View Full Version : Kong CGI Awesome (Except for Jumps)

12-29-2005, 12:36 PM
Just saw King Kong. Really liked it and Naomi Watts is great. The special effects were really good. Kong looked very realistic and showed real emotion. One major nit however; when Kong jumped it looked very fake. Not sure if it was the physics, the posture, or what, but it looked bad. Anyone else have the same take?

12-29-2005, 04:15 PM
50 views, no replies, must be massively unclear. I was thinking in particu;lar about the scene in which Kong jumps over the brdge towards the gate. There are several other scenes of him leaping as well.

Banquet Bear
12-29-2005, 04:37 PM
...while not quite addressing your OP, here is a wonderful article with comments from the Oregon Zoo Director on the movements of Kong...

12-29-2005, 05:04 PM
Maybe it was just me, but I noticed that, in Kong's earlier appearances in the film, there was a sort of stuttery stop-motion look to the animation, which seemed to gradually disappear as the film went on. I figured it was a deliberate homage to the original. Was that anything like what you noticed when he was jumping around?

12-29-2005, 05:12 PM
Maybe it was just me, but I noticed that, in Kong's earlier appearances in the film, there was a sort of stuttery stop-motion look to the animation, which seemed to gradually disappear as the film went on. I figured it was a deliberate homage to the original. Was that anything like what you noticed when he was jumping around?That's not what I had in mind, but I do vaugely recall what you are saying.

12-29-2005, 05:26 PM
They still can't get the physics right in CGI motion. I've complained about it for years, and I keep waiting for them to catch up. Just a few days ago I said, in reference to the werewolves in Van Helsing--which are very closely related, in the CGI universe, to Kong--that I was still looking forward to the day when CGI motion was as convincing as CGI fur.

There must be a million little variables that dictate the fluidity of animal movement, and just getting the physics of momentum and trajectory obviously isn't good enough. There's something off about the way the individual components of a body--arms, legs, center of gravity--move through CGI space. Some factor of air resistance, inertia, muscle-mass elasticity, or something--I have no idea--that they still haven't gotten right. I suspect that due to what I presume is the vast number of variables involved in organic movement, chaos theory, or its practical applications, will have to be involved at some deep level.

I think with Kong, it seemed almost like during the arc of his jump, he accelerated too quickly to account for his mass and bulk. Not sure that's it; but something like that. (And yes, I know that someone involved in the process probably tried to account for that mass, but it doesn't work.)

teela brown
12-29-2005, 06:40 PM
Well, for one thing, I don't think big old silverbacks do much jumping. AFAIK, they tend to stay grounded. Perhaps they had to use films of jumping chimps or monkeys as their model, and the motion just didn't translate that well to a massive gorilla.

II Gyan II
12-29-2005, 09:11 PM
King Kong's Post Production Diary (http://www.kongisking.net/kong2005/proddiary/).

II Gyan II
12-29-2005, 09:16 PM
King Kong thread (http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=301974) at CGTalk. Some insightful comments, if you can look past the "Can't wait to see it!!" and "Looks cool" posts.

12-29-2005, 09:38 PM
The problem that Dan and I are referring to is not unique to King Kong. It's the last hurdle that CGI needs to get right. It's how you can tell the werewolves in Van Helsing are CGI, even when they're just shadows within shadows; because the movement is somehow still unnatural; not fully subject to physical laws.

II Gyan II
12-29-2005, 09:46 PM
It's the last hurdle that CGI needs to get right.

Getting out of the uncanny valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley#The_Uncanny_Valley_in_film)?

12-29-2005, 10:16 PM
My guess, based on what I've gleaned from the articles about the movie, is that the jumps might be fakier looking because most of Kong's other movements were based on Andy Serkis' performance, via motion capture technology. Supposedly the process is so precise now that it can even capture the motion and direction of the actor's eyeballs, which is why the closeups of Kong appear so expressive. However, pictures of Serkis in the full-body mocap rig reveal how bulky the apparatus is; its limbs are padded and extended to give him the general proportions of an actual gorilla, and I believe that much of the more physical and gestural acting was done using special platforms to adequately support the actor. I suspect that the huge jumps were one of the actions that Serkis was simply incapable of acting out, and so the filmmakers had to program wholly artificial movements for Kong, which might be why it clashes with the rest of the CGI. If Kong had been entirely animated in this manner, without an actor's performance to lend a more natural quality to the other scenes, the jumping might not have stood out so much.

12-29-2005, 10:28 PM
Jumps have never been realistic in any CGI. It's the one thing that draws me out of believing a CGI creature or human is actually real. The Spider-Man movies are full of it, it's very distracting, but even films as recent as Revenge of the Sith and Kong have it, still, and I can't believe that they haven't had some people concentrate some time on figuring this out. Forget real hair, or water (they still haven't got convincing ocean waves, river water, and wakes yet, either, by the way), or cloth dynamics. Just get the damn physics of jumping right.

The ironic thing is, in the 50s Disney animated movies, they seem to have figured out jumping really well, and there's some amazing convincing stuff from back then. Though probably they're based around rotoscoping, that's fine by me as long as it works - and digital animation should use the same techniques to get their stuff right too. I'm amazed that they haven't.

The thing about jumping is not only does your centre of gravity shift in a distinct way, but your mass follows through, all unique to each individual. It's a tough thing to grasp, and then tougher to find a way to track it and simulate it.

12-30-2005, 01:06 AM
It's funny this thread is up now because I was just thinking the same thing.

lissener and GuanoLad have nailed it; it's not King Kong, specifically, it's EVERY SINGLE MOVIE where a CGI animation jumps or flies through the air. Absolutely every single one. It just never looks lifelike. It's not just Kong, or lissener's example of "Van Helsing," it's all of them. When Legolas hops off the Oliphant he kills in "Return of the King," it looks phony as well. All the Spider-Man animations of Spidey jumping and landing on something seemed wrong, somehow. "The Brothers Grimm" had several examples.

12-30-2005, 03:40 AM
Yes, I forgot to mention Legolas. And Hulk.

Another thing: they can't get the light in people's mouths right. People's teeth always look funny, like they're in some kind of exaggerated darkness. You'd think they'd have all that figured out--light on surfaces--but they haven't yet.

12-30-2005, 04:26 PM
There was a moment in Chronicles of Narnia where I think Peter was thrown off his horse or something, and I suddenly thought, "he's turned into Spider-man!" just because of the way his cgi body double moved.

12-31-2005, 10:07 AM
After seeing the movie a few nights back, the ladyfriend commented that she thought the CGI on Kong looked exceptional but the animation of Naomi Watts in Kong's hand pulled her out of it. Specifically, the times when Kong is running and holding her and she's flopping around like a rag doll.

12-31-2005, 10:34 AM
I think a reason it may not "look exactly right" is because there is nothing to compare it to in real life.
What are you going to model it after? Nothing of huge mass makes giant leaps.
You can look at insects jumping, squirrels leaping, chimps leaping to branches, but what are you going to do for BIG things.
We already know that if you knock down a tower of blocks it falls pretty quickly. But when a massive building falls it looks like its falling in slo-mo. So when a huge ape like Kong makes a leap it should probably look somewhat slo-mo. But since no-one has ever seen that before in real life, it's probably going to look strange or 'fake' to people.

01-01-2006, 03:24 PM
I think the over-quickness of his falling is part of it. If Kong fell his body height (20-25 feet) as slowly as objects do in the real world it would probaby look too much like the movements in Japanese monster movies.

01-01-2006, 03:29 PM
No, and no. Again, this problem is not unique to Kong. No CGI has EVER gotten it right; it's the last frontier of CGI verisimilitude.

01-01-2006, 10:20 PM
The problem with any big monster leaping motion is that there is no reality to base it on. I don't mean lack of 25 foot gorillas, but that if you had a 25 foot gorilla it could not leap. It's the square/cube problem. If the gorilla is 8x the size of a normal one his muscle cross section is 64x the original. That's really great but his mass is 512x the original. It would be the same as a 180lb man weighing 1,440lb but without increased strength. He wouldn't be leaping so much as struggling to breathe under his own weight.

Say you magically make his muscles 8x as powerful. This only makes him proportionally as strong as a normal size ape. Normal gorillas cannot leap several times their body length as Kong does. Now let's magically make his strength enough to do those leaps. His launch velocity will have to be so fast that it will take less than a frame of film not to mention that the physical materials such as his own bones and the rocks he's standing on won't be able to withstand that force.

01-01-2006, 11:38 PM
That's all well and good, but I don't think that's the explanation for why CGI jumping always looks bad.

01-02-2006, 03:21 AM
That's all well and good, but I don't think that's the explanation for why CGI jumping always looks bad.

Actually, I think it is. You show something onscreen that's physically impossible in real life it'll be really hard not to make it look fake.

01-02-2006, 03:50 AM
But that's not why they can't get regular human jumping right.

It's theoretically easy enough to replicate Gorilla jumping to Kong scale - the physical impossibility factor would not enter into it, otherwise he wouldn't be able to convincingly run around at all.

01-02-2006, 04:35 AM
Jumping isn't the only thing that CGI can't do. Watching "Chronicles of Narnia," it struck me that CGI movement in general still has a long way to go. For some reason, most CGI animators have a compulsion to keep everything moving, constantly. Even if Aslan is just standing there, his fur is billowing, his expression is shifting, his legs just won't stay still. He's a riot of movement. Compare this to the only two cases of fully-realized CGI characters- Gollum and King Kong. For both, it is the stillness of the characters that's really striking. When Kong is standing still, there is only the slightest hint of wind rustling his fur. All of the movement is in his face, and even then, it is subtle- slight narrowing of the eyes, a tooth exposed by a curled lip. The stillness allows Kong's performance to come to the fore.

Of course, that's only when he's not leaping around like Legolas. ;)

01-02-2006, 10:18 AM
But that's not why they can't get regular human jumping right.What example can you give of a GC human jumping that didn't look right and was also a physically possible jump. Humans aren't tree squirrels, even the most athletic can't make jumps that look as impressive as what we have come to expect in the movies.

01-02-2006, 03:23 PM
What example can you give of a GC human jumping that didn't look right and was also a physically possible jump.
In Narnia, when the humanoid bad guy creatures are on the battlefield and they jump off the hillock. In Spider-Man, whenever he does a simple leap to avoid something, such as when Doc Ock swings his arms under him. In Lord of the Rings, when we first meet Gollum, during his scuffle with Frodo and Sam, there's a leap he makes using a rock face as a bounce board.

And that is just a small fraction of bad physics, caused by hand animation that just doesn't seem to get it.

Dewey Finn
01-02-2006, 04:56 PM
Did you notice the scene when the ship they were on left port in NYC? It was shown moving from left to right with the smoke coming from the smokestack being absolutely still. I got the impression that they were deliberately making some stuff look fake, as if to simulate the effects of 1930s filmmaking. Not that this is what was intended with the Kong movements, which weren't, I think, supposed to be old-fashioned looking.

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