Two Movies

I have two movies to recommend.

  1. Nobody Knows is terribly touching, and for exactly that reason, hard to watch.  It depicts dramatic story-like events, but it doesn’t give the usual cues to suggest you process it in a story-like far mode.  The main characters are children, who you see in near mode, up close and personal, mostly without words.  If you love children, you will love these children.  Things happen to them, but slowly, and without clear “here is a key event” markers.  So you process the events as near, with less story-mode emotional distance; you are more naked to the full terror of bad possibilities.  It makes me wonder what other stories would feel like, if we felt them as nearby.  And if I would dare to watch them.
  2. The Third & The Seven, a free ten minute entirely CG (computer graphics) clip, is a truly spectacular demo of what CG can do today.  I’ve watched it daily for two weeks now and still marvel at its details. See the hidef version if you can.  If you doubt at all that virtual reality could really be as detailed and vivid as our reality, take a look. (HT Rob Wiblin).
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  • The Third & The Seven,

    Thank you.

  • Corey

    Wow, thanks for sharing. Without any knowledge of the field, it seems like it might be easier to have people move through prerecorded virtual reality while giving them the illusion of control, than to have to render things like ‘The Third and the Seventh’ real-time. Hypnosis of some kind or Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency-esque rationalization would be necessary to make it work.

  • I wrote up some thoughts on virtual reality and The Third and The Seven:

    Thinking in far mode is a defensive mechanism for me when watching horrible movies, but I’m getting less good at it as I get older. I am definitely abandoning more harrowing movies (Deer Hunter) and TV shoes (Breaking Bad) than I used to.

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  • Millian

    I don’t believe it’s entirely CGI. The author writes that “There are a few non-CG elements in the shortfilm: photographer (shot on greenscreen), pigeons, timelapsed growing flowers, flying airplane and sky backgrounds.” Still, great work of art, though the medium is always going to be limited in what stories it can tell until it settles on one side of the uncanny valley.

  • CG fan

    So.. anyone got an idea how much processing power is required to render such detail in real time?

  • Scott Sumner

    Nobody Knows was one of my top three films of the decade (in a post I did in December.) I also loved the CGI short. Here’s a stupid question. Those are obviously famous real world buildings. So what does CGI do? Does it take actual photographs and make them look hyperreal in some sense? I know nothing about the technology.

  • Rob

    Koreeda’s other available films — Maborosi, After Life, and most recently, Still Walking — are no less wonderful, true and unforgettable.

  • Scott:

    The “CGI” aspect of these buildings is that they are carefully re-created as pure 3-D models within the CGI software*.

    One method would be to start with reference photos and as many measurements (or blueprints) of the structure as you could get, then basically re-draw the structure in a CAD-like program (giving you a sort of 3-D blueprint) and then applying a “texture map” to the outer surfaces, which is basically a picture of what the model should look like on that face (so if you’re modelling a piece of LEGO, you apply a shiny plastic texture to achieve realism).

    This is a gross simplification of the details of making the model look convincing.

    The result is you have a model building which you can manipulate with ease: view it from any angle, “film” sweeping camera moves that would be impossible in real life, re-light it in any way you choose, blow it up, et cetera.

    This movie does a good job of demonstrating how hyper-real CGI can be, but savvy students of the field will not be surprised. Most people know that lots and lots of obviously impossible movie scenes are done using CGI (battle sequences in the LotR movies, for example), but don’t contemplate that to achieve a convincing look in impossible scenes, you have to be able to model perfectly mundane things like dust, humans, animals, domestic objects, and buildings.

    The reason you don’t usually see demos of completely invisible CGI like this film is because it’s cheaper to just film real-world objects as long as they’re readily available. You only need CG when you want those objects to blow up, be overwhelmed by a tidal wave, &c.

    That said, “invisible” CGI of this calibre is already in wide use in the movie industry, for situations where the shot is difficult or expensive to arrange. You just don’t notice it.

    Here’s two early, real-world examples of “invisible” CGI:

    -in the movie Jurassic Park, there’s a scene where a young girl is hanging from a drop-ceiling while being chased by raptors. The shot is from inside the ceiling. The shot was actually done using a stuntwoman, but the young girl’s face was digitally “painted” over hers (basically by creating CGI models of both the stuntwoman’s head and the actress’ face, and applying one to the other).

    -In the movie Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis’ bald spot was edited away.

    Nowadays, I believe computer work like this is so common that it’s rare to find a film that hasn’t used a bit of CGI to cheat reality on the cheap.

    *multiple software packages, really, each handling some part of the workflow.

  • Douglas Knight

    For those asking what goes into 3d modeling of buildings, the author has a video of the making the model of one building in the film.

  • I wish T3&T7 was downloadable. For me the visual would keep getting stuck on one frame while the audio continued, but if I paused and skipped forward or back I could see other frames.

    • Stockle

      I had the same problem but found a link on youtube which worked fine.

    • Email me at robertwiblin AT gmail DOT com and I’ll send you the torrent file. I’m still seeding but can’t find the file on any trackers.

    • Vimeo now allows HTML5 for most videos, including for this video, so you can download it.

      1) View the video page in a recent version of Safari or Chrome.

      2) View the page, and click “Switch to HTML5 player” in the lower right.

      3) Begin playing the video.

      4) Right-click on video and select “Save Video As…”. This is a built-in browser option, like “Save Image As…” for images.

      This will also let the video play if you don’t have Flash installed for some reason, as long as you’re using a supported browser. (Since they use a patent-encumbered codec, Firefox won’t play their videos, as open-source software, although it supports videos in the patent-free Theora format.)

      And what you were running into was likely a Flash bug or something anyway, so it probably won’t happen if you use the HTML5 video. You can get full-screen by right-click, “Open Video in New Tab”, F11, then F11 to exit when you’re done — Safari/Chrome don’t have a built-in “full screen” button yet. (Firefox 3.6 does, but it won’t work here, as noted.)

      Going to YouTube would also work in this case, but maybe this will help you if it happens to you again. Occasionally it can be useful to be a web developer. 🙂 (Now if only this blog supported e-mail replies to comments . . .)

  • Ian Maxwell

    A lot of commenters on the video are saying it’s the best or most realistic CGI they’ve ever seen. If they’ve seen any recent movies, they may well be mistaken about that—it may only be the most realistic CGI they’ve ever noticed.

    • quanticle

      That raises the question, of if these folks had not been told that the movie was CGI, how many would have arrived at that conclusion anyway? In addition, does the fact that movie was done using CGI affect people’s assessment of the quality of the movie? In other words, if a person did not know that movie was done with CGI, would they think less of it?

  • Dan

    Very realistic. The architecture featured in the video is quite rare and is known as Modern/Neo Butalism and is known for the white futuristic look but with a strong retro feel. Briefly popular in the late 60’s to 70’s for big buildings on university campusses, institutes and some public buildings.
    I was familiar wit a campus filled with these and it surely features windows looking out on inaccessible spaces where debris accumulates etc. Here is some examples:




    Yes a real building in the shape of a ship.Similar to the one in the video.

    Of course what is more striking is what is missing, the absence of movement and life… Of course it is possible as Avatar shows, to animate realistic humanoids at least but still very expensive. Still I won’t be surprised to see realistic movement and life added in another 10 years to this video.

    • Dan

      For some reason the links didn’t link in the previous posts.
      Here is the Urls:

      Admin 1

      Admin 2

      Admin 3

      Admin 4

      Admin 5

      • Dan

        As can be seen in comparison to the real world example above, definitely out of the uncanny valley but still maybe a bit too perfect… even with the addition of the blemished…

  • mike

    What really sells that CGI short are the textures, and lighting. What lay people sometimes miss is that all the little details, the chips and scratches, bumps and bruises, are basically just like a flat photo placed onto the model, but with information that modifies how the light plays off of it.

    So the grooves between the bricks, and scratches on the camera are not actually being modeled in 3D. For example, the textures have data that say that this area of the brick should be shadowed as if it were lower then the surrounding area.

    You do that, plus change how the light plays off of metal versus carpet or wood, and suddenly you can make a very simple flat surface look marked, weathered or bumpy, and incredibly realistic.

    • Dan

      Bump mapping definitely simulates the texture of the surface… it mimics the real world almost exact… after all real objects also have a “photo wrapped around them” (the reflective spectrum of the object) but in 3 dimensions. Bump mapping adds the 3D data for accurate interactive simulation of textures with light rays.

  • Douglas Knight

    3/7 has the best CGI of any movie that cost $20k + 1 man-year.

  • Scott Sumner

    Ryan, Thanks for the info. It took me a while to get back here, but the information you provided was quite interesting. Not knowing much about CGI, I had assumed only some of the special effects were done that way. I am impressed.

  • Jimmy

    You know, movies have never been real. The fact that cgi can mimick reality means less than you think because movies have always been reality mimickers.

    The real potential of cgi lay in reducing the cost of movie creation so that a wider variety of stories can be told. As it stands not however, cgi adds enormously to the cost of film productions and the high the budget the worse the more banal and retarded the story.