Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Lord of the SFX
So I just saw Return of the King for the second time tonight (got home at 1am, thanks for asking), and I have to say while WETA does some of the most incredible special effects in the industry, there's two shots in the movie which are so jarring that I cringe during the first one, and I laugh out loud at the second one. Don't get me wrong people, I love WETA. I think they're the best SFX studio in the industry. In fact, think of this very short list as a public service announcement for them to go back and find the boo-boos before the DVD is released.
Don't worry, no spoilers.
Shot 1). An establishing shot on the Town Hall (Hall of Kings?) in Rohan. I think the blond chick who's hot for Aragorn is standing out front (I forget her name for now). It's one of my ultimate pet peeves when it comes to stock video being used in television, and I was downright shocked to see it happen in LotR:tRotK. They evidently decided they didn't like the slow truck-out on the shot they originally shot (because a good establishing shot trucks in, not out), so they decided to just reverse the footage. Only there's flags waving and a couple of firepits burning in the shot. Nothing gets my goat more than watching flags flapping backwards (they look like snakes swimming through the air with their tails attached to the poles) and seeing fireplaces suck the flames back in. Think ZZTop's Velcro Fly video and you'll get the picture.
Shot 2). Frodo's running away from the camera, and let's just say he's looking a bit disheveled and things are sort of glowing around him. Sam's yelling "Frodo!" Yeah, big help, I know. At any rate, it was shot as a two pass CG scene, where they shot a camera pan from left to right on the CG environment, and then attempted to match that camera move in the studio with live-action Frodo (or hell, even Mocap Frodo; who the hell knows at this point) and then composite the two shots together. Only someone screwed up somewhere, and the two camera paths don't match. So while Frodo's running away from the camera toward his destination, he's sliding along to the right, as if he were on ice. Our non-technical term for this in the animation industry is "ice-skating." Hey, I didn't say it was a clever term.
So there you go. Just two scenes that need fixin'. Out of like, 800 scenes in the movie that used CG. I wouldn't doubt that there's a scene in the movie that didn't use some sort of CG at this point.