I absolutely adored The Sound of Drums last week. I know it divided people, but for me the Voodoo Child bit was one of my favourite bits of New Who so far. Just gloriously silly, and… you know… fun.

But one thing irritated me beyond belief. And it was the following:

UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant - closeup

UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant - wide shot

THAT. SHOULD. HAVE. BEEN. DONE. USING. A. PHYSICAL. MODEL. It’s begging to be done using one. Sure, add CGI aircraft if you want – but the actual carrier itself should clearly have been a model. Just imagine how it would look – it’d be absolutely beautiful. The carrier is a great design – but the execution leaves rather a lot to be desired. It doesn’t feel real – which something like that needs to.

The thing is – I’m not irrationally against CGI, like some people. It’s a technique that has its place, like any other. The Toclafane were mostly excellently done (apart from the shot just before the President was killed), and an appropriate use of CGI. But New Who often seems to use CGI as the first technique they think of, rather than exploring all options.

The really irritating thing is the reputation Dwarf has with some people – completely unfairly – for poor effects, compared to New Who‘s reputation for having great ones. And yet time and time again, I see shots in New Who that Dwarf – for the first six series – would have managed better…

7 comments on “Doctor Who and the Excessive CGI

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  • It was all very Sky Captain and the World of tomorrow, I hated it.

    I think what was called for here was a good combination of CG and phisical models.

  • I thought it was a beautiful sequence, myself – but it could perhaps have done with the physicality of a model. On the other hand, a bit more tangibility and it could have ended up seeming even more like Captain Scarlet – perhaps it needed that almost dreamlike quality it ended up with.

    Also, while not quite as good as a model would have been, it did at least demonstrate how much better the Mill are getting, compared to the CGI in series one. In fact, that was one of three utterly marvellous “money shots” in the episode, along with the Citadel on Gallifrey and the bit at the end with Martha on Primrose Hill as London began to fall.

  • There’s some really unpleasant aliasing there at times – it looks a bit rushed, to me. I absolutely *adore* the design itself – which is partly why I find the sequence so frustrating!

    Loved the Gallifrey and Martha shots, anyway. I’m not a complete BASTARD.

  • The CG is never going to be movie quality for obvious reasons. Although it’s got to the stage where you imagine it’s pretty easy and straightforward for them to knock out big shots like this, especially compared with what it would take to make the models and shoot them whilst also adding CG elements. It’s all about cost and convenience.

    Didn’t ILM recently close down their physical effects/model department? I know they used models for Revenge Of The Sith, but since then I think they’ve gone the way of the dodo. Hopefully WETA will never scrap their workshop.

  • My biggest problem with this sequence was that it seemed to indicate the moment when the finale went pear-shaped.

  • The thing is, though, that some Who effects – including a lot of CG shots – are fantastic. And then some aren’t. So it’s frustrating when less-good shots get through, when they are capable of utterly stunning stuff.

    It’s RTD trying to stretch the budget that extra mile, I guess. Which is admirable – but sometimes I wish they’d just cut a few shots out of each episode, and spend more time and money getting the ones they *do* do right.

    But yeah, I suspect a combination of models and CGI probably would have been more expensive for this one shot – although the VFX guys said at DJ that it’s often just as expensive to go down the CG route as it is to do models. I really wish the boat had been pushed out for this one, though, as the whole thing was just begging to be done as a model.

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