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January 09, 2016


You may also want to consider how the extra ticket premium for 3D and IMAX factor in. All those marketing-friendly Record Box Office! numbers we hear so much about anymore are inflated somewhat by the theater's ability to charge a premium for a bigger screen and an "Immersive 3D Experience!." Cut too much footage that panders to those factors and you eat into your value proposition for the viewers as well as the investors. If the first audiences are meh about whether the 3D is worth it, subsequent audiences will think about saving some money with a 2D version in a smaller theater, killing all the marketing buzz that comes with making it big at the box office.

Intimate scenes can always be added into the DVD and the die-hard fans will appreciate those additions. The same amount of action added into the DVD loses most of its oomph on the smaller 2D screen.

Also, 3D carries a lot of weight in the new, international box office, where dialogue is fraught with linguistic and cultural translation challenges. That's one reason why Avatar did so well internationally -- it's value propositions were its immersive 3D and an alien culture and landscape. The Na'vi even had their own language, which meant that audiences everywhere had relatively equal access to the film.

It's a bit like complaining that McDonald's doesn't have enough salad choices. There are so many amazing TV dramas and feature films out right now that are entirely character/story based. Of course the tent pole films and their infantile audience had a negative effect on Hollywood, but the choice has never been greater for viewers, especially if they also consider "foreign" films / TV dramas.

The cuts made are always done with the story in mind, first and foremost. At the time the edit is being done, no money has been spent on visual effects. That phase of the production process occurs much later so $$$ does not enter into the equation when trimming and episode for time.

Well, except that the director knows what his budget for special effects is. So he knows how much time he needs to fill with them, in order not to come in under budget. Movies being, as far as I can tell, one of the very few industries where coming under budget is considered a bad thing.

I don't know anything at all about Stargate Atlantis except the 3 minutes of "The Battle for Atlantis" that I just watched on youtube, but I am a TV editor and I can tell you a few things about that.

First of all, getting from 48 minutes to 42 isn't always that easy, it really depends on the writer. Some overwite exposition so much that it's easy to lose time without affecting the story, but sometimes they try to pack too much into one script and getting that last minute out often means cutting character stuff that everyone loves, but that doesn't move the story along.

As far as your theory that producers don't like to cut VFX because they're expensive, that goes against everything I know about producers. Pretty much you want to use as few VFX shots (in TV anyway) as possible to keep the budget down. In the case of a show like Stargate it might be more that they've based an episode around a battle with 3D animation, and that's just going to take some screen time to tell.

And understand that there are different kinds of VFX and the cost for them varies. A scene shot with green screen through the windows and comping in a starfield or a cityscape or scenery passing by (as in a moving car) is pretty easy and cheap per shot, especially if they can just be dropped in and adjusted by the online editor.

Creating 3D objects and moving them in the frame space is where things get expensive quickly, but even then it varies widely depending on things like whether you can use a stock 3D object, whether you have to rotoscope anything, and how much of the background you have to replace.

In the case of SGA, it looks like they use a combination of shots of people shooting at stuff off screen (all of the muzzle flashes are added in post, but they're so easy an assistant editor can do them in AVID), static green screen with very little 3D (all of the lazer flashes are 2D, again easy), and full 3D animations that are probably done inside what amounts to a custom video game engine. The main initial cost of the show would be in designing all the ships, but once they have the 3D designs, creating the shots probably isn't that hard. They don't use allot of 3D stuff beyond the animations, and they plan everything out well as far as not complicating green screen shots. What looks like 120K in effects actually probably costs less than 50K per episode when you take into account the flat deal they have with with the VFX company (that they created just for the show). Maybe even less. The budget for that show was probably somewhat less than 1.5M per episode, and even 50K in VFX is allot for a show on television.

Funny story: I worked on a very high-budget pilot, around 10M, that never aired. Aliens invade the planet, lots of action. The VFX company was, I believe, the same one that does the Stargate TV shows as they were called "Stargate". Anyway, based on the story board the director gave them they submitted a budget of around 90-100K. Now, the director is seriously one of the best TV directors in the business, he wouldn't be in charge of a 10M 2-hour network pilot if he wasn't, but while he did storyboard every shot in his shotlist, he didn't always storyboard every cut. Meaning, he drew all the sizes of shots he was going to get at each location and the basic outlines of the action, but he didn't specify every single cut and how it was going to pace. Knowing the director, I could tell this the moment I saw the boards.

Anyway, one early action scene involved all the main characters running from the street into a parking garage while a barrage of alien objects rained down around them. Based on the story boards, the VFX Supervisor had budgeted for around 6 shots with VFX elements. The directors cut had 26 VFX shots in the sequence. I've never seen anyone turn as pale as the VFX guy at his first screening. Suddenly a show that he had budgeted for maybe 50-70 shots had almost 200 shots.

The thing is, the VFX guy was there every day of the shoot. He wasn't stupid, he saw all the coverage the director was shooting. It wasn't like he did one steady cam shot per segment of the sequence, leading one to believe there would be 6 long-ish shots in the sequence, instead of the fast paced, many-many cuts sequence he got. If he was worried about it, he could have approached the producers at any time during the shoot to say, "hey, it looks like there's going to be a hell of a lot more shots than I expected, maybe we should talk about the budget now that I see what the director is shooting."

But in general, a show like Stargate will contract for a fixed price for the season (esp if, as I believe, they created their own VFX company to do it),

While it may seem that this leads to an incentive to keep what you've already paid for, in reality it just takes so many shots to tell a battle story. You can plan it all ahead of time and storyboard it, but at the end of the day you do need a certain amount of time and a certain order of shots to tell a story that has no words, like a battle. It's much easier to find un-needed dialog or scenes (sometimes entire story lines) than it is to tighten action.

Here's sort of an example: one show I cut had a mano a mano fight between the star and the villain, and the villain actually gets the upper hand on the star before his partner shows up and shoots the baddie. Now, I thought the fight was ok - the stunts guys put allot into it, but like allot of stunt guys, they made the fight just a bit too long and complicated, and the episode was long. So the producers asked me to cut it down and then cut it down again, and finally a 30 second fight was down to 10 seconds. The Exec loved it. The problem was, the fight was now so short it made our star look like he just got the shit kicked out of him while barely getting a counter punch in. Back went 10 seconds of our hero fighting and we had to find that time somewhere else.

What Novakant said.

But, I'm surprised all of the old film classics haven't been remade in 3-D and juked up to respond to contemporary dull sensibilities.

I guess the MBAs are too busy ruining the rest of corporate America to do it yet.

Think of sitting in the front row of the theater while Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe swing that ample decolletage around in 3-D surroundasound in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes". It would be like four tyrannosaurus rexes coming at ya from the treeline in Jurassic Park.

I'm thinking for the "Bringing Up Baby" sequel, Katherine Hepburn's pet leopard could somehow mate with an extra-terrestrial something or other and morph into a super-jawed sabre-toothed tiger and tear Cary Grant's throat out before starting in on Charles Ruggles and Barry Fitzgerald.

"Some Like It Hot". "Some Like It Hotter". "Most Are In a Flop Sweat" "All God's Children Are Sweltering".

I envision "The Philadelphia Story" in which the entire cast gets machine gunned over the good china.

The Andy Of Mayberry episode in which Barney Fife invites Thelma Lou to go see "The Monster From Outta Town" could have the monster come down off the screen and after swallowing Mr. Schwump like a frat boy swallowing a goldfish, he heads down Main Street for Floyd's Barbershop. Shazzam!! Luckily the Bates Motel is on his way and the monster stops in for some shut-eye, only to be waylaid by Norman Bates and displayed in a diorama with the latter's mother in the coal cellar. What happened next, Ange? Did Goob make it through?

Jack Nicholson was the guest star in one of the Mayberry episodes, and I can't watch it now with out wondering about the possibilities of Jack's eyebrows going awry and his character mugging the role in "The Shining".

Please give me back my bullet, Sheriff, if you have any conscience at all about saving the good people of Mayberry.

I didn't grow up with "Star Wars", but I did appreciate the fact that the space craft looked a little dinged up like they'd been around the universe a few times, unlike the shiny, flawless disks in the sci-fi of the 1950s.

The dialogue was barely sentient, and despite being a Joseph Campbell fan, I though that angle was kind of pretentious. Sorry.

Basically, I'm of the same opinion of Star Wars as Alec Guinness was, except he got paid regardless. His opinion was roughly the same as mine is of "Atlas Shrugged".

Thanks for all that. As with every industry, it's real easy to just assume you know how things work down in the trenches. And even easier to be massively mistaken.

Plus, I enjoyed learning a little more about how things work.

I just watched The Naked City, followed by Chicago. I wondered how a reboot of either film would go, if a talented group got a hold of them. The folks making great TV now might do them justice (not the comic folks, though).

A curious case is Mario Bava's only 'big budget' movie Danger: Diabolik (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danger:_Diabolik). Bava had to lie constantly to the producers about the money he was spending because he used so little that the guys would not have believed that they got their money's worth in effects (and might have fired him for that). Iirc he did not spend more than $35.000 on that, about 10% of what he was expected. And the results are quite impressive. Bava experts are of the opinion that it would have looked much less so, if he had thrown more bucks at it because he alawys worked best when under under tight budget restrictions.

"Danger: Diabolik" was the last movie ever riffed on in the Sci-Fi Channel run of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", but I think it was actually one of the best movies they ever did, intentionally campy but not bad at all.

I guess the running time was already 2 hours and 15 minutes, and if you're counting anyone under 12 seeing it then that's the max, especially since they seem to require 20 minutes of commercials/previews these days.

That said, they could have cut that awful freighter scene with Solo and the two gangs (?) he ripped off and the space monsters or whatever they were. What the hell was that about? It was like something out of the three stooges.

heh. i'd forgotten all about that scene.

maybe they wanted to do a little illustration about what Solo had been up to in the past 30 years? but, yeah definitely cut-worthy.

Well, except it is one of the scenes where we see that Rey isn't perfect.

I just returned from the cinema where I watched it at last. I liked it.

Is it just my impression that there were a few whiffs of the Alien franchise in there?

I would even count the freighter scenes among that, although to me it was strongest in the scenes with the new Dark Lord Snoke.

Although the depiction of the New First Order was clearly intended as fascist*, the big rally (before the gun is fired first) reminded me more of Red Chinese propaganda.

*black white red and a guy who seems (unsuccessfully) to try to fake a German accent.

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