Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Thing: Models vs CG

I have already mentioned the new 'The Thing' prequel in a personal and professional practice post. Having seen the film, I would like to present a comparison between the visual effects in the first movie and the 2011 prequel for my 3D modelling and animation module.

Rob Bottin was behind the creature designs in John Carpenter's version of 'The Thing'. In my eyes, what this scene really shows the viewer is how the thing's ultimate goal is survival. Ever single cell inside the creature is independent and will try to escape when threatened. This is shown when the detached head of the thing sprouts spider-like legs and slowly crawls away. The whole animation has a cringe worthy quality, particularly as the skin on the neck tears leaving the creatures head on the ground. As real materials are used, the tearing of the flesh and liquid substance oozing from the creature is much more believable than what we might find in a CG sequence. As every movement of the creature is created by a mechanical motion, there is a very jerky uneasy look generated. This only adds to the realism in my opinion as I find sometimes CG can be overly smooth, as mentioned in a prevous post regarding Go motion in Jurassic Park. The use of physical props makes the contrast between live actors and the creatures itself much smaller, making the whole viewing experience much more absorbing and authentic. I find the head using it's tongue to pull itself across the ground particularly realistic. The head animatronic has a great jaw action, which is so constant that I often find it hard to convince myself I am witnessing a prop. Let us know take a look at one of the memorable CG animations form the 2011 prequel:

This particular animation is much smoother, gracefully gliding from side to side as it stalks its prey. There is a very nice stretching motion of the exposed muscle tissue between the two fused faces. There is also much more freedom in the eyes, making the creature appear much more menacing as it scans its surroundings. Although I have expressed my love for the visual effects in John Carpenter's 'The Thing,' I must admit I think this is a fantastic 3D animation. The level of detail really is quiet impressive. From the visible gums to the individual strands of hair, the model is highly realistic which cannot always be said about some of the animations in even the highest budget films. Even the folds in the skin and the movements of the bulging neck muscles are quiet baffling.

For me though, without sounding like too much of a purist, the visual effects in the original movie that inspired the prequel are irreplaceable. CG in film (in my opinion) always runs the risk of clashing with the live actors and surroundings in the frame. I do think that computer generated animations have their place though. In games, 3D animation is growing ever more exciting with the introduction of 3D scanning and motion capture. I believe this level of hyper realism could really enhance the whole immersive gaming experience.

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