Mad Max Fury Road is getting rave reviews. So expecting the ultimate action movie I was “just” treated to a good action movie.
70% of the 2015 Mad Max remake feels like the constant chase that the trailer promises. At most 30% of the movie is slower paced. It’s a visual feast, the stunts (apparently overwhelmingly practical instead of CGI) are great.
The fact that the stunts are just augmented by CGI instead of completely replaced by CGI grounds the movie in reality. Cars and trucks feel like they’re actually weighing what they are weighing and the camera – while moving around constantly and extensively – feels like it’s physically there. Cracked recently had an article about CGI in movies that touches on that by the way.
Moreover the movie is a visual feast and I was constantly amazed by the whacky ideas they had for a post-apocalyptic world that craves for gasoline and water. Yet, in my opinion it lacked certain elements you might expect from this year’s highest-rated action blockbuster. I didn’t feel at the edge of my seat a lot. And there was never a moment where the whole theater erupted into laughter because of a joke or because an evildoer met his demise in a hilarious kind of way.
That shouldn’t stop you from watching the movie though. The film is a special action movie. Its characters are far from cardboard cutouts. And the world-building that Miller has done makes you want to see more of the Mad Max universe. Theron’s character, for example, is called an “Imperator” without explaining what that entails. There’s a well-developed cult of personality about evil warlord “Immortan Joe” with gestures and religious exclamations that simply feel “given” and which make the society of Mad Max incredibly believable (unlike post apocalyptic duds like Elysium).
8/10 (the “great movie – an easy recommendation” level)
References to famous anime movies everwhere! Slimy gooey monsters from Princess Mononoke or Chihiro, giant airborne insects and rural people with funny masks from Nausicaä…
Incidentally, this short film makes you aware that Miyazaki’s work (or anime in general) is a constant rehashing of familiar tropes and the same characters. Take the “wise old bearded guy” from the vimeo still frame above. Or the burly light-hearted sidekick. The weird/nerdy heroine. The rural setting with windmills and nature as a god/goddess symbolized by a giant tree. It makes you think you can pull off your own Ghibli movie by just reassembling Miyazaki tropes.
Which of course isn’t true, and even if there are many many tropes in anime, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s probably even the “magic formula” that gives the audience more of the same that they’re craving for.
Well, I went off on a tangent there. The short film by Gwenn Germain makes you wish it was a trailer for an actual movie. I’d watch it!
This is the story of a great hoax no matter what the true story is: after the German media has made a fuss about a 2013 video of the Greek treasury secretary Varoufakis flipping the finger, a small TV show has claimed that the video is fake and that they have doctored it (enable English subtitles). At the end of my post I’ll demonstrate why I think they are making this up.
A bit of context:
German’s biggest yellow press newspaper has been spewing tirades and stirring hatred towards Greece for years now. By now, viewing Greeks as lazy thieves of hard-earned German monies is basically ingrained in our national narrative of Europe; as shameful as it is.
The team of a small late night show claims to have trolled the media by inserting the obscene gesture and seeding the video to Youtube. But did they? They might have doctored the video the other way around for their show to remove the gesture of Varoufakis and make a point about the current German mindset.
From a technical point of view, either theory is plausible. I’ve done VFX to replace body parts myself and that section of the Nuke comp that they’re showing makes some sense (except for the motion blurred grid they used as a making-of effect). It would certainly possible to make Varoufakis raise his middle finger for a few frames.
But it would be an equal amount of work to remove the gesture: retime, freeze and matchmove his torso to postpone the upwards motion of his arm by a few frames, then transition back to the original footage.
To those who are amazed by what you can do with technology these days: that stuff has not only been possible for 20+ years (see Jurassic Park’s stunt double face swap which was still a bit rough around the edges). It has been done seamlessly on all kinds of motion pictures for quite a while.
So can we find out which clip is real just by comparing both versions? Yes. I think the finger is real (side note: and I couldn’t care less…) and here’s why:
Let’s start with the obvious. The idea that you would fake this by employing an actor who looks like Varoufakis and making him wear a green full-body suit except for his hand and collar is ridiculous.
It’s playing with the general public’s idea of how green-screen photography works and it has been spoofed a lot of times already, for example by MADtv years ago and another German TV show more recently.
But let’s look at the hard facts of the footage at hand. Here’s a frame-by-frame comparison of both clips next to each other. No matter which version is real, they did a great job.
To fake the left version (the flipped finger), they would have had to replace the right side of his torso to get rid of the lowered arm and during (what would in this case be) the arm’s real upwards motion. That’s much more than just pasting a new hand on top of Varoufakis as they make us believe during the making-of. That’s a great comp job (if it were true).
By the way: the nature of the shirt he’s wearing might make doctoring this footage easier. Wrinkles pop up and vanish due to the tiniest motions of his body so you can hide masks and transitions better than you might think.
If the right version – without the middle finger – was fake, they would have had to freeze, replace and/or morph a large part of Varoufaki’s torso and parts of his collar to get rid of the raised hand for an extended period of time, all while Varoufaki’s face keeps moving/talking. That’s great comp job in this case as well.
But here’s the real deal: They would also have to mess with the other hand that is holding the microphone! And they did.
Here’s how to spot the fake:
You can see in the left shot (the one that I think is genuine) that there’s a shadow running over the mic while Varoufakis raises his hand. On the left side (the one that I think is fake) the whole hand and microphone area is excibiting a weird wobbling motion that starts as soon as they had to retime/freeze his torso and stops as soon as he lowers his arm.
To me, this is a sign of doctoring. A side effect of the warping they had to do to match a non-shadowed microphone on top of the real footage.
And then there’s the artifact which is the ultimate clue in my opinion.
Right after his hand has moved down, they transition from their fake clean plate back to the real microphone. But the cable has been twisted ever so slightly while Varoufakis was flipping the finger that you can see the blending of two versions of the cable.
The finger is real. The VFX artist(s) did a great job to undo this gesture and the show is (successfully) trolling the media by making them think they fell for a doctored video. ZDF neo and its host Jan Böhmermann are successful in making the general public question the way they get enraged by unimportant videos that were taken out of context.
Further reading: The Ems Dispatch, a purposefully edited document that played a part in starting the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.
Since Fusion doesn’t support the Syntheyes distortion model by itself, Syntheyes will set up a UV map distortion/undistortion workflow for you on export. In my experience, the image quality might suffer a bit with strong distortion values since there’s no sub-sampling, but this technique has many advantages. One being the fact that it automatically contains the undistorted image’s resolution that you need for 3D via the UV map.
A video about how Jackie Chan directs his action scenes led me to the youtube channel of Tony Zhou called “Every Frame a Painting” which I can highly recommend. In each of his short but well-presented videos he dissects a specific directing or editing technique.
Here’s one about what makes Edgar Wright’s comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) funny on a purely visual level. Hating on mainstream Hollywood is always fun so Zhou contrasts it with comedy movies like Hangover (which make a shitload of money anyways so remember the central life lesson of cinema: success doesn’t depend on mastering movies as an art form and one should stop lamenting this fact lest one becomes a grumpy old film critic).