The CGI conundrum
When Jurassic Park cemented the power of CGI, the genie was definitely out of the bottle for good. There’s been a lot of great CGI since, and a lot of terrible movies that rely on it way too much as well.
There’s also always been the worry of whether it would ever one day eliminate physical effects and special effects make-up, which would be a terrible tragedy for many film buffs.
As make-up artist Eddie Yang once told me, "The fact that I could make a living doing make-up effects was a dream come true. It was always in the back of my mind that one day this might be around. With Jurassic Park, I think that’s when everybody started getting scared!"
Years back when George Romero was making his comeback film, Land of the Dead, some of the gore had to be done with CGI, simply because he wasn't able to create some of the insane ideas for zombie deaths with physical make-up on the set.
The CGI effects actually looked better than I expected, but clearly Romero wasn’t thrilled working with the technology, because when I told him I liked how one CG effect looked, he replied, "That’s your problem."
Yet speaking with a number of make-up artists, I was surprised to learn they weren’t as anti-CGI as many in the film geek community are . As much as it affected the make-up business, Yang continues, "I saw the transition, but I don’t blame CGI, because the freedom you have with it is incredible. If I were directing a film, I’d want that freedom too."
Although make-up master Rick Baker told me that CGI "kind of whipped out the rubber monster business to a degree, we’re definitely not building as many suits for things as we once did," he added. "I embrace the technology. Now kids can do movie quality work on a laptop for hardly any money, and I can’t wait to see what kind of filmmakers kids are now going to be."
A lot of make-up FX masters like Tom Savini transitioned into consulting on films, and they often design the monsters for others to flesh out via make-up of CGI.
"My feeling is CGI makes it better," Savini says. "It used to be a challenge to try and create what was in the script. Now anything you can imagine can be created on the screen. I don’t think you’ll see make-up guys hanging out on corners with signs that say: WILL DO EFFECTS FOR FOOD."