Special Effects in Season 3

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mtwentz
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Special Effects in Season 3

Postby mtwentz » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:29 am

This is partially in response to a Twitter post, but also I don't think we've had an entire thread devoted to Season 3's special effects.

Here's my view: there were some really good effects, some very 'good in a Terry Gilliam kind of way' effects, and some pretty bad, cheesy effects in Season 3/The Return. But ultimately, special effects did not make or break The Return. If you overall liked the story, no bad effect was going to ruin it for you. If you hated the story of The Return, no good effect will redeem it for you, and bad effects become just another in your laundry list of complaints. I would add the same probably applies to most films.

Nowadays, the costs of getting special effects just perfect is left to the super high budget films like Marvel Comics and Star Wars. For most films, cheesy looking CGI is good enough. It just doesn't pay to spend boatloads of $$$$ for special effects when you can get a CGI shot that will suffice for the bulk of the viewing audiences.

I was watching Sully with Tom Hanks the other day and I saw a really fake looking shot of a plane crashing into a building. And I thought to myself that looked as bad as anything in The Return, but it did not hurt my enjoyment of the film one bit.

So my hypothesis is that the special effects of The Return, while uneven, were generally pretty good, and where they were really bad, it was most likely for budgetary reasons. Any takers?
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Rik Renault » Tue Jul 30, 2019 8:06 am

I can't imagine that the SFX choices had anything to do with budget personally. The super-realistic, feature-length effects cost a lot but your standard head explosion is really easy to do adequately – if realism is what you're going for – on a budget (or so I'm informed).

I just think realism in the effects is not what Lynch was going for and the cheesiness was a stylistic choice, albeit one that I didn't personally like in a lot of cases.

Some of the 'bad' effects have definitely grown on me, though. I thought the experiment slashing at Sam and Tracey was almost comical in how dated it was when I watched before, but watching it alone in an empty house it felt more surreal and creepy.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby mtwentz » Tue Jul 30, 2019 9:25 am

Rik Renault wrote:I can't imagine that the SFX choices had anything to do with budget personally. The super-realistic, feature-length effects cost a lot but your standard head explosion is really easy to do adequately – if realism is what you're going for – on a budget (or so I'm informed).

I just think realism in the effects is not what Lynch was going for and the cheesiness was a stylistic choice, albeit one that I didn't personally like in a lot of cases.

Some of the 'bad' effects have definitely grown on me, though. I thought the experiment slashing at Sam and Tracey was almost comical in how dated it was when I watched before, but watching it alone in an empty house it felt more surreal and creepy.


Yeah, OK, that was the effect alluded to in the Twitter post.

Tbh, I didn't really notice it that much- that scene went by so quick for me. I just figured it wasn't something they wanted to spend a lot of money on. but if you're saying making it more realistic could have been done fairly cheaply, maybe it was the intended feel Lynch was going for.

All I know is that I felt the special effects were very effective for me in certain scenes, not so effective in others, and a few I am on the fence about. But overall, I don't give that much weight to the special effects in any movie unless the story is crap, in which case, bad special effects can make a bad film even worse.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:34 am

I think the effects BUF did are phenomenal. The frog-moth is one of the most fully-realized creature effects I’ve seen since the Eraserhead baby. Pierre Buffin has said that Lynch took certain effects away from them to do himself, so the abstract/2D stuff that resembles 2001-era Lynch website experiments were absolutely intended to accomplish a certain effect, not due to any budgetary restrictions (it also reflects the intentional crudeness in Lynch’s paintings). I tend to love all that stuff. I also never had any issue with the Sam & Tracey death scene, which feels brutal yet fun in a traditional slasher-movie style. The one thing I wish had maybe been pulled off a little better is the “young Laura.” Don’t get me wrong, she looked fine, but it was obvious that it was an older Sheryl in heavy makeup with some CGI tweaking. Chalk it up to being spoiled by what the Marvel movies have accomplished in having a 1995-era Sam Jackson in almost every scene of Captain Marvel (and even Westworld pulled off a similar effect depicting a young pre-Elephant Man-era Tony Hopkins!), but that pulled me out of the show for a second.

I’m also firmly on the record as not loving the “green glove” fight, but I do think the way it was executed was very intentional and beautiful in its way. The more I look at it, I don’t really have a problem with it on a shot-to-shot basis, so much as I dislike the way it cut together.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby LateReg » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:40 pm

I'm a bit surprised by your post, MT, just because you're always posting here and I'd assumed you also were of the opinion that all effects are intentional. The obviously great stuff is obviously great for a reason, while other effects resemble Lynch's crude paintings. So after I got used to the jarring effect of seeing such "primitive" effects in the opening Parts, and especially after seeing Part 8, the only conclusion was that they were intentional; further evidence is Lynch taking back certain effects from BUF and essentially diminishing them, as Reindeer states; also, I recall a knowledgeable poster here stating that the effects are actually rendered professionally, which is what proves that they're actually "good" effects that simply look a certain way. For me, it emphasizes the unreality/surreality of the thing, and has fun with the very idea of special effects. Most people act as though there is a law that special effects have to emphasize realism, as 99% of all programs do. Lynch often does the opposite, embracing the artificiality inherent in the very terms CGI, Special Effects, and digital. A lot of folks who don't like The Return have put this down as an "art project" rather than a TV series or film, but it is all of those things at once, and that's what makes it great. Seeing those types of effects are akin to seeing what Godard did with 3D in Goodbye to Language, or what Michael Snow did with digital in Corpus Callosum. It's an embrace of the digital, an exploration of it and a commentary on it, and that's a huge part of the success of this particular work of art, as well as, for me, a large part of what makes it more of a work of art than its peers. Those more primitive effects actually enhance the thing as a work of art for me, offering me an additional element that you can't find in any other "dramas".

Anywho, clearly I agree with the posts above mine, and simply in general I actually think that realizing the effects are intentional is a first step for those who disliked The Return on the way to embracing it. At the very least, it is still a sticking point for a great number of people who might dock it a half star for "bad" effects without even considering their intent, which I believe is simply the wrong way to look at things, and nearly provably so. One can still dislike the effects or wish they were "better", of course, but to look at Lynch's entire career from films to digital shorts to paintings and to think that they're not what they're supposed to be in his magnum opus is to deny their intentionality. IMO.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:45 pm

There’s also the clearly-intentional jankiness of Phyllis getting shot (with the glitch/jump) and Duncan Todd being shot in the head. LateReg is definitely right that DKL is playing with the notion of “realistic” effects by making even traditional action movie type shots like these a little surreal. It’s the same concept as the puppet-bird at the end of Blue Velvet. Whatever DKL is trying to say or what he’s trying to convey when he does stuff like this is of course wide open to each audience member’s interpretation.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Mr. Strawberry » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:25 pm

The effects are just little decorative frames surrounding a page in a book, or maybe you could see them as illustrations scattered throughout a storybook. Either way, they can't reduce the content. They're not crappy lyrics clogging up a good melody, they're just visual cues.

I was far more concerned with story and emotion and continuity of the general sensations imparted by the original show than with the special effects. For example, I totally agree with Mr. Reindeer about the young Laura scene. The fact that it didn't look like Laura, that she was facially different enough to pass for someone else, was really bothersome. Here we were plunging deep into unknown territory and all of a sudden after all these years Cooper was meeting Laura face to face, and yet I could not help but cringe and wonder how they could have messed this up, of all things. Sometimes less is more. An out of focus Laura would have probably been sufficient, and would have required zero post production.

Along those lines, seeing Laura in the opening scenes, done up completely differently than in the original, was very jarring. Effort was put into keeping Cooper just exactly as he was when he entered the Red Room 25 years earlier, whereas Laura had a complete makeover, with thick eyeliner and different hair, and that was really distracting.

Sometimes the most subtle details have the most profound effects. For example, during that final drive to Twin Peaks, the blank background and total lack of air flow made it impossible for me to see anything other than two actors on an empty set in a motionless car and it threatened to ruin the scene.

For ultra sensitive types anyway, it's more the tiny little quirks such as those that throw everything off rather than "bad effects". Also there were plenty of "bad effects" in the first two seasons and they did not diminish my enjoyment of the show at all.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Soolsma » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:20 am

I was almost always sincerely pleased with the effects of The Return. Like noted by others before, I mostly value the intended general aesthetic of a scene with effects way more than the technology and amount of money/manpower that was put in. In this way, I'd always prefer the Eraserhead Baby to a CGI recreated younger Princess Leia, or the Diane tulpa in the lodge (which looks like Lynch could've done this on any kind of desktop PC within a few hours) to a highly polished Marvel superhero fight.
I noticed that when showing my fellow students the Frogmoth scenes, they declared it as looking fake, and I can totally understand their viewpoint when they're used to more high budget CGI. It wasn't bothersome at all to me though, and convincing enough nonetheless even though my eyes notice that the polygons, textures and lighting used aren't of as high "quality" as most contemporary CGI.

It was at this moment (picture) that I was only slightly taken out of immersion because of the very apparent low quality 3d CGI. Though the models are high enough in polygons, the textures and lighting used are less real and are reminiscent of late 90's video games' cutscenes. This is understandable though, as highly reflective surfaces are a lot harder to render convincingly. Nonetheless, I was very much in awe of everything else that was happening, and it did not bother me.`
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Oh and once more props to BUF for letting us believe -up until they released their showreel- that it was in fact re- or unused footage from Silva we saw, while in fact they completely remodeled and retextured him. For anyone who didn't take note of that showreel and the descriptions of the process as of yet, do check it out, it's mighty interesting.

LateReg wrote: emphasizes the unreality/surreality


And yes, this is what makes me value TPTR's FX the most.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:53 am

Soolsma wrote:I noticed that when showing my fellow students the Frogmoth scenes, they declared it as looking fake, and I can totally understand their viewpoint when they're used to more high budget CGI.


Really?! I have no hands-on experience when it comes to CGI rendering, but as an armchair spectator, I thought the frogmoth was one of the most viscerally “realistic” effects I’ve seen in years, certainly moreso than most of the stuff in the Marvel movies. Most CGI creatures in big budget films feel kind of plastic to me, whereas the frogmoth struck me as painstakingly textured and shaded. It felt like I could reach out and grab it, if I weren’t so horrified to do so. The scene where it crawls into the girl’s mouth was particularly convincing for me.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Soolsma » Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:14 am

Mind you, I'm a very late student. I am 29 whereas most of my classmates are ~10 years younger. From the way you post, I am guessing you are in or around your forties? I think each generation has a new standard of what appears realistic to the eyes. In that regard, it's fun to realize that magic lantern shows were once regarded the pinnacle of futuristic visual art.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:52 am

I’m 35. Decent guess. ;)

It is interesting how most of us seemingly have two different modes of perception: what looks realistic in reality, and what looks realistic in movies and other media. Going back to the early days of cinema, a visual language was developed where certain sets/props/etc. didn’t necessarily correspond to the way they looked in reality, and audiences acclimated to it. And particularly for a creature like the frogmoth, or Thanos or the Avatar creatures, where there is no real-life reference, it’s a rather subjective question of what looks real or doesn’t. For me, the frogmoth feels organic and three-dimensional in a way that a lot of effects by Marvel and other big-budget films, impressive as they are, don’t. This all reminds me of The Hobbit’s failed attempt to make 48fps a thing, and the idea that a movie can actually look faker to the eye by striving to be more realistic.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby LateReg » Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:05 am

Mr. Reindeer wrote:
Soolsma wrote:I noticed that when showing my fellow students the Frogmoth scenes, they declared it as looking fake, and I can totally understand their viewpoint when they're used to more high budget CGI.


Really?! I have no hands-on experience when it comes to CGI rendering, but as an armchair spectator, I thought the frogmoth was one of the most viscerally “realistic” effects I’ve seen in years, certainly moreso than most of the stuff in the Marvel movies. Most CGI creatures in big budget films feel kind of plastic to me, whereas the frogmoth struck me as painstakingly textured and shaded. It felt like I could reach out and grab it, if I weren’t so horrified to do so. The scene where it crawls into the girl’s mouth was particularly convincing for me.


Same here. Very interesting point Soolsma makes below, though. But! I see everything under the sun, and I note new levels of realism all of the time, regardless of what I once thought was realistic in CGI. But I'm coming at it only from the perspective of an observer, not an engineer.

Edited to add: Excellent comments about the eye's interpretation of realism in cinema, particularly regarding The Hobbit @ 48fps.

I see two discontented comments in this thread regarding the de-aged Laura. I have no problem with that part. In fact, when I first saw it I thought it was one of the best de-aging effects I'd yet seen, and I recall many on this board and across the internet actually thinking they were watching old footage that Lynch had magically held back all these years. That all happened. Upon rewatches I admit I was slightly less impressed, but it still doesn't take me out of that magical moment for a number of reasons. I still don't think any de-aging has necessarily surpassed Benjamin Button because there is still a central flaw inherent in it: The eyes. The eyes always give it away. I think Lynch largely avoided that flaw by filming the scene in such darkness, and avoiding close-ups. The other thing to consider here is that Laura in Fire Walk With Me looks vastly different than she does in the original series because the actor is older and wearing that wig. Thus, in a strange sort of continuity, it's also fine that she may look a little different in The Return. And the fact that, upon closer inspection and based on the behind the scenes footage, it is clearly a 2016-Sheryl Lee performing that part actually lends the scene more credibility and pathos to me. I don't get the idea that it doesn't look like her. I think it looks just like her, even if it doesn't look 100% like her prom photo.


Mr. Strawberry wrote:Sometimes the most subtle details have the most profound effects. For example, during that final drive to Twin Peaks, the blank background and total lack of air flow made it impossible for me to see anything other than two actors on an empty set in a motionless car and it threatened to ruin the scene.


This has nothing to do with effects but I wanted to comment on it anyway simply to say that it never occurred to me that they weren't actually driving during those scenes, but that at the same time that sense of stillness you describe is exactly what makes those scenes so incredible and unsettling. I think the desired effect was achieved, regardless of how it was shot. As you said about Laura, sometimes less is more (and I actually do think that's pretty much what Lynch did with the de-aging, not overdoing it to make her look plasticky like most CG and then somewhat hiding Laura in darkness and not focusing on her facial movements, letting the voice guide you into her past self) and Lynch has never done more with less than he did throughout Part 18.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Soolsma » Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:00 am

Ugh, for me the FX in the Hobbit were a dread to watch. Especially when I compare things like the CG Lake Town to e.g. the wonderful miniature combined with green screens that was used to depict Minas Tirith in LOTR. A lot of the craftsmanship by WETA workshop got replaced by CGI :( The framerate and resolution didn't work for me either. I have to say, I'm still having trouble getting used to 4k as a format. It can be slightly uncanny to be able to distinguish the pores on the faces of every actor in a shot.

Re > de aged Laura. I have to say a job very well done. But, one thing that struck me after several viewings is that the shape of her face does seem a bit wider. Aging slightly changes the shape of our skull. It mostly influences our eye sockets and jaw. Which I think is what causes what Latereg and Mr. Reindeer also describe.
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby krishnanspace » Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:20 am

I'm with MT on this. Special Effects do not determine how good a movie is. By that logic , Transformers would be one of the best film ever. Some of the frogmoth scenes were pretty convincing especially when the frogmoth was interacting with the ground. You could see individual grains of sand moving/interacting with it.
I also loved the special effect scene from FWWM where Jeffries appears from thin air into the Hotel.I mean , I cannot believe that movie came out 27 years ago.
One thing I noticed was The Return had a cheaper production value look/aesthetic as compared to FWWM and other Lynch productions
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Re: Special Effects in Season 3

Postby Rainwater » Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:40 am

I love (very nearly all) the special effects and their aesthetic. Especially everything to do with the Lodge/the supernatural, which is what most of the discussion usually revolves around, as I understand. There was never any "adjustment period" for me either, I just thought they were very cool visuals, and frequently beautiful, and fit into the work perfectly. (Well okay, I was jarred slightly by the look of Ruth's corpse at first, but that's pretty much it)
I never got, and I think I never will get, where the people who are calling them "bad" are coming from at all. At least no sooner than they'll be able to explain what's bad about them, exactly.

The only times when the effects bother me a little is when realism is actually something they're striving for. I agree with Mr. Reindeer about the Laura in the woods scene, one of the rare times I wished some more work had been put into it, or that it had been done differently. Of course it doesn't really ruin anything, but yeah. I think it won't age too well, unlike all the surreal stuff, which is pretty much timeless.
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