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Enrique Jimenez
Dr. Lynn Kilpatrick
ENGL 2010-029
April 10, 2016
How can digital visual effects be valued in supporting the narrative of a film's story?

One might hear in the media about computer generated visual effects are
ruining movies these days. In the book written by Shilo McClean Digital Storytelling
she talks about the reason audiences think CGI looks bad is because they only see bad
CGI. Wonderful execution of CGI is used everywhere but no one knows it, when done
well and paired with solid storytelling audience, one will rarely notice what theyre
looking at was added in by someone using digital visual effects (DVFx) in post
production. The question is raised: Does DVfx (digital visual effects) enhance a film's
narrative or weaken it? Presented here will offer a starting point for rethinking DVFx
usage overall. With DVFx functioning as a tool of storytelling, understanding the
realistic nature of the image in film, or comparing the negative parallels against
DVFx. These sources will give an opportunity to reconsider the tool of digital-effects
as a value within a films narrative, as it pertains to audiences own interest.
In Digital Storytelling, Shilo McClean explains and defends the use of how
digital visual effects can be a tool of storytelling in film, adding narrative power as do
sound, color, and experimental camera angles and other innovative film technologies
that were once criticized for being distractions from the story. The key to the
argument is that any effect, including a dissolve, a montage, or even short, quick
shots, may or may not impede the movement and value of the story being told.

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McCleans is arguing against in response to the idea that computer generated

visual effects are ruining movies these days and how Digital Visual Effects can be a
tool used by filmmakers to value narrative storytelling. This is a credible source
because its a book that was critically well reviewed and published by Cambridge,
Mass: The MIT Press, 2007, Comprehensive Academic Collection. This book is from
2007 in the time during the height of the financial crisis making it a relevant
argument to why the film industry is blaming certain films as to the reasons why box
office sells are taking a hit. McClean convincingly demonstrates that DVFx (digital
visual effects), as she terms them, are used in an enormous variety of ways, and most
of these help to tell classically constructed stories. McClean asks questions of
aesthetic import, and she treats films as artworkssome good, some bad, but all to
be taken seriously as evidence for her case. McClean says, Digital effects are not a
substitute for story, nor do they trump literary integrity (McClean). This means a
story written for the screen can be told more effectively when presented with visual
flair. In addition McClean is credible because she written her book with thoughtfulness
and supported with research, on a topic that is current and relevant to many.
In Establishing new boundaries for special effects, Craig, J. Robert explains
how Film director Robert Zemeckiss use of CGI is accomplishing a degree of realism
necessary for certain scenes and, on the other hand, suggests to audiences that they
should view images with a healthy skepticism. The writer analyzes the development
of computer-generated imagery (CGI). He focuses on the use of such imagery in
Robert Zemeckis's 1997 film Contact. He points out that this film deliberately deemphasizes large-scale special effects in favor of more subtle CGI. The CGI, he

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suggests, embodies the film's own concern with what we do and do not believe. He
asserts that Zemeckis's use of CGI in Contact emphasizes the difficulties today of
taking what is seen on screen at face value. He forecasts that filmmakers will
continue to address questions of what is right in our society, framing these questions
in the context of a moral and ethical void made alluring by the visual technologies
now available.
Craig, J. Roberts book, is written and published in 2010 in Popular Culture
Review, Literature/Film Quarterly, and Communications and the Law. This article is
responding to the problem that film deliberately emphasizes large-scale special
effects in favor of replacing more subtle practical effects. Also emphasizes the
difficulties today of taking what is seen on screen at face value, understanding the
realistic nature of the altered image in film. Being relevant to the problems that still
happen today, this article is still credible. Craig states that, When the technology
can be used to create cast members (as has recently been achieved) in a fiction piece
whom audiences cannot distinguish from live humans, to what degree does such a
power compromise the director's art and radically alter our relationship to film? This
means arguing to the extent to which a video or motion picture camera can ever be
viewed as an objective chronicler of events. He cites and give credit to those whose
information they used for their own paper, making them credible and reliable for
In contrast, the book Film Theory and Criticism from John Ellis explains the
parallels comparing the negative changes that sound and color brought to filmmaking
to the same charges brought against DVFx. Bulky cameras, restrictions on the

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movement of the camera, and the difficulty of using wide shots when dialogue was
involved convinced critics that sound had ruined motion pictures and destroyed the
telling aspect of the story. But the filmmakers found ways to compensate for the
addition of sound and soon found that not only did sound not destroy the story; it
added to it benefits that a silent film could not provide. Then look at how Visual
effects came in. The same type of criticism was leveled: Visual effects was for
spectacular use only, and it distracted the audience from the actors and the story
itself. Even the empty blue or green movie sets and massive lighting equipment
modified the production process and the ability of actors to relate to the their acting
just so that a film could be shot in visual effects. Just as with sound, the addition of
basic visual effects to the filmmaking process helped expand the creative process of
motion pictures and the storytelling aspects far beyond what anyone would have
assumed even during the days of black and white films.
John Ellis published his book in 1999, so the information has been around for
years but his parallels are still relevant to the same discussion of the same charges
brought against DVFx. Ellis gives credit to those whose ideas she uses in his own
writing. He uses a mix of appeals in this book, most of which is logical thinking based
off of others research and facts. Especially the emotional appeal to the arts through
the years. For example Ellis says, Not usually the only thing going on (and
sometimes . . . not even the principal thing), the medium elicits a lower degree of
sustained concentration from its viewers than does cinema Ellis is describing that
anything that can grab or take away your attention. It can be accomplished through

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several ancillary mechanisms that evoke a sense of immediacy, including forms of

direct address and the simulation of a perpetual present.
In many ways McCleans article is similar to Roberts Establishing new
boundaries for special effects because both authors rely on using logic to make their
appeals. John Ellis uses logical appeals as well, but unlike the other two articles, also
makes an appeal to how visual effects take the audience away from film,
acknowledging the problems it brings to storytelling. In all, these sources had a
simple outcome and that was how digital visual effects affected the value in
supporting the narrative of a film's story. The difference in the articles is how
McCleans focus is on the value of the story being told with the tools being used.
While Robert and Ellis value the challenge given to the audience to interpret Visual
effects in a certain matter of storytelling. Ellis explored what elements distract the
audience's from the content being shown, giving a different perspective on value of
narrative film story, which had both positive and negative impact.
In conclusion, digital visual effects does have an important role in the value in
supporting the narrative of a film's story. Supporting different perspectives to give
insight on what digital visual effects means in terms of storytelling to different
audiences. Whether it is DVFx functioning as a tool of storytelling, the realistic nature
of the image of film, or comparing the negative parallels brought to filmmaking like
sound and DVFx. These are the values and relationships of filmmaking that describe
what would arise out of the impact of digital visual effects (DVFx) on the storytelling
process and the closely related issues of personal emotion and narrative functioning.

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Works Cited
Craig, J. Robert. "Establishing New Boundaries For Special
Effects: Robert Zemeckis's Contact And Computer-Generated Imagery."
Journal Of Popular Film & Television 28.4 (2001): 158-165. Art Full Text
(H.W. Wilson). Web. 6 Mar. 2016.
Ellis, John. Broadcast TV as Sound and Image from
Visible Fictions. In Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Film Theory and
Criticism, 5th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 385394.
Feeny, Catherine. Buzz Image Group and The Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, VFX Pro Feature, April 30, 2004.
McClean, Shilo T. Digital Storytelling: The Narrative
Power Of Visual Effects In Film. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2007.
eBook Comprehensive Academic Collection (EBSCOhost).