CGI and a Botanical Garden

OK guys, I’ve got a new set photo. This one is from JPLegacy user JurassicEvil, and appears to be from the Jurassic World botanical garden:

garden

Looks like a pretty garden! Sort of like the rainforest area of a zoo– you know, those places where there’s an indoor enclosure where it’s humid and full of trees, and they let tropical birds fly around inside. It doesn’t reveal much, but now I think we have an idea where the Hammond statue is located:

HammondStatueJapan

I would also like to point out that that botanical garden looks exactly like the kind of thing they’d put in a Jurassic World- themed Universal park expansion. Like it could be an extension of Florida’s Discovery Center or something. In fact, that picture even looks like it was taken in a Universal park. That’s just speculation, of course; if there is a park expansion, I certainly hope they put in more exciting stuff than a botanical garden.

And in other news, people are still talking about Jurassic World‘s special effects. Here’s a post by a VFX artist Redditor, addressing the concerns over CGI:

VFX artist here.
To those making comments about the quality of the CG critters in this trailer — and to anyone who has ever wondered how it’s possible for the original Jurassic Park to have had such awesome CG, while [insert some more-recent movie] didn’t — those are both interesting observations, and here’s the deal with both.
First of all, it’s important to remember that the further we are from releasing the movie, the further the VFX are from completion. Early trailers and commercials will always feature VFX that aren’t “done,” because our target for delivery is like six months from now, and our team doesn’t find out for sure which VFX shots they’re going to need for the ad campaign until… hold on… juuuuuuust about the moment they need those shots right this ****ing second oh my god.
Papers get thrown, people run down hallways, it’s a whole Broadcast News thing.
So, we take whatever work is done on one of those shots, save off a copy, and rush a quick alternate version to completion. Maybe the animation is final, but the comp isn’t. Maybe nothing is final. Maybe everything is final, but later someone changes their mind and adds another thing to the shot. Whatevs. We give them Some Version of the shot — complete with, like, color and everything, it’s super official — and they release the trailer, and we go back and keep workin’ on it like we were already doin.’ This is how you end up with comparison albums featuring, for instance, the difference between trailer and movie VFX for Guardians of the Galaxy. Happens all the time.
As for the more general complaint that I hear a lot — “but, we were able to make

everything photoreal in Jurassic Park in 1993, what gives?” — there’s a lot that gives. It’s complicated.
Aside from utilizing a whole slew of fairly basic (albeit smart) tricks that make it easier to look photoreal, Jurassic Park also had a few things going for it, historically speaking.
As a thing to attempt doing, it was more or less unprecedented. Just a ton of work, a ton of question marks, unforeseen innovations were certain to be required, and custom scripts and software would have to be written. They knew what it had to look like, but they didn’t know exactly how to get there. Their target was a look. They’d know it when they saw it.
So, they started hammering away at it. There wasn’t even a solid optimism that it was possible to pull off so much CG, at that level of quality, at that point in time — much less an absolute goddamned foregone conclusion that obviously it’s possible to do twenty times as much CG at that level of quality — and so they benefited, a bit, from the exploratory nature of it. As far as executives and producers and studios and expectations go, the attempt to make that first CG dinosaur movie was akin to Apollo 11. “Oh god, I hope this is ****ing possible.”
When it actually worked, it was an accomplishment.
That was the context for that CG work. These days, the context for the CG in, like, The Avengers, is akin to Southwest Flight 782, service from Oakland to Burbank. “Oh god, I hope I’ll be able to rent a red car when I obviously make it to Burbank.”
It became “obvious” (to the higher-ups) that we could do CG VFX. The process got figured out, the pipelines established, the groundwork laid, the procedures sorted… and now, the process of arriving at the end of the VFX process is seen as the goal. First you do your story art, then you do your modeling, then you do your layout, then you do your animation and sims, then you do your comp, then you render out the result. “That’s how ya do it.” Once the process is complete, your VFX are complete. Congratulations, let’s move on to the next movie.
The problem — and distinction — is that, remember, Jurassic Park’s goal was a look. They didn’t know what the process would be, but they’d know it when they saw it. Now the goal is, largely, a process. Finish the process.
Are we capable of delivering CG at the level of quality you see in Jurassic Park? ****ing absolutely. (And, “duh,” quite frankly. Most movies with big CG setpieces are actually at that level of quality.) When that doesn’t happen, these days, it’s because we’re working under a very different set of limitations. For instance, way, way, way more shots, way more complex shots, way harder shots, an atmosphere of assumed possibility, a wee bit of studio apathy, less-and-less money, higher-and-higher rez, stereoscopic delivery… and, uh, not to put too fine a point on it… not much of a premium being placed on quality of life for the artists. (That’s a whole separate thing.)
In addition to that, like I said a few paragraphs ago, Jurassic Park also (smartly) utilized a handful of tricks to make life easier. In CG, realistic shiny things are easier than realistic matte things, so they made the T-Rex wet. They did the T-Rex scene at night. They did a tremendous number of hand-offs between the CG Tippet critters and the practical Winston critters. Not to mention, there’s way fewer CG shots in that movie than you’re probably remembering, and on and on.
So. Yeah, it was twenty years ago, but they were also climbin’ a different mountain.
Now, it’s important to note that Jurassic Park deserves every bit of the VFX credit it gets. (That Gallimimus sequence blows my mind.) It’s outstanding work, it stands the test of time, it’s great — I know I’m basically saying, “yeah, good job with the ****ing Coliseum, you guys, you scrappy group of rag-tag weirdos,” but. I want to make sure it’s clear that I’m not throwing shade at Jurassic Park. I love Jurassic Park.
But, for being a trip to the moon with nothing but a tin can and a calculator — sorry, I’m very analogy-heavy this morning — for being just this impossible thing, it also managed to avoid some of the pitfalls of the modern CG experience. Expectations, mostly. Different flavors of expectations, at different points along the line. Being the first to do a very hard thing well isn’t easy. For that matter, neither is being the 6000th to do a very hard thing well, when people are totally unimpressed with the assumption that you can do a very hard thing well. Like “come on, knock it out. We’re on a schedule here.”
Not that they weren’t on a schedule, but. You know what I mean. I’ve rambled on long enough.
tl:dr — trailer VFX are often a work in progress, and Jurassic Park’s CG was incredible, but arguably managed to benefit from “pioneer” culture, and set out to clear a bar much lower than we typically deal with these days.

Basically, the dinosaurs in this trailer were probably works in progress. We’ve mostly come to that conclusion, but it’s still reassuring to hear from an expert.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m doing a Fanfics You Should be Reading sometime soon, and keep on the lookout over the next few days; I’m posting a new story soon!

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2 thoughts on “CGI and a Botanical Garden

  1. I’m glad to finally hear something like this from a CGI artist himself. A lot of people seem to think that CGI is the cheap, easy, and quick way out. But you forget that it requires just as much talent as any other form of special effect or animation. Do I wish practical effects were used more? Yes. But I also have an immense respect for CGI artists.

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  2. That’s true. CGI does take a lot of work, and it can be very convincing when it’s done right. My personal favorite kind of effect is still practical effects with CGI enhancement, like they did with the first JP; it’s sort of a blend of both types of artistry. I understand that’s not always plausible, though. CGI is expensive enough on its own, and animatronics, even more so.

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