3, raptors and Brachs started looking like bootleg toy repaints (fittingly, because let's face it... this decision was partly to sell toys) which really sapped their ability to seem menacing. Ironically, small dangerous often have MORE color, which is why the bright green Compy scenes largely work.

2. Color grading: big things also have less contrast because they are typically far away, but try telling that to the overachiever doing the color grading. Fallen Kingdom in particular (the first JP film shot digitally, which is not unrelated) suffers from overzealous crushing that we haven't seen yet in a Jurassic movie, although Spielberg's certainly not immune to this disease in his other movies, especially whenever Janusz Kaminski is around...

3. Big things move more slowly and stiffly: the dinos in Jurassic Park were very rudimentary meshes with no underlying "biology." By JP3, systems were in place to simulate secondary motion like muscle flexing and fat jiggle, which is great, but they couldn't resist showing it off, making the creatures seem kinda rubbery compared to their predecessors (look at the Spino/T-Rex fight). This problem also applies to overly complex skin textures, etc. There is an overindulgence in showing off all that innovation. To quote a great man: they "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could... etc..."

4. "ALAN!" I mean... I laughed when it happened, and I'm a big defender of JP3, but that scene certainly didn't help...

5. The video mostly ignores nostalgia and the fact that almost nobody, even vfx supernerds like myself (see above) had seen that particular magic trick performed, and there was not a robust enough internet to easily learn how it was achieved. I was baffled at how they managed to marry what I presumed was the best stop-motion I'd seen since Dragonslayer with moving live props and non-locked down cameras (the raptors climbing on the hanging skeleton broke my damn brain at the time). I was astonished when I found out that the full-figure dinos were digital (not to mention that falling Land Cruiser, which still looks incredible). By Dragonheart, just a few years later, the wow-factor was already starting to soften.

Anyway... my un-asked for three cents. I rarely nerd out so hard on here but this one's in my wheelhouse.
 
6 days ago  

Confabulat: Sensei Can You See: Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.

Your point would have been correct if this was 2001. But it is 2021, and viewers have become more sophisticated than Twister or Independence Day or any of the CGI romps that were the fad of the time.

More sophisticated?


memegenerator.netView Full Size
 
6 days ago  

OldJames: Make the viewer enter the story, not watch the story. Never noticed the cgi back then, other movies it is all you see.


lest we forget, total on-screen time of purely CG dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is about 6 minutes. CG & model work combined is close to 15, in a 2 hour movie.

Jurassic Park was story first, spectacle second. Every sequel since has tried to flip that ratio and failed consistently.
 
6 days ago  

Confabulat: Sensei Can You See: You'd think after 45+ years Hollywood would learn. 45+ years of trying to duplicate Spielberg's success by throwing more and more money at the stuff that doesn't matter until all they'e done is milk a franchise until its nipples, and they still think it's easy to duplicate what he does. But they keep failing.

Also, what are your thoughts on Spielberg's Ready Player One?


Not directed to me, but Spielberg was the wrong choice for that movie.
 
6 days ago  

Stantz: OldJames: Make the viewer enter the story, not watch the story. Never noticed the cgi back then, other movies it is all you see.

lest we forget, total on-screen time of purely CG dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is about 6 minutes. CG & model work combined is close to 15, in a 2 hour movie.

Jurassic Park was story first, spectacle second. Every sequel since has tried to flip that ratio and failed consistently.


Preach! It's ALL about the story! We see CGI spectacle, after spectacle, and their only point is to put more objects on the screen to blow them up real good! So many directors are just following templates, and rehashing old shiat, with new CGI it's just depressing.
 
6 days ago  
I think it was also the first movie I saw with surround sound and it was amazing. ALso just at the right volume. WHen they had their big roars, it was like a gunshot. You wanted to duck and cover your ears just like the actors on screen.
 
6 days ago  

OldJames: Make the viewer enter the story, not watch the story. Never noticed the cgi back then, other movies it is all you see.


You didn't notice the cgi back then because there is relatively little of it in the first film.  Just six minutes total of cgi.  Most of what you saw were actually practical effects, either puppets, guys in suits, or the giant animatronic T. rex.
 
6 days ago  

Confabulat: Sensei Can You See: Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.

Your point would have been correct if this was 2001. But it is 2021, and viewers have become more sophisticated than Twister or Independence Day or any of the CGI romps that were the fad of the time. If you're saying that movies (and the streaming world of prestige TV) are worse today than they were twenty years ago, I will 100% disagree with you.


IMHO, when they compared the Brachiosaurus scenes illustrated perfectly why Jurassic Park is still better. The CGI is fractionally better, but the  background was cluttered, the shots were static and badly framed, and they obviously thought CGI would carry the scene by itself.
 
6 days ago  
They just worked harder. It was half way through shooting that they said "hey, we can do some of this with computers" and they had to prove it.

For the next decade, everyone thought they could do CGI and it was mostly crap.
 
5 days ago  
I don't think you need a great story for these kinds of movies, you just need to not have a shiatty story. I think that's why Jurassic Park aged well. Each sequel has struggled to come up with a story that doesn't make you want to roll your eyes. JP itself is very simple, some guy made an amusement park with dangerous creatures as the attractions and all hell breaks loose. You don't even need dinosaurs to tell that story. But it works because it's not stupid. In turn, everything else in that movie comes across better including the effects.
 
5 days ago  

Birnone: Each sequel has struggled to come up with a story that doesn't make you want to roll your eyes


Actually the second Jurassic Park has a deleted scene with the hunter guy (Kobayashi ) beat a guy who was harassing a girl almost to death because he was bored. Then his best friend was killed and he had a bit of character development. And Jeff Goldblum is great in everything.
 
5 days ago  

Mugato: Birnone: Each sequel has struggled to come up with a story that doesn't make you want to roll your eyes

Actually the second Jurassic Park has a deleted scene with the hunter guy (Kobayashi ) beat a guy who was harassing a girl almost to death because he was bored. Then his best friend was killed and he had a bit of character development. And Jeff Goldblum is great in everything.


Roland Tembo, the character you're referring to, is the only non-idiot in that film.

Oh, and the "good guy", Nick van Owen, is directly responsible for every death in that film.  His actions, and his actions alone, cause all of the problems.  Tembo should have killed him.
 
5 days ago  

Sensei Can You See: I got my journalism degree in a Bible college. (I promise this is going somewhere!)

One of the interesting things about studying literature and writing in a religious college is that they weren't skittish about studying the Bible as literature as well as scripture, and vice-versa: They weren't afraid to study the Koran or Bhagavad Gita as literature even though they disagreed with its spiritual message.

Anyway, one of my favorite classes was a literature class that compared Bible versions with the literature most influential at the time: The King James Version and Shakespeare, for instance. The prof in that class said something that has influenced both my reading and writing ever since:

There are three levels of communication, she said. The lowest level is little ideas expressed with little worlds.

The next highest level is big ideas with big words.

The highest and most difficult level is big ideas expressed with little words.

That description of the highest level rocked my world from then until now. I'd often heard it said that only the world's best writers can produce children's literature. I used to think that was silly until we had to write a Dr. Seuss-length story for children. It didn't take long for me to realize why Dr. Seuss spent a year writing The Cat in the Hat.

(I totally pinky promise I'm going somewhere with this!)

This is why literature like Twain's Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn books; Sid Fleischman's Mr. Mysterious and By the Great Horn Spoon!; or Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; Jack London's short story To Build a Fire; or even The Grapes of Wrath--they're all still studied by college students and are still popular YA literature. They tackle HUGE subjects, mostly as seen through the eyes of child protagonists: Slavery, racism and the injustice it thrives in, poverty; starvation; man's arrogance and carelessness when dealing with nature's casual deadliness (I read To Build a Fire in 5th grade and it scared the CRAP out of me).

We studied Jesus' parables alongside famous speeches like MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. Jesus would describe mundane things like a farmer planting seeds or a woman making bread; MLK's speech is almost laughably simple: A hundred years ago my children and I would have been slaves. We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go. I hope I can inch the world even a little bit toward the world my children will be fortunate enough to see.

(Stop whining; this really is going somewhere!)

I delivered my dad's eulogy back in 2018. I noticed all the friends and family who came to pay their respects said the same thing: Don was simple--he was a simple guy.

Not stupid--we're not talking Forrest Gump simple. More like Albert Einstein simple:

Einstein wanted to understand and describe, well, everything--life, the universe and everything: Where we are; why we're here; where we're going; how everything works. He was definitely an off-the-charts genius; but he was also a simple guy:

He took all the stuff I just listed and described it in a formula you can print on a T-shirt. Hell, it was so small it would get kicked back as too short if you used it for an online password: Three letters, one number and one punctuation character:

E=mc2

It's so simple even kids can grasp it. I think the hallmark of real genius is just that: You look at what someone said or did and think "Pfft. That's easy! I could do that!" But you can't.

You can learn from what they did; you can mimic it and maybe learn a bit more and add some wisdom to your own efforts. But you also learn that just because it looks easy doesn't mean it is.

Spielberg fits that mold perfectly, IMHO. He's tackled what you can do with film so ingeniously he almost ruins it for everyone who follows. Spielberg directed Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, Munich, Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park.

And you can go to a freshman film class and once you know what to look for, you learn why his movies are so powerful.

You also learn why he launched so many franchises in which Hollywood tried to capture and exploit what Spielberg did, and failed so hard I can't think of a good description for it. The original Jurassic Park was followed by forgettable sequels that think more CGI and bigger dinosaurs and more gore and blood will surpass the original. Same thing with the Indiana Jones franchise and all the pathetic Jaws wannabes.
I noticed a number of years ago that some of the worst bloopers in film history are in Spielberg movies--take Jurassic Park, when the ground behind the fence was level with the road when the T-Rex showed up, but a few minutes later there was a hundred-foot drop. I didn't notice it the first few times I saw it; more important, once I did see it I didn't care.

Spielberg's methods are so simple: He used just a couple of simple tricks to blow the audience away with Saving Private Ryan:

He put all the cast except Matt Damon through a two-week boot camp to help them show the camaraderie that comes from grueling shared experience (and helped them resent Ryan at first), and for the opening and closing battles (I forget the technical names here) he used handheld cameras with the high-speed, but grainy and washed out film stock (not digital, but physical film stock). It looked exactly like documentary footage from the 40s.

I also liked learning that he used extras with amputations for some of the effects shots. There's a quick shot during the Normandy scene where a guy with his arm blown off wanders around looking for it; he finds it, grabs it and charges at the beach defenses like he just dropped his rifle instead of his arm.

Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.

You'd think after 45+ years Hollywood would learn. 45+ years of trying to duplicate Spielberg's success by throwing more and more money at the stuff that doesn't matter until all they'e done is milk a franchise until its nipples, and they still think it's easy to duplicate what he does. But they keep failing.


In the Normandy beach scene, a soldier gets shot through his canteen and the water comes out bloody. The shot barely lasts a few seconds. Total immersion.
 
5 days ago  

UberDave: Sensei Can You See: Nowadays we would see more gruesome, bloody war scenes with speed-ramped wire-fu crap and slo-mo fountains of blood in extreme closeup.

We do (you must have been thinking of Dredd when you wrote that).  That was the disappointing thing about Hacksaw Ridge, for instance.  While it *did* win the Oscar for editing, I think a bunch of it came off as campy and pandering and while the real even was probably more gruesome than what we saw on the screen what we *did* see seemed forced and gratuitous and a little over the top.  In contrast, Private Ryan did a way better job of conveying the horror and stress of the situation to the audience.

But there are still good movies that handle this - if you haven't seen 1917, it's a masterpiece IMO.

I didn't watch the entire video but what they describe is seen way back during Close Encounters.  *That* movie was just example after example of Spielberg's style and genius.  I have a hard time explaining it but things like this scene:

[Fark user image image 832x384]

Taking an insignificant character (the keyboard player) and transmitting their stunned awe to the audience for huge effect is something only few film makers can do well.  And he does it in a way where most of the audience doesn't even know how they are being drawn in.

Also, in the linked video, I think the narrator is overlooking parts of the ambience in the first scenes he describes.  That was another thing Spielberg is really good at.  You see similar in other movies with other directors like the oak tree scene in Shawshank - the combination of visual, sound and light make it feel like you are there.


Close Encounters is filled with stuff like that. Bringing the extraordinary to the level of the ordinary.
 
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