27 Feb 2016
When the typical budget of a Hollywood film today exceeds the $100 Million dollar mark, the obvious question is, “where does it all go?”. As an amateur, I would bet a lot goes into allocating picturesque sets to film, equipment to do it well, and a kickin’ special effects crew to make the effects look good before post production. Additionally, props are a big part of the fantastical element. Good costumes are essential. But the biggest immersion element would have to be the acting and scripting elements, of which the choreography director would have assume unbounded access to the budget assets. The film has to have the final appearance of being foreign. It cannot look like it was filmed. It can’t look like our present day earth. People flock to movies because it brings out a luster of what isn’t, or what could be.
There is a popular genre of films that began in Japan that has become a huge in worldwide entertainment, but remains more-or-less indie. The reason for this is likely because most audiences where I live in America view anime as cartoonish. The stigma is that anime is for kids, crossing maybe into nerd junkie pastimes. While this may be true, the genre often carries with it some very sobering scenes of grandeur, a nostalgic ambiance, and a melancholy pace.
While some animation is still done by hand with pencil-and-paper and scanned in, today we have digital drawing methods that making the scanning-in process obsolete. Imagine a fully-photoshopped film. Few would disagree that Photoshop is a tool that can smooth out rough areas. But animation alone is somewhat archaic even for the digital age. Present GPU technology allows not only film studios to render incredible 3d content, but individuals at home now have access to sufficient GPU’s to accomplish rendered content in real-time. Anime visualizations bring a brush artist’s work to life on the screen, and rendered CGI bring a level of realistic immersion, while still permitting interactive environments.
Most good films today include a little bit of Visual Effects (VFX), and it is usually aided by the use of Motion Capture equipment. Using these tools brings real-world movement, life-like proportions, and unique human body language into the digital process. Computers have always needed the input of their creators, but their capacity to work should not be trivialized. This digital canvas can take great impact out of the budget since massive equipment won’t be utilized as much (if at all).
Finally, while anime and CGI content is cool, what must not be dismissed is the roots they come from. Anime has strong ties to Asian culture, and as such, pantheistic ideas. There are also a lot of post-modern “cultural rebels” that come out of the genre. Just because there is a lot of color in the current usage of these tools doesn’t mean they are harmless to our belief systems. Movies have become so influential today that they are no longer merely entertainment. Movies give us an picture of a reality that isn’t ours. These ideas affect the way we interact in our world. Hope should be a message given, but hope by itself is interpreted differently by different people. Whether explicitly or implicitly, entertainment is shaping the ideologies of the future – we must apprehend this medium of exposure to teach us what we know is right, true, and good.