Tag Archives: film and video

CGI Technology in Hollywood Films

If you guys don’t know by now I am very passionate about films, as well as its attributes . For one of my posts I decided to share thoughts about one of film’s greatest technological innovations, computer-generated images. In my post, I will be touching on the uses of CGI within Neil Blomkamp’s film District 9.

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District 9 is a film about aliens who arrive on Earth, not to conquer or give aid, but to find refuge from their dying planet. Separated from humans in a South African area called District 9, the aliens are managed by Multi-National United, who is more or less unconcerned with the aliens’ welfare but will do anything to master their advanced technology. When a company field agent by the name of Sharlto Copley, contracts a mysterious virus that begins to alter his DNA, there is only one place he can hide and that is District 9. I find it interesting to see how movies use CGI in different ways in order to bring complex images to life. For example, in the film Jurassic Park, it uses CGI in a way to recreate our society’s idea of dinosaurs through gritty realism. By portraying how it may look or feel to be chased by a man-eating animal on-screen, gives more life to the film in its entirety. The movie feeds on the common fear that people have of being hunted and chased. I feel that this task is much easier in comparison to films like District 9, only due to that fact that we have found things like fossils throughout history, which makes it possible to generate and produce images of what a dinosaur would have actually looked like.

In District 9, I can appreciate the amount of effort it took to capture such realism through CGI because the images being used are merely based off myths and ideologies given to us by our culture. Throughout the history of movies, we have seen a shift in alien. For example in Steven Speilberg’s E.T., you are given an image of a small bald alien who looks almost harmless. In contrast, when we think of films like Alien Vs. Predator, we get an entirely different conception. In District 9, CGI was used in order to capture and establish a new perception of what aliens may look like. This can be a difficult task especially when dealing with the many other faces that Hollywood has given aliens. Visual Effects Executive Producer for District 9, Shawn Walsh, explained how they focused mainly on the shot sequence in relation to the CGI. “The goal was to create simultaneously natural and seamless shots while placing unnatural images within them,” stated Walsh, “ we thought, ‘hey if we can nail that cinema verity feel with something that’s obviously foreign in a shot, we have done our job right’.”

In addition to amazing CGI technology, District 9’s creative team explained that they were mainly focused on using unique camerawork to turn the movie into a much more “persuasive” science fiction film. They also discussed how they were told to not rely on CGI, but the elements that contribute to it, like the costume designs for the aliens. Referring back to Jurassic Park, the audience received images of fast moving, breathing, and ferocious dinosaurs. Ultimately, these images have no sort of basis or foundation in any photographable reality. However, in retrospect these movie experiences remains “realistic” to the viewers. Weta Digital Director Joe Letteri stated “viewers routinely make assessments about the perceived realism of a film’s images or characters, even when these are obviously fictionalized or otherwise impossible.”

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War, Politics, and Hollywood Cinema

War, Politics, and Hollywood Cinema

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There isn’t a movie that exists that doesn’t follow the basic rules of storytelling. These rules include elements like settings, themes, characters, and plot. One can argue that modern day action films tend to focus much more on special effects than the actual story; nonetheless, each genre has similar qualities within its production. One of the most important rules to be aware of is establishing a protagonist and antagonist relationship in the story. Essentially, these two characters represent the ongoing clash between the hero (good) and villain (evil) of the film. In other words, this decides whom the audience should like and dislike throughout the movie

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I find it too much of a coincidence that many of the villains in Hollywood cinema have reflected the war enemies that America has faced at one point in time. It’s no secret that Hollywood cinema exerts an indirect influence over the lives of billions of people worldwide. In Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey, talks about how films correlate with the ruling ideologies of our society. This isn’t hard to believe since during war times, citizens hear many political speeches, ads, news coverage and other propaganda that are meant to sway the public’s opinion. “However self-conscious and ironic Hollywood managed to be, it always restricted itself to a formal mise-en-scene reflecting the dominant ideological concepts.” (Mulvey 711).

Take a look at this clip from the 1963 film, From Russia With Love. In this particular movie, James Bond’s sole mission is to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen. Regardless of the plot,the film works to identify the Russian antagonist as the enemy, and James Bond as the American hero. This is a great example of a film that adequately represents the current ideologies of society during this time (The Cold war lasted from 1947-1991).

A German film theorist named Siegfried Kracauer, once said that “films are the mirror of the prevailing society” . With that being said, it’s important to understand the relationship between our country’s state of peace and our culture. In an article written by Thomas Riegler called, “Mirroring Terror”:The Impact of 9/11 on Hollywood Cinema,” he talks about how immediately after 9/11 Hollywood cinema no longer produced any movies about mass destruction. This was due to the mourning and the overwhelming shock that was felt across the country at the time. Believe it or not, many films like the first Spiderman where either postponed or canceled because they contained scenes of New York City and the Twin Towers.

However, after the United States invaded Afghanistan on October 7th, 2001, there began to be an enormous increase in military themed movies. Shortly after 9/11 there were many war movies that were produced, but directors made sure to stay away from portraying middle eastern characters as the villains. The purpose of this was to keep all current war affairs separate from entertainment outlets in order to keep Americans from being frightened. 2001 films such as Black Hawk Down, Behind Enemy Lines, and Die Hard are just a few examples of war films that purposely had antagonist that were of a different ethnicity. It wasn’t until about 2006 when there began to be a notable rise in Middle Eastern villains within Hollywood cinema.

Summer Internship at ABC News

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I have officially been accepted into the Web & Video department at the ABC news station in San Francisco, California! Now when I mean “accepted” I only mean as an intern, of course, nonetheless I am excited to learn more about my interests as well as my passions. I am currently a rising senior attending Georgia State University, who is also double majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and Film and Video. My reasonings for picking these two particular majors were to use them interchangeably.

I had always loved film, even since 16 when I shot my first official music video. Likewise, I have always enjoyed writing and expressing my thoughts. With that being said, If it were not for the AP credit I received from back in high school, it would have taken me longer to graduate college. You see, with a double-major it is almost as if you are taking two complete loads of various classes (journalism and film). When deciding my double-major, I felt that it made sense to better my chances of competing in a large job market, by bringing to skillets to the table. If I got hired at a news station, I could either work my way up to an Anchor or work my way up to Lead Director. Even if I decided to work in radio, I could still find a way to incorporate film into my position. Hopefully with this summer internship at ABC News, I can have enough experience to have another advantage over my fellow college graduates.

While at ABC News, I am going to be learning about all the techniques they use on their social media profiles, as well on how to build websites. I will also have to opportunity to shadow many directors, and camera operators throughout the entire time I am there. I am scheduled to leave for the end of May and start the first week of June. The internship’s length is going to last until the end of July moving into August. The position is only required a minimum hours of 20 week, but of course I am going to try and request more. While out in California, I will be staying with my aunt who lives in San Francisco. The only thing I will have to worry about is how to get better, and how to get smarter. See you when I get back. Wish me luck guys!