Sunday, September 4, 2011

Acting with CGI

When we go to the movies to watch a film that’s supposed to be filled with amazing CGI and effects most people leave the theater raving about how “totally cool” the monsters looked or how real the explosions seemed. Well, I might be a minority here, but after an effect packed film, I often find myself thinking about what it must have been like for the actors working with all of that CGI.

They have to get into character and portray convincing emotions and reactions in situations where the person/thing they are acting with is not even really there. Explosions that aren’t really happening, monsters that aren’t actually scratching at your face, and flying through the air or speeding through traffic when you are really in front of a green screen. All of these examples and more have to be dealt with by actors who work on a film that heavily utilizes CGI. I read a few articles about actors who have worked on films/T.V. shows with CGI and many of them expressed their discomfort at trying to act with “a tennis ball on a stick” as many described it instead of a real human or creature. Emily Blunt (discussing Gulliver’s Travels) said: “I find it really tedious and confusing. You’re like begging a tennis ball on a pole for help and crying”. She notes the huge importance of mental imagery and imagination when working with CGI.

Although all of the actors noted how difficult it was at times working with green screens, etc., most expressed excitement at seeing the final product. In a video interview with the cast of Stargate Universal, one of the main characters played by David Blue talk about how amazed he is by the final product of the show when he sees what is really supposed to be there after acting with a green screen. He brings up some interesting ideas about CGI from an actors perspective. You can view the interview here (the first and last answers are the best).

I think it would be interesting to take a directing actors with a green screen or directing in a CGI filled environment class or to observe a class about acting with green screens. These classes must exist somewhere or at least they should seeing as though many film creators seem to be moving towards using CGI and other visual effects, which are added after the acting process occurs, in order to enhance their films. It is my guess that at least some genres of film (more on the action or sci-fi side of things) will continue adding more and more advanced CGI effects to their films putting actors in even stranger or more difficult acting situations.

I just skimmed the surface of this idea but thought I would briefly bring it up because it seems like it is usually an aspect of CGI/visual effects that may often be overlooked.

1 comment :

  1. As opposed to theater, where the actor responds to other actors and the environment and the passage of time is linear, film acting (green screen or not) is completely different, mostly out of real context, except that in your mind, and slave to the optics of the camera, the position of lights and, yes, the "tennis ball" that simply marks your eye-line.

    Generally, theater actors are the ones that have the most difficulties when working in the film medium. I personally consider it a lot easier and more effective to work with non-actors, who meet character needs (physically, emotionally) than to un-train someone who is trained to work in the open space of the theater, within the confines of a linear time structure. I'll give an example in class to clarify this.