Thursday, December 01, 2005


I have a friend who is very sensitive (perhaps with good reason) about when people complain about recognizable special effects in Film/TV. I must admit that I rather tormented him with my ignorance in the early stages of our acquaintance. Years have passed however and I now have a more, ahem, intimate acquaintance with SFX and understand just how many of them the average audience does not notice.

Of course there are still plenty of times when the space ship looks just a little to smooth, the background doesn't quite move in sync with the characters, and the debris from the explosion are oddly chunky. I now realize how often however, low budgets and time crunches can be an excuse for such imagery.

But tonight I saw bad Special Effects for which there is no excuse and it has raised my ire.

I saw bad CG in a period BBC show.

Foyle's War is a show that I have quite fallen in love with in the past several months. Tech Support's mother loved it so much that she sent us the first two seasons on DVD just so we could enjoy it ourselves. It's a mystery series set during WWII. While most of Britain are either off dying in the war or being killed in bombings, Mr. Foyle gets to deal with the few Brits who are still killing each other. Michael Kitchen, as Foyle, has a marvelously dry, tired way of dealing with the lies that people tell in their attempt to hide their crimes. The supporting cast is nuanced and wonderful as well.

So you can imagine why garish, flat military planes moving through a monochrome sky and exploding rather abruptly might be an affront to my senses. That after the melody of the British accent a flat, story-book looking city radiating light in an odd way meant to imitate a bombing, might be less than satisfactory. I won't even bring up the airplane oscilliscope-type-thing the nazi's were pointing at that was very obviously generated in a computer invented long after the plane fictionally went down.

Of course I am not so cruel as to pretend as though these sort of scenes are easily done in any practical sense, still, I have a few suggestions:
  • Smoke is your friend. Cloud your plane in it as it 'flies' through the sky.
  • You don't need a sharp focus. Especially when your buildings look so flat.
  • Perhaps the suggestion of bombs and plane crashes are better than the distracting affect of poorly done fake ones?
  • If nothing else, get Terry Gilliam to do some animation instead, it looks more realistic.

    Luckily all of this occured in the first 5 minutes of the episode and I was able to once more submurge myself in the drama of WWII England and dead bodies.

    Still, with all due respect, while I don't mind and even expect bad CG when it comes to the Sci-Fi channel, no more bad CG in my BBC shows, please?
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