The Metamorphosis
January 27, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

A look behind the surprising amount of CGI used during the production of Black Swan. [slyt] [nsfw] [spoilers]
posted by schmod (49 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
No opinion on the film itself, but I really dig the usage of CGI to remove the crew from shots where there are full mirrors. Using technology to erase any traces of the apparatus used to make a film is kind of exciting in an escapist sort of way.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2011


If Movie Posters Told The Truth
posted by Joe Beese at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went into this, having seen the movie, thinking "the CGI they used is pretty obvious." I've been corrected.
posted by moviehawk at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Considering that he used no CGI in his last movie, which looked like it had a ton, I get a kick out of him using it extensively for a movie that has a subject matter that you'd think would require very little.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2011


very cool.
posted by device55 at 1:24 PM on January 27, 2011


no CGI in his last movie

I meant The Fountain, not The Wrestler.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:24 PM on January 27, 2011


I didn't need to see the enhanced skin rash and when it got to pulling out fingernails I pulled out too. Should have been called "Black Saw".
posted by GuyZero at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2011


I'm still curious as to how they got the camera to follow Natalie Portman through the twirls in the dance numbers. There was a lot of ridiculously impressive camerawork in that film, CGI or not.

That said, this does dampen my enthusiasm for the film somewhat. I was really impressed that there were mirrors in virtually every scene, and had come to the conclusion that the director absolutely hated his film crew. Still...a great, and judicious use of CG -- the tiny details really do add a lot, even though 99.99% of theatergoers will never explicitly recognize them. (And still, even with all this this CG work, Black Swan cost just over 1/20 of Avatar's total production budget)

Also, what have we come to, where film companies hire CG artists to literally mop the floors? Is this some sort of depressing logical conclusion of the outsourcing trend?
posted by schmod at 1:35 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


>I really dig the usage of CGI to remove the crew from shots where there are full mirrors.

I do too - in fact I totally wondered about it when watching the movie. "How can they be filming this in a room full of mirrors with no visible cameraman?" I mean, CGI or something was the obvious reason, but I really like that they did that instead of just using camera angles to hide it. It allowed the audience to feel more "in the room" because of seeing from all angles.

Really enjoyed this movie. Thanks for the clip!
posted by dnash at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2011


> Also, what have we come to, where film companies hire CG artists to literally mop the floors?

Heh, I wondered that as well. Maybe mundane sets will start being done in CGI to save money. Why pay the union carpenters good money to make an interior home or office scene that you're just going to trash when filming is done?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2011


I do too - in fact I totally wondered about it when watching the movie. "How can they be filming this in a room full of mirrors with no visible cameraman?

Yeah, that pulled me out of the scene, as I wondered "How the hell is this possible?"

The metamorphosis scene was fantastic though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2011


Why pay the union carpenters good money to make an interior home or office scene that you're just going to trash when filming is done?

And when the modeling and animation gets good enough, why have actors?

Cartoons for everyone!
posted by device55 at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This figures. The mad girl Portman portrays wasn't sympathetic, but the movie did feel throughout like a work of art (as well as a loving homage to Swan Lake and Tchaikovsky's incredible music.)
posted by bearwife at 1:54 PM on January 27, 2011


Also, what have we come to, where film companies hire CG artists to literally mop the floors? Is this some sort of depressing logical conclusion of the outsourcing trend?

You're looking at it wrong. How about "isn't it great that takes and experiments on the set that yield amazing performances but would previously have been scrapped, can now get used anyway, to our great entertainment?"

Also, it has to be pointed out that CG artists do not do, generally, a lot of the heavy lifting in tracking the scene and other such consuming jobs. A range of tools are out there, even at the prosumer level, that do this work fantastically. Off the top of my head:

Pluraleyes - Take sources of sound from multiple sources, combine automatically. Also take multiple camera takes and sync them automatically.

Neat - Lets you decide how much noise you want in a shot, allowing the use of extremely low-light shots that would otherwise be lost.

Flame and smoke have too many details to list.

Twixtor - Create slow motion from normal motion footage.

Reelsmart Motion Blur - Add motion blur.

pvfeather - Even the process of marking off regions in an image has gotten enhanced.

I am all for this progression. I think it gives the filmmaker many more tools and leads to safety for the actors (Jackie Chan is awesome, but dude's got a friggin' hole in his skull).
posted by jscott at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


Joe Beese: "If Movie Posters Told The Truth"

The funny thing about this, to me, is that I learned about the hype surrounding this scene after I'd seen the movie. And was frankly surprised it was touted as any kind of big deal. Was it because it was Portman or what? I don't get it. It was like, 40 seconds long and not at all "sexy" by any means.

Still love Natalie though. And I think I might be one of the last.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:00 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I *knew* there had to be more body doubling for her ballet than they made it seem like in interviews.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2011


Was it because it was Portman or what?

"Hot girl-on-girl action" - to use the technical term - isn't my thing. But there seems to be an enthusiastic audience for it. And they seldom get to see A-listers participating.

Certainly, it got many men to turn out for a ballet picture who would not have otherwise.

(Turnout! Get it?)

But I would only watch the movie for Barbara Hershey - so I'm the wrong person to answer this.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:49 PM on January 27, 2011


How could it have been cheaper to add the tattoo via CGI instead of with makeup?
posted by odinsdream at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2011


SpacemanStix: There was no cgi used for the space scenery in The Fountain, but it was used in other places throughout the film: http://www.awn.com/news/visual-effects/look-effects-does-more-less-cg-fountain
posted by ReiToei at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2011


It was hot scene but hardly the point of the movie. Loved the animated on the back of the other girl.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2011


That was great, thanks for posting it! I find it particularly satisfying because this is what I do for a living - compositing. Everyone knows and recognizes the work of 3D animators - they make the wings and spaceships and all the flashy stuff - but all of that has to be integrated into the scene by compositors. We make the spaceships look real, remove the crew, add blood (holy crap so much blood you wouldn't believe) but since our whole job it to make visual effects blend seamlessly into the film, people don't even realize that the work has been done. Sometimes it feels a bit like you work really hard erasing your own existence. When I tell people what I do, I get a lot of blank looks! It's nice to see stuff like this, the vfx artists on this film did a stellar job and really deserve recognition for it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:18 PM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


That said, this does dampen my enthusiasm for the film somewhat.

Wow, I really disagree. I hate, hate, hate CGI when it's used poorly, but the fact that no one noticed any of this when they were watching the movie makes me more impressed with the film, not less. I'd say it's a sterling example of the right way to use CGI.
posted by auto-correct at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The use CGI to do backgrounds in shows like Law & order - some effects company release a clip similar to this one showing their work. Unless it's set completely on a soundstage, CGI is now the cheapest way to do the backgrounds on basically any scene.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on January 27, 2011


It never once occurred to me that I should be able to see the crew in the mirrors. Either I'm slow, or he's good.

OK, both then.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


this does dampen my enthusiasm for the film somewhat

No one should pause the clip at 1:06 if they would prefer to take the movie seriously.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:55 PM on January 27, 2011


How could it have been cheaper to add the tattoo via CGI instead of with makeup?
It's hard to do moving tattoos with makeup.
posted by saul wright at 5:05 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


A guy I play poker with saw Black Swan at TIFF and came to our game later that evening talking about the lesbian scene like it was the face of God.

Interesting video; really enjoyed this film and it didn't occur to me that there was CGI involved in most of these shots/scenes aside from the obvious ones like Portman's legs "breaking."
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:45 PM on January 27, 2011


GuyZero, I think this is the clip you're thinking of. Really interesting stuff.
posted by LukeyBoy at 5:47 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hard to do moving tattoos with makeup.

I did not notice that it was moving, hence my silly question.
posted by odinsdream at 6:09 PM on January 27, 2011


Pshaw! That Black Swan CG has got nothing on this.
posted by pashdown at 7:21 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Heh, I wondered that as well. Maybe mundane sets will start being done in CGI to save money. Why pay the union carpenters good money to make an interior home or office scene that you're just going to trash when filming is done?

Someone asked Peter Jackson why he was building a hall of Rohan instead of CGIing it; he explained it's a hell of a lot cheaper to get some carpenters to build wooden buildings to movie standards than it is to try and make them look read with CGI. I don't think the carpenters have much to worry about.
posted by rodgerd at 11:18 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent video - CGI doesn't have to be stoopid robots beating each other up
posted by DanCall at 1:20 AM on January 28, 2011


Pshaw! That Black Swan CG has got nothing on this.

holy crap that was hysterical
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:36 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pshaw! That Black Swan CG has got nothing on this yt .

I liked the part where holy what the fuck?
posted by odinsdream at 1:57 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Someone asked Peter Jackson why he was building a hall of Rohan instead of CGIing it; he explained it's a hell of a lot cheaper to get some carpenters to build wooden buildings to movie standards than it is to try and make them look read with CGI.

That and it gives actors something to act against/with in terms of a physical setting. Can you imagine the terrible quality that would emerge if several actors in a scene had to image where a wall, window or stone arch was? Architecture matters, it shapes space and the people respond to it. To ignore that would result in an Uncanny Valley type problem, where the scenes wouldn't feel real, they would be off somehow, creepy and unsettling.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:58 AM on January 28, 2011


I've said this several times in the past, but the best (or, well, my favourite) CG is invisible. Ocean's 11 and the Bourne Identity both have lots of CG in them, but neither ever looks like they do.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:07 AM on January 28, 2011


I missed it! They took it down as a copyright violation!
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:29 AM on January 28, 2011


Can you imagine the terrible quality that would emerge if several actors in a scene had to image where a wall, window or stone arch was?

No need to imagine it. Just watch any of the Star Wars prequels, 300, or Sin City.
posted by arcolz at 5:14 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought Colin Firth was really overated, he was hardly in it at all.
posted by Damienmce at 5:24 AM on January 28, 2011


So is there a mirror of this around anywhere? Because it seems to have been pulled down for copyvio.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2011


So wait, I thought Portman spent a year practicing how to turn in to a swan. That was fake???
posted by Theta States at 6:28 AM on January 28, 2011


They couldn't find any insurance providers to underwrite shapeshifters so they just used CGI. Regulations are killing the industry.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:46 AM on January 28, 2011


The video is removed. Is there a backup copy somewhere?
Was it pulled because it is a special DVD featurette?
posted by Theta States at 6:52 AM on January 28, 2011


New Link.


Also, treat yourself to The Black Swan (As interpreted by 6-year old kids)


Two Perez links in one post. Yeeeeech. Now, please excuse me while I go scrub my hands compulsively for an hour....
posted by schmod at 7:00 AM on January 28, 2011


Here's another link.
posted by zap at 9:24 AM on January 28, 2011


This is the second thread I've visited today where the main YT link has become defunct. Infuriating...
posted by Gordafarin at 9:44 AM on January 28, 2011


People should immediately download the top-quality FLV available and mirror it somewhere whenever posting a SLYT...
posted by Theta States at 11:41 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw this movie, been on a movie kick lately. I enjoyed it, got swept into it, wasn't looking or caring about CGI, was looking and caring about the story in it. I hate that bit of trash -- "It tells the truth if not the facts." -- because hollywort has used the fact that we'll buy into that idea to puke all kinds of garbage onto us. But aside from all the goddamn white and pink teddy bears and all that jive, where they were beating us over the head again and again and again, as if we're too damn dumb to get it with one or two teddy bears and pink jammies or whatever. Fuck. I hated that.

I went to this movie clean, knew hardly anything of it at all and didn't want to, what little I did hear/read was enough to catch my interest. I enjoyed it. As far as I know I've never seen Portman anywhere else, she is a stunner, and the perfect actress to play a crazed wack-job, her eyes agleam with neurosis and psychosis and fear and rage. I've dated my share of neurotic, psychotic, fearful, raging, crazed, wack-job women, I've seen those eyes before, Portman nailed it. That was great.

And I dug the hell out of the sex scene -- what's not to like about it? It was hot as hell. What, it's politically incorrect to enjoy watching a couple of gals rolling around moaning? Come on. I had no idea before the movie that it was in there, though being hollywort they did make it super-clear that it was coming on as the movie progressed -- just in case we weren't bright enough to notice it ourselves -- the electricity was palpable.

This was really good to see, the CGI. Like the poster upthread, I didn't think of the mirrors being empty either, and I didn't even think about how the tattoo was moved; I really did get caught in this flick. That said, I am glad to know it now. Wouldn't have liked to know it beforehand, though the story was strong and the acting powerful and would likely have carried me along regardless of knowing.

Anyone wants a copy, I've downloaded both .flv and .mp4, I'll email it to you...
posted by dancestoblue at 1:17 PM on January 28, 2011


[Updated the link.]
posted by cortex at 1:36 PM on January 28, 2011


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