Virtual Against the Real

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Virtual Against the Real Two men stand on the rooftop. One man, dressed in a black suit and black tie, shoots a penetrating look at the other through his dark sunglasses. With a quick flick of his wrists, the man in the suit fires a handful of lethal bullets. Time slows down as the projectiles float towards their victim. The camera angle changes as the man acrobatically bends back to dodge the rippling bullets. Whoosh! The bullets fly by in normal speed as the man quickly gets back up. Neo, the man who almost tasted lead, straightens himself out before continuing to battle the agents of the virtual world. I sat back comfortably on my couch watching The Matrix (1999), thinking of the virtual versus the real. All the movies I saw recently, all the advertisements that covered the media, and almost anywhere I went, I noticed the use of computer graphics. Even the movie I was watching, The Matrix, was enhanced and completed with the aid of computerized special effects. In order to make a blockbuster hit, it seems as if computer graphics are essential. However, with computers readily available at their fingertips, a portion of the producers, artists, designers are beginning to use computer graphics not so much to enhance as to replace the real. Whenever computer technology is used to replace what is real, I fear there is a danger of losing aspects of a vital humanity. Nowadays, any top science fiction or action/adventure movie uses at least some bit of computerized special effects. I still remember being amazed at how real the tyrannosaurus rex looked in the blockbuster hit, Jurassic Park. I was amazed at the power and realism of the virtual dinosaur. Computer graphics, in some respect, are a necessity in today’s films. For example, in Tom Hank’s Cast Away (2000), all the island scenes were filmed on a mud-pile overlooking a parking lot. Michael A Hiltzik in “Digital Cinema Take 2” describes how almost all the shots with a sky or ocean were done with special effects. There are numerous examples where computer graphics enhanced the film, including the creation of fantasy worlds in Lord of the Rings (2001). What made these computer-enhanced movies so effective was that they relied almost entirely on live human actors. They had the beautifully depicted scenery, from the snowy mountains to the cozy village of the Hobbits, that were all generated by computer, but there is nothing better to portray human stories, stories that we can imagine ourselves in, than live actors.

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