THOUGHTS ON QUALITY

The live action Ghost in the Shell


I haven't updated in a while, perhaps not since I came to Shanghai attempting to start down a new path. A lot has happened since then, both good and bad, and I have been seriously considering what I am really doing, what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing. One the biggest changes that occurred due to my time here, being busy, out and about in the world, and having new experiences, was that I never had the time to watch movies or TV. In the last couple of days, as things have calmed down, and I had some time on my hands, I sat down and watch The Matrix Trilogy, followed by Ghost in the Shell.

I call this post Thought on Quality because my recent experiences, both online and offline, and the films I viewed recently, made me think a lot about what I am doing. For example, I draw a lot. I have an idea I think it cool and I may draw a picture, a character or some other doodle. This is all well and good, but if my goal is to create independent animation, I should be animating a lot, not just drawing a lot. I haven't really animated much of anything outside of the many tests I did last year.

In all those tests, and in so much of my work, I was always trying to find "my style". This really makes very little sense because in reality your style finds you. What I was really trying to do was find what was easy. I was trying to find they way in which I didn't have to put in the work. Time was, no doubt, a factor, as I didn't want to spend a year on a ten minute short, but acknowledge that I was look for the easy road. It was clear as I posted those tests around which one people truly responded to. Deep down, I knew which one was the right one, but I chose to keep on searching for an easier one.

I recently read a book which said, "Successful people are concerned with pleasant results. Unsuccessful people are concerned with pleasant methods." — Brian Tracy

Morpheus loses everything


So I watched The Matrix. This isn't the first time I watched all three films back to back. Watching it as whole, I think I have come to understand the negativity heaped on the sequels. I have heard it said that it seems as though different writers were involved in the sequels, or maybe the studio reigned them in on the first one. I don't believe that to be the case. I think the problem lies with us as viewers, and how much we both like and respect Morpheus.

You see, Morpheus gives us our view of this world, by explaining it to Neo. We accept this view as being true, because he is a strong and wise character. We assume he must be right about everything on which he speaks. He has some of the greatest quotes of all time in that first film. We believe them because he seems to be speaking to us and it seems to fit our own feelings. Unfortunately, Morpheus is wrong.

In the scene pictured above, Morpheus says, "I have dreamed a dream. And now that dream is gone from me." This is a line from the bible, spoken by Nebuchadnezzar, after whom his ship is named. Here is where they signal us that Morpheus was wrong from the very beginning. Here is where he loses everything. From this point on, Morpheus is weak. He does none of the cool stuff we have come to know him for. He is almost subservient to Niobe for the remainder of the films.

I think a lot of viewers don't want Morpheus to be wrong. Like the character in the film, they simply can't accept that. I think this is why the sequels don't sit well with a lot of people. I do not, however, believe that this wasn't all planned from the very outset.

The mechanical animation in The Matrix is still the best.

If nothing else, never before nor since have mechs been done so well in film or television. I have always said that motion kills most CGI, not the rendering. Things don't make perfectly smooth motions in real life. This is why motion capture always looks jerky. The system exaggerates the minuscule ticks that happen in every real life motion. The artist has a tendency to want to smooth it all out, and then even the motion capture looks floaty, weightless and fake.

Hand keyframes work, especially in films where the actors are real people, is even worse. Too often, especially in the case of machines, the overly smooth keyframes motions, with computer generated interpolation between frames, just doesn't fit. In The Matrix Revolutions, they animated to robots to move more like the stop motion work done in the old Robocop films. It was jerky and mechanical. It felt heavy. It felt real.

They ruined Batou in Ghost in the Shell

I think I have watched Ghost in the Shell 3 times now. Despite its flaws, I seem to keep coming back to it. Some of those flaws, though, are glaring. I never expected it to be a philosophical as the original. I know that wouldn't sell in today's market, but come on. They really dumbed it down. They ruined Batou as a character. He is no longer Batou with the unsleeping eyes, the ranger with abilities comparable to The Major. He is now just typical Hollywood, guy gets blown up and has to have some parts of him replaced. Basically, he wouldn't have done it if not for the accident.

The Major is Unique, the first of her kind.


Should I even get into the Major? This also feels so typical Hollywood. She is unique, the first of her kind. She is super special. No. Aside from being very skilled at her job, which is due to experience, she is not unique. She is not special. Most of Section 9 is just like her. The world is full of people exactly like her. The first film even intimates that someone else can use the exact same body as her. She is not special. Most of what makes her great at her job would still hold true if she were mostly human. She does not have technology that no one else has. This is what leads to the bulk of philosophical considerations in the original manga and films. In Hollywood, they basically made her into Robocop.

There are other things which bother me. Like the garbage men who are simply taken over and mind controlled, and starting shooting up the streets. In the original, the hack done to them (and the camo guy) was truly special, so powerful that they were doing these things of their own "free will". Kuze, in the original, was unnaturally likable. People wanted to hang around him, follow him, and do what he wanted. He never had to force anyone to do anything.

What bothers me most of all, though, is they used some of the best elements of both animated films and both TV series. If they somehow managed to be successful, what were they going to do next? Perhaps make things worse with a totally original story conceived in Hollywood? Well, unfortunately, the movie was a colossal failure, so we will never get to know what they would do next, or how they might have improved it going forward. If nothing else, the film no doubt screamed quality.

The amazing CGI city extensions of Ghost in the Shell


Which brings me to why we are here. We are here because we want to make animation, games, comics or other artistic creations, and it has dawned on me that whatever it is we are to create, it must be of maximum quality. Dare I say it must be competitive. All my efforts to find the easy road, my unwillingness to do the hard yard, are precisely why I am stuck where I am at the moment, and have no advanced. The evidence has been around me all the time, but I chose to believe that I could do things differently and still reach a goal only reached by others who put out maximum quality.

Like Morpheus, whose ship went down in ball of flame, so too must I adjust to a new reality. In this new reality it is exceedingly difficult to get audiences to give up their precious time and attention to watch something, even if it is free. Only by offering the best of the best can one even hope to gain a moment of someone's time. Time is everything. It is through time, and how we use it, that one finds happiness or loses it. In order to get someone's time, your offer must be worth it. I now realize that I must create with this always in mind. Think of it like this. How cool would something have to be to get you to stop what you're doing and watch it?

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