Subtle Digital Effects

When I look at my favorite movies, in general they focus on practical effects. These effects have aged much better than movies using digital effects even five years ago, In addition, movies like The Assassin or The Hateful Eight have opted to use real (70mm) film for much of the production and the beautiful shots from those movies affirms that choice. Whether or not I enjoy these movies more because of their “real” aspect, or because of the type of director that would choose to use these “real” techniques, I have developed a bias towards “real” effects and methods. However, the reading explored some uses of digital effects that changed my view, at least on a little, on their use in films.

For one, there is a very obvious utility in having an incorruptible master copy of a shot via a digital file. Many different effects can be tried out with no risk to prior work done (unlike in the older methods, e.g. optical compositing) . Someone posted a short video of Wes Anderson trying out different fonts and signs in the lobby of the Grand Budapest Hotel through digital editing. I think we have seen directors take more risks in set design and the more subtle effects knowing that they could “fix it in post” and it wouldn’t look bad.

The digital toolkit has also opened up new possibilities of what can be filmed effectively. The reading brought up a very weird but interesting example of this in Ratatouille’s food. Onscreen food has always looked strange and fake to me, which I didn’t even realize until the reading brought it up. Digital techniques have allowed a very fine tuning of minor details like this; I’m sure there are many more examples of completely minor details that were throwing my subconscious off, that we can now fix through digital editing. Even as the large scale effects become outdated and obvious with time, I think the low-key examples of digital effects remain immersive and unseen as a new tool in the director’s kit.

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