Archive for November, 2006

The Hardest Special Effect to Get Right

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

What do you suppose is the hardest thing to reproduce on the big screen or in a TV show? Is it space scenes? I doubt it. They look pretty good to me for the most part except for the sound and the fact that you can’t really see a laser unless it is hitting something (think laser pointers… all you see is a dot). Is it water? Well, it’s challenging, but it usually looks believable. No, I’d have to say that, based solely on the observation of the final product, it would have to be: the personal computer.

You would think that it wouldn’t be too hard to make a computer look and act like a computer on screen. I don’t know about you, but when I bring up a webpage my computer doesn’t make any high-pitched jittery noises. Almost every show I see has the computer make a weird chirping noise every time the screen’s contents change. I think the sound guy just gets jealous or something that he has nothing to do when the computer screen is the only thing in the frame. He looks at it and thinks, “I could make this part so much cooler with this super high-speed cricket noise every time the screen’s contents change!”

My number two complaint is computer technology that doesn’t exists. The worst offender for this sort of thing is the classic blowing up and “enhancement” of a digital image. It gets blown up, the pixels get huge, and then someone says “let me enhance it” or something similar, and the picture magically becomes so clear that what was a giant 4 inch by 4 inch single colored block turns into a license plate with letters that are an eighth of an inch high and perfectly legible. It just creates this detail data out of nowhere. It makes no sense. It happens at least once in almost every crime show.

When will Hollywood realize that everyone uses computers every day and we can see that the computers in their shows don’t act anything like the computers on our desks. It really makes it hard to stay focused and suspend my disbelief when the computers are such horrible actors.