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  • The decision to use CGI.

    Jan. You’re a walking reference library when it comes to this side of things.

    Has Joe ever given a halfway detailed account of his decision to take the CGI route for the FX. Maybe during one of the intro’s to a script book.

    I’ve read something to the effect that it was the only way to deliver what he needed within the kind of budget that was thrust upon him. Though for the life of me I couldn’t tell you where I’d heard it or read it.

    But even if it seemed like the only option, it was a genuinely gutsy decision on Joe’s part for a number of reasons. So I’m curious if he ever went into any kind of detail about the decision process.

  • #2
    Sadly, the archives begin with the announcement of the series so all the discussions prior are lost. That said, let me look in a couple of places and see what I can find. I'm about 90% sure that it comes down to CGI, even then, being cheaper than models and matte paintings. I've found a number of posts where Ron Thornton amazed JMS with the things he created that were above and beyond anything JMS thought could be done.

    Stay tuned...

    Jan
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

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    • #3
      Cheers. I don’t remember seeing any of the old replies going into the kind of details were he might have weighed the pros and cons of the decision he was about to take. I was half hoping it might have been the kind of thing he touched on during the intro to one of the script books. Like I said, it was a gutsy move (inspired even) – especially as he might have only had that one shot to ever get B5 made. The cost of miniatures might have only allowed for 10 or 12 shots in the pilot, but at least that was a tried and trusted technology.

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      • #4
        I'm pretty sure it's not in the introductions (but I'm away from them at work right now). I'm going to check a few other documents I've got to see what I can find.

        Jan
        "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'd hoped that I might find something in the Jane Killick books but, while there's stuff about persuading the studios that the show could be done on a budget and about having the 30-second demo, I don't see any detail on the decision process.

          ETA: Found a little bit more in Volume 3 where the introduction is about special effects.

          It was in 1988, during a Captain Power postproduction session in Los Angeles, that the producers asked Ron Thornton to meet with them to discuss a new idea they had for an adult science fiction series. They hoped he might be able to provide the special effects for them and asked him to pitch for the job. In those days, they were still thinking about using minatures.

          The project went quiet for a couple of years after that, and it was not until 1991-2 that things stared to happen again. By this time, Ron Thornton had become interested in computer animation, often known as CGI (computer generated magery) or simply CG (computer graphics). The method was still very much at the experimental stage, but Ron convinced the producers it was the way forward for Babylon 5, :At the time, I hadn't got a clue how we wer going to do it!" Ron confesses. But he produced a few test images that wer enough to convince the TV executives and pretty soon he had secured a job working for the pilot.

          Jan.
          Last edited by Jan; 05-21-2015, 05:42 AM.
          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

          Comment


          • #6
            The bit about the earlier meeting up around ’88 then things going quiet until ’91 is interesting.

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            • #7
              I found some info that fills in the gap between the 80s and 90s.

              'Digital Space' published in '98 features an interview with Ron Thornton.

              He goes into detail about his career from model maker and motion control programer to cg artist and creating Foundation Imaging initially to do the work on B5.

              He says he was experimenting with the amiga and it's video toaster card and successfully created a cg test reel in late 1991 to present to the producers of B5,
              who had approached him 5 years earlier when he was only working with miniatures.

              The producers liked what they saw but were worried about the high cost of production so Ron struck a deal with them to make an investment in himself by giving them a reduced rate and keeping the purchased equipment and creating a company of his own.

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              • #8
                I thought he discussed this in the interview at emmytvlegends.org.

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                • #9
                  I would guess a key issue besides cost was what they were trying to achieve with B5.

                  Most obviously the shadow ships would have been very difficult to create convincingly with models but besides that you had a lot of rotating sections to ships and generally lots of very rapid movement. I seem to remember with TNG for example that they needed multiple passes with the model shots to get different elements of the lighting on film, that would be very difficult with a rotating space station.
                  Who are you?
                  What do you want?
                  What is the average inflight speed of an unladened swallow?

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                  • #10
                    I'm reading praise for the new Mad Max based on it having CGI only where appropriate. What should be real, is real.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Babel-17 View Post
                      I'm reading praise for the new Mad Max based on it having CGI only where appropriate. What should be real, is real.
                      The problem with B5 though is that those stunt spaceship pilots demand time and a half.
                      Who are you?
                      What do you want?
                      What is the average inflight speed of an unladened swallow?

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                      • #12
                        3 years between '88 and '91 was them trying to sell the show. I do recall reading a story about the CGI thing being what finally managed to sell it; when Ron made a preliminary shot of a ship docking with the station.

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                        • #13
                          I thought Thornton latched onto it after the start of models for the show failed and the costs to do them escalated.
                          What a wonderful world you live in. -
                          Yeah, well, the rent is cheap, the pay is decent and I get to make my own hours.

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                          • #14
                            ^
                            The internal garden shot was attempted with a model but I believe the outside shots were always going to be CGI once the show was sold.

                            Here's an early 1992 comment from JMS that appears to be transcribed from Ron & co:

                            http://jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-21315

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                            • #15
                              Wiki has a brief history of Ron's company, Foundation Imaging.
                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_Imaging

                              More interesting is Memory Alpha who credit's Todd Rundgren for suggesting an all cgi effects for sci-fi to Ron.
                              http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Ron_Thornton

                              Finally Memory Alpha laments the passing of Foundation Imaging and the loss of original computer files that hinders future Bluray conversion for Star Trek Voyager.
                              - sounds familiar :/
                              http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wik...dation_Imaging

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