Monday, April 14, 2014

Did Michael Bay actually do something right?

The Transformers trilogy is absolutely awful. Like most of Michael Bay's 'films' they are one-dimensional action flicks trying to disguise themselves as something more meaningful. Sorry Bay, but you're not fooling anyone. There's not a single Bay film that I have found cinematically pleasing, nor have I ever found a reason to commend the director, except for one exception.

While I do not necessarily agree with Bay's style of filming or directing, there is at least one thing he's done right all these years (besides managing to perfectly resemble Michael Bolton): hiring an excellent team of visual effects specialists. More specifically, I'm talking about the Transformers movies. While I find them to be terribly painful to watch, there is certainly something to admire about the films. The visual effects behind the absurdly complicated alien robots is simply breathtaking.

To start off, Destroyer, an enormously impressive creation found in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, took 72 hours to render...per frame! Pretty crazy, huh? Let's be honest, though. Anyone can make something that takes weeks to render. That's not the impressive part. The impressive part is that the single Transformer was put together by 6-8 individually created, incredibly detailed vehicles. Imagine how long that would take you to create. Now, imagine how long that would take you to create a second time once your director told you it wasn't good enough. I can only assume you'd be pretty upset with that news. Essentially, the animators were instructed to go back and make the machines twice as detailed as it already was, and THEN to reconstruct the final robot with all 6-8 individual pieces.

Another kudos for Bay goes to his ability to bring in practical visual effects. On the set of Transformers 2, Bay was able to bring in a sizable number of military vehicles (tanks, bombers, F16s, you name it) to fly over set, drop flares, and just add some level of believability to his otherwise ludicrous film. Bay is also a fan of on-set explosions. They're dangerous, yes, but they make for one hell of an effect. It also saves quite a bit of postproduction time and effort. Speaking for anyone who's ever worked postproduction on a film, we all greatly appreciate it.

Bringing it back to postproduction visual effects, the aircraft carrier scene of Transformers 2 is also quite an impressive feat. I never really gave it much thought, but much more than most people would ever expect went into this scene. The team shot actual burning miniatures and debris with blue screens that were later composited into the completed animations. The people on the carriers were a mix of animations and people who were shot tumbling and falling. The aircraft were created by the animators as well. Basically, thousands of pieces were created for this scene simply to be destroyed over the course of a minute. It's like being a kid again after taking hours to build a LEGO model just to have your younger brother completely and utterly demolish it.

Animation is a crazy field to go into. It's often the defining point between a film's success and it's downfall. In Michael Bay's case, it's really the only thing he was able to do correctly.

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