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Visual Effects Journalism & AI w/ Bela Beier

Lately it has become uncool to talk about the visual effects in movies instead to talk more about how everything was made practical and how real everything is. The same goes for the coverage of these movies and shows with the emphasis on the good old days, like saying it's the VFX's fault that movies today are made so poorly.

Where is this anti-VFX and CGI movement coming from?

My guest today is Bela Beier, editor-in-chief of Digital Production. Together we talk about visual effects journalism, why journalists and production try to hide visual effects, and how we can change the perception of our industry in the future.

VFX Journalism

On the one hand, we are producing content like never before, most of it touched by visual effects at least to some degree; even the most mundane housewife drama often has invisible visual effects to correct certain elements in the frame.

On the other hand, we are becoming overly dependent on visual effects, not only for sci-fi and fantasy productions (Marvel movies and The Rings of Power series), but also slice-of-life productions are increasingly shot in front of a green/blue screen. This doesn't sit well with viewers and, as a result, with box office and subscription numbers.

Marvel's biggest weakness is the writing
VFX heavy productions with poor dialog.

The viewer's dislike often stems from the poor quality of the product. Like horror movies in the past, movies and series with visual effects have become a staple of poor quality entertainment; at least for the visible visual effects.

At the same time there is a power struggle between the production houses (Disney, Warner Bros., ...) and the visual effects studios. Removing VFX from the public discourse (and credits) allows the studios to have a stronger hand in future negotiations while pretending to produce a better product with less visual effects.

Clickbait & generated

Caught in the middle are news outlets that regularly report on new releases and interesting tidbits. At the same time, they are forced to create content as quickly as possible, while focusing on view counts for more ad revenue to keep their publication running.

What is the best way to get clicks? It's to create articles and videos that people feel strongly about. Unfortunately, over the past few years, this has morphed into creating controversy and content that upsets a certain group of fans or creators.

"For some white American parents, having a young Black woman at the helm of a story about identity and self-discovery is simply unacceptable"

The Guardian pushes the racism angle when fans hated the live-action Little Mermaid movie leading to abysmal box office numbers. At the same time, the article admits that the movie went against the original image of the Little Mermaid written by Hans Christian Andersen, which is what viewers actually disliked besides not being a good movie experience.

In the midst of this, AI is paving its way as it begins to have a stronger impact on social media and news. Posts, articles and even videos could soon be generated by AI. For now, AI has more of a supporting role, but soon it will start to replace certain tasks. Some of them are great, like automatically summarizing events and repurposing content for different platforms, and some of them are dangerous, like generating millions of clickbait content and spam.

Let's hope we can find a way to appreciate good visual effects as an important part of certain movies while finding a balanced way to use AI but not overuse it.


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