Thursday, September 10, 2009

Puppets vs. CGI (Part I)

It has been argued over and over on, which is better… CGI or puppetry? For me, I would always choose puppets over any kind of CGI but I understand that there are some things that need computer graphics but I feel as though puppets are vastly superior to animation. Well, here is what I think of the puppet vs. CGI debate:  

There are pros and cons to each one and back in the 80’s and late 70’s puppets and CGI animation clashed but back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when monster movies ruled the theater they used claymation. The problem with this sort of animation is that it showed the fingerprints and it took a lot of time to film; figure one frame per move, which consumed a lot of time. Well, fast forward to movies of the 80’s where you had Invaders from Mars, The Thing, Basket Case, Aliens, They Live and American Werewolf in London, those movies used hand crafted puppets that looked real and acted like live creatures. Well, I really enjoyed this for a number of reasons… one reason being that I am bias towards CGI since I was raised on movies that had a lot of puppetry rather than animation.

The Positive Effects

First off, puppetry looks a lot more real because it is real. Thought the creature may not be living and though it’s controlled by other people it’s still real and it gives the actors something to look at and touch rather than just imagining that something is there. With CGI, the actors have to strain their selves into looking at something that is technically not there and if they are not good at it, it makes the movie look bad.

Second, puppets are far harder to control and it requires a lot of time, practice and special maneuvering to make the puppet look real and not fake. This gives the film a lot more recognition and fame for having to deal with those hardships but still able to dish out a good movie, much like the way Jaws gained popularity for having a robotic shark that chronically broke down. This gives the film a reputation for trying to strive forward and overcome its obstacles.

From Blogger Pictures

Third, when you look at the finished product and see how real your puppet looks, depending on how well you handled it, it could really blow your audience away… look at films like The Thing, E.T., Tremors or even Jurassic Park, thy all have special effects and puppetry/animatronics that help push the movie to that extra mile. They make the situation twice as scary and rather than having people say “That looks so fake,” or “That’s so bad computer animation,” they can say “Look how real it is,” and not over exaggerate.

Now lets say the puppets were really bad looking, if this is the case, the movie gets high praise and cult following just because the puppetry is so bad. Look at movies like C.H.U.D. or Toxic Avenger or even Breeders. Many critics bashed these movies because of how bad the puppets and special effects were but for those exact same reasons, this movie will be an instant cult hit. If the CGI was terrible and shitting looking, people will hate it and never look back on it.

From Blogger Pictures

Lets look at the history of horror movies for an bit; most of them had puppets, even when CGI around, many of them still used puppetry because it’s always scarier. Films like From Dusk Till Dawn, Sleepy Hollow or even bad movies like Alien vs. Predator still used the puppetry way… why? Because horror was founded on old traditional styles of special effects and honestly there is no need for CGI in it. Most modern day horror movies, with the exception of remakes, are all psychological and many of them don’t need animation. Good horror movies try to make the monster or alien look convincing enough and not waste it on CGI, which can lead to the movie’s downfall if not done right.

The Negative Effects

As I mentioned before, Jaws was known for having a lot of problems with putting the animatronics shark in water, which is something that a lot of puppeteers and robotics have trouble with… malfunctioning robotics.

With puppets and robotics, you have to build the entire thing piece by piece and it’s grueling work and sometimes it doesn’t pay off. If you see a movie that has bad special effects and puppetry, the animators are going to feel bad and think the whole thing was a waste of time.

From Blogger Pictures

Something that I always felt bad for when it came to puppet is when they have to blow it up for the movie; all that work and time just to have it get blown up has to make the puppeteer feel bad… kind of how in Star Wars they had to blow up all those models and everything, it was kind of a waste.

- As you can see I am leaning towards puppets and animatronics at this point but I will make another post that does show the lighter side of CGI… but I sill much prefer puppetry before anything else. 


Kelly Hogaboom said...

I think you are totally correct on this one. I can't think of a single film that had CGI that I look back and think, "awesome!" Because the CGI is just swallowed up in next year's film which does an even better job. And yeah I know the computer-whizzes do hard work and do great work, but there's something awe-inspiring for me to think of puppets and robotics and the tangible props/characters they are/were.

Andre said...

Awesome post. Jurassic park did use some CGI though right? Those have to be the best special effects I've ever seen. I'm so sick of this Transformers CGI bull crap. Puppets ARE where it's at. Or just really really good makeup.

OR a man pretending to be a woman like Zelda in Pet Sematary.....eeeks still the scariest thing I've ever seen.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

That was a man? No kidding. That movie scared me a lot too, but I was pretty young when I saw it. I pretty much dislike most films ala Stephen King.

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