Hal Hickel


[ 00:00:19 ] Yeah.

[ 00:00:20 ] I mean we’ve been asking ourselves a lot of questions about what is it that makes the original films look the way they do what what is it that people love about particularly when you’re talking about visual effects sounds like a spaceship because you know quite frankly there’s been a bit of a backlash to CGI visual effects over the last decade or so. You know they’re ubiquitous they’re everywhere and people have this kind of rosy tinted nostalgia for the visual effects shots of the original trilogy so we actually embarked on a whole sort of exploration of looking at shots from the original trilogy and recreating them in CGI to sort of figure out what it is that makes them look and feel like they do and what things to keep and what things to discard in order for the effects to feel modern and more realistic as we’re capable of doing now but they still have the feeling so we we went on a whole sort of research project about that and we took shots from episodes 4 or 5 and 6 and into digital versions of them or added digital like there might be a shot of them wanting to talk and I’m worried that a second falcon in the shot that was digital and just try and match it in as best as we could and and look at things. But there was all kinds of examination about the way shots were designed and the way the lighting looks and all kinds of things.

[ 00:01:35 ] And you know “Rogue One” is a film that takes place minutes before the events of episode four. You know the original Star Wars film so you know in terms of props and locations and costumes it’s super nostalgic it really looks and feels like the original films and yet Gareth Edwards shot the film in a way that makes it really feel really fresh and it’s written in a way that’s fair.

[ 00:01:58 ] It has I think more mature emotional stakes and some other things. So that was that was a lot of fun. And that played a role in it again and figuring out what to keep. You know what to emulate from the old film so that there’s that warm feeling of nostalgia. And then what to make new and fresh and original I mean that’s I mean that’s probably the central issue with computer generated effects these days is that since you can do almost everything almost anything you know there’s still some frontiers that we’re pushing on. But you know the question is what to do and how to do it. And a lot of that fortunately I think is falling back on the folks that it should be on which is the writers and the directors to like you know come up with really interesting cool concepts that are going to make people’s brains explode. So it’s the ideas themselves and then we can execute those ideas to the best of our ability and it’ll look amazing. But if you start with an idea that’s a cliche or it’s hollow in some way you know no amount of whiz bang visual effects obviously is going to fix that. I mean people are well aware of that now. But you know it’s for me it’s exciting to sort of say hey let’s make the ideas great. We know how to make it look great. We can make it look like anything you want. So give us a great idea. That’s that’s just putting the job back in the right people’s hands. Yeah. Oh yeah. Constraints are always a good thing. You know the limitations are great having to push against them is the best thing. In fact if we’re not beginning a project that has some aspects that we don’t know how to do yet which in itself is a sort of limitation. You know if it doesn’t frighten us a little bit to embark on a project then you know it’s not very interesting to me.

[ 00:03:58 ] And and that’s that’s part of having limitations it’s like if you’re if you’re not bumping up against the ceiling know what’s the point of doing it.

[ 00:04:06 ] So it’s kind of a weird rabbit hole you go down.

[ 00:04:16 ] I mean the obvious examples of this are you know when we moved from shooting on film to shooting digitally we frequently asked to add back in film grain or gate weave or other artifacts that you find with film cameras that that you know film engineers to the whole history of cinema have been laboring to eliminate and were asked to sort of re include them I mean almost to the point where they could you put a scratch on the head.

[ 00:04:42 ] No not quite there but you know almost to that point. But you know that’s fine. I think that’s part of the era that we’re in now.

[ 00:04:52 ] There’s this transition from from you know the old school to the new school and there are certain things that have to be preserved for a while but kids who grow up seeing film not seeing film but seeing digital projection and cinema. If I took them to the you know my son to a movie theater that’s actually showing a 35 millimeter print. I think he’d be like why is the image going like this and what are the scratches. Every time the real changes and all the dirt you know whereas I see that in my heart you know that he’s like What is that looks like soul.

[ 00:05:24 ] So I think you know that’s just a natural part of that but it gets into that whole question of gets into all sort of all these visual effects.

[ 00:05:32 ] We had shots of our starter stories in the film and when the shots they were in some of the first trailers for the film and I saw comments on line were like oh my god it’s amazing it looks like a model. And you know when I was growing up that was the last thing you wanted to hear with the visual effects out of some is it looks like a model. Now somebody says it’s a compliment. And then I saw somebody said was on Twitter this guy said it looks too much like a model. And then I was like OK I don’t even know what world I’m living in anymore. Like I don’t know I don’t even fond of that it looks too much like a mom.

[ 00:06:02 ] So it was it’s a very strange world we’re in. But you know again the younger generations come up and they have less and less love for. Film grain and things like that and it’s just going to be a new world. And people like us like me my age are going to have to you know get used to it. I know personally I’d love to move past it off like I know.

[ 00:06:31 ] There have been some experiments in the last few years.

[ 00:06:34 ] You know Inglese recent film and the Hobbit films and I guess it feels like the audience isn’t quite ready for that yet. Maybe but I find that stuff super exciting and you know I see all the same stuff everybody else sees where it’s like well it weird it doesn’t feel like film but I’m not sure that’s a problem. That’s just you know a natural result of moving on to new technologies and new looks and new fields and you know all of that stuff and I. Don’t know it’s I think it’s it’s been seen as a problem for so long but I don’t think it it’s an opportunity. And you know we’ll just keep moving on and eventually the all the old you know chromatic aberration or gate weave or what all these different artifacts of the old processes. I think ultimately will. Melt away. I just think people will stop needing to ask for them.

[ 00:07:25 ] It’s like there’s almost like a security blanket like you’re just like wants their favorite sweater so they can watch their their movie and and then you know eventually that’s going to go away.

[ 00:07:41 ] The democratization of tools. I don’t think it has harmed us at all. I think it’s been exciting. It’s good for the industry.

[ 00:07:48 ] Plus there’s that quote I forget who said it where you know somebody saying look you don’t like having a fancy word processor doesn’t help LP write any. But you know people who had pencil and paper for millennia and that doesn’t produce better not you know you all the same sort of number of people producing brilliant novels versus just writing.

[ 00:08:06 ] And I think it’s kind of the same with filmmaking and visual effects tools.

[ 00:08:12 ] And I’m I’m happy that the tools are way more accessible to young people I just think that’s a huge plus.

[ 00:08:18 ] What I think has been a lot tougher on my industry is the you know the global worldwide spread of of the work to areas where there are tax incentives and there are subsidies and so forth that’s made it a lot harder. That’s made people have to pick up their families and move to a different country and then all that tax incentive got yanked away by a change in government. OK now you get to move over here and I think that kind of thing has been harder on people. It’s created opportunities for sure. There are parts of the world now that have huge very muscular visual effects industries that are almost like they’re on steroids. You know they’re much larger than they would naturally be given where they are in the world.

[ 00:09:02 ] But but that’s been awesome operas meant awesome opportunity for the artist in those parts of the world. So you know it kind of depends on where you live and who you are as to whether it’s a problem or a solution to a problem. So but for those of us in California obviously the landscape has shifted rather rather dramatically in the last decade and a half. And you know we just have to keep on keepin on and figure out how to keep doing it. In the new world of visual facts and that’s what it is.

Thought Gallery Channel:
Backstage Conversations
Backstage Conversation Season: 2017