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Will VFX Erase Location Shooting Forever?

Since Hollywood’s earliest days, filmmakers and actors have traveled to far-flung settings—or even just particularly striking local landscapes—to give their projects atmosphere and authenticity. But will the current shift toward VFX “locations” put an end to that tradition?

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As this short video explores, the entertainment industry is at a crossroads. Sci-fi and fantasy fans can delight in the technological advances that have made it possible to set movies on other planets (that really look like other planets, not carefully-dressed studio backlots), or show superheroes displaying powers in ways that actual human stunt performers never could. But there’s also the danger of losing a sense of baseline realism, which is definitely a possibility when a live-action film essentially becomes a computer-animated affair with a few flesh-and-blood actors pasted in here and there.

Of course, projects with enough resources, like HBO’s Game of Thrones—one of the examples cited here—are able to balance both, bringing us natural beauty (Iceland! Malta!) and virtual wizardry (giant ice wall! DRAGONS!) And you have to assume that even the “real-world” scenes display some VFX tinkering, adding clouds in the sky or cliffs in the background, for instance.

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Again, this video is short, so it doesn’t have time to go into too much depth or nuance. The segment exploring the challenges that actors face when forced to emote against a green screen—as well as the quick dip into the uncanny valley—glosses over the fact that motion-capture advances have resulted in some wonderfully layered performances, as seen in the new Planet of the Apes films. But still, there’s some interesting food for thought here, as well as some worthy nostalgia for a filmmaking experience that may one day fade out of existence.


This video was created by Hodges Usry. You can see more of his videos here.

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DISCUSSION

I got to visit the Hobbiton set in New Zealand last year and I was struck by the idea that nothing like it would ever be built again. They started building it a year before filming so the plants had time to grow in. With cgi set extensions there’s just no reason to.

It made me kind of sad.