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'Fakeness' Threshold

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'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Anonymous » Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:04 pm

It occurred to me (while watching that crap 2004 'Alexander' film made for CBBC I think) that I might have a lower 'fakeness' threshold than most people. That is, I might actually be more sensitive to tackiness/cheesy synthesis or might have lower tolerance for it.

This extends to everything for me. In general, I can't stand CGI, it never looks natural, things don't move right (motions and gravity effects are not convincing), light looks like it's being emitted not reflected, etc. In real life, it's obvious when pillars on a building are just for show, when plasterwork isn't real (like the new American style shopping centres). I have to have halogen lamps or I get depressed. I even hate prosthetic breasts!

And all this isn't from knowing in advance, it's from being able to tell and not liking it!

But, it seems many people are actually happy with fakery and are even pushing it as the norm. Do people see it as 100% natural, or do they just not mind the discrepancy?

Relevantly, it's strange to me that it's coming to a point where I'm being strongly advised to resort to samples and synths rather than actually doing (and playing) stuff for real, as though it were a genuine substitute! All this on the grounds that it's 'easier' (not the point) and because most people wouldn't be able to 'tell' (which doesn't mean the result would be any good. Someone could probably create a CGI mountain scene that looks almost 100% real to most people, but that doesn't mean I'd actually like that mountain scene.)

This isn't so much about realism but naturalness though. In fact, if I were someone who was involved in creating synthetic instruments, I'd forget trying to mimick instruments and take advantage of what can't be done with real instruments and look for entirely new types of modulation and processing that have their own 'naturalness' perculiar to its own character.

Well, just a (pregnant) thought.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby desmond » Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:14 pm

It's just evidently something that bugs you more than other people who simply don't care about that aspect.

Talking about CGI, if it's something that's so bad it takes you out of the story then it's clearly failing, but would your girlfriend or your mum have even noticed it? If yes, then it's probably just bad, but if not, it just means they didn't notice or care enough.

If "naturalness" is important to you, it says something about your likes and values, and thus something that doesn't live up to those values for you will be accentuated. For other people who have different values, contravening that one won't matter so much for them.

We're all the same. Computer programmers scream "that's not how it works!" when Hollywood depicts a "hacking" scene, keyboard players shout "you can't play chords on a minimoog!" when watching a music video etc etc - everybody else in the room that has no vested interest or knowledge in those areas just rolls their eyes at our outbursts and enjoys the entertainment...

Same old...
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Guest » Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:25 pm

I don't think it's from knowing or through nerdy preference though. For instance, lighting at home is really important to me. When I saw a halogen lamp I instantly preferred it. When I looked into it, it turns out that this kind of light is closer to natural sunlight than other lights. As a kid I always wanted my bedroom to be lit by fishtanks. Some people tolerate sweetner. I'd rather get used to no sugar. (I'm not saying there's a connexion between the consumption of Pepsi Max and tacky sample libraries, but I think there might be a growing detachment from what is natural.)

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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:02 pm

The same can be said of fruit 'flavours' in food - give me actual fruit any day.

The problem for me is not the fact that something is artificial, but when the artificial is portrayed with the pretence that it is real. A very common and maybe even disturbing example is the old 'airbrushed' (or these days photoshopped) magazine cover model - with the result being that people accept that as reality, and end up both preferring it and believing it to be both attainable and desirable, merely because it's portrayed in that way. Actual reality then becomes dissatisfying and leaves a hunger for the artificiality that has been used as brainwash.

It's called hyperreality. There's plenty of writing on it. I suspect you might find it interesting.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby turbodave » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:02 pm

Your point has some validity. There IS something to be said for a real stunt performed by a real person in a movie. These stunts sometimes dragged you out of the story because they were so amazing. Bad CGI is worse than bad real stunts. That is all! Dave
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:15 pm

I can't watch any film when they display the channel logo in the corner. It's just reminds me the whole thing is fake & instantly removes any belief I have in the plot/characters.

A bit OT but why can't they put signers for the deaf on the red button option, rather than presuming all insomniacs are deaf?
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Frank Rideau » Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:21 pm

But how do you consider the over-editing over-polishing of today's music productions ? The equivalent of prosthetic breast ?
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Guest » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:16 am

RE: But how do you consider the over-editing over-polishing of today's music productions ? The equivalent of prosthetic breast?


The appeal of ‘slickness’ and perfection in production is a throwback to the analogue days when that was very difficult to do and when the result still had enough analogue imperfection to sound natural. I find that getting things to sound ‘naturally imperfect’ yet professional is now more challenging than achieving clinical perfection! So I think most people desperately need the limitations of a natural medium (think George Lucas!) or they just don’t know where to draw the line.

But I think over-production is also the result of too much hard logic overriding the sense of naturalness or ‘appropriateness’. Broadly speaking, I’d say taste is a sense of natural appropriateness. Roman pillars holding up a little porch roof on an average semi-detached house just looks silly because they don’t suite the building and we can sense that they serve no purpose –it’s not just that they’re inconsistent with the social status of the owner. That’s why I say it’s not just about knowledge or values but intuitive sense. We know when proportions are incorrect because we see the difference between 'strange' (e.g. a Giraffe or Elephant) and 'wrong' (e.g. a giant ant from an old sci-fi film with a neck to thin to support the head). I don't think this is learned but hardwired. A child can see when something is about to topple-over, when a magic trick violates the laws of nature –despite not knowing a thing!

However, many adults I feel become detached from this intuitive sense (to an extent) and rely on a more synthetic mindset. I’ve actually seen the conflict in people like this when they feel something is good but they can’t bring themselves to like or enjoy it –because it violates their sense of what is supposed to be good! I think a lot of ‘stunt’ guitar music from the 80’s & 90’s was only really impressing people because it seemed clever, not because of what they were actually hearing. Similarly, I think people are attracted to performers and glamour, and the music is just a background to that.

(P.S. I just think fake boobs simply look strange and unnatural. No hedgehog’s noses to be found, more like a bowling ball in a child’s sock grafted painfully to each side, usually completely weird for the body type of the girl too.)

Other synthetic things I dislike (aesthetically) include: Double-glazing, fake draws and cupboard doors, fake pockets, veneers and ultra white teeth, cheesy buzz-cut hair and beards that look like they’ve been done with maths utensils, modern housing estates that look like they’re made of Lego and polystyrene, air fresheners, crabsticks & seafood reshaped fish...
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Shambolic Charm » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:05 am

....er cheese is natural!
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:36 am

Cheese is manufactured, not naturally occurring. Unless you grow your own, but I'd rather not hear about that.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby grab » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:16 pm

CGI *can* look natural - it's just damn hard work to make it happen! And close-up, it's still impossible to do with humans. They're getting close, but they're still in Uncanny Valley. Non-humans can be done more convincingly though, bcos we don't necessarily require the same threshold of "humanity" when you can make the argument that "it just moves like that". Gollum in Lord of the Rings worked very well indeed, as did almost all the big/small FX shots for the hobbits. LotR really proved that the success of FX is when you don't notice it's FX. Unfortunately they spoilt believability in Return of the King with Legolas doing physically-impossible stuff - sure he's an elf, but gravity still applies.

And flying is still something that no-one's cracked. The BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs was painfully wrong on the flying beasties, and even Avatar didn't really get it right. When things are in the air and gliding then models are reasonably good, but the takeoff/landing/flapping/falling animation is rubbish on everything I've seen so far.

On other fakery, I don't mind non-real plasterwork, and I don't mind fake columns if they're prettying up an I-beam. Lighting for me is mainly a factor of the colour temperature - I don't like the cold light that older non-incandescent lamps give. Although fluorescent lamps now will usually have warmer colour temperatures, and even the new LED bulbs are now available in warmer temperatures. And of course fake boobs look rubbish - that's just a given.

I guess the thing with synths though is that "easier" equals "cheaper". If you're being paid for a job and the customer doesn't care whether it's real or synth, you do it the way that costs less.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Richie Royale » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:29 pm

Some CGI is big and obvious (creatures etc) but some CGI is very subtle and it isn't until you see the original setting that you would even know that the scene had been tinkered with.

I think the majority of CG work in Ironman is well integrated. It is hard to tell when the suit goes from being a real one to being a CG one in some scenes.

In music the concept of recording something naturally only really exists in classical and jazz (possibly some native musics in some countires as well), all other music uses false stereo images, false reverbs, compression, eq, other effects, multiple takes, overdubs etc. Sampling and synthesis are just an extension of this I think. Samples frequently don't sound as good as the real thing, but in some cases they can be hard to distinguish.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:47 pm

grab wrote:CGI *can* look natural [...] Gollum in Lord of the Rings worked very well indeed, as did almost all the big/small FX shots for the hobbits.

Much of the hobbit 'sizing' was done without CGI. They had small actors, sometimes in masks, for distance shots - and used the old trick of playing with perspective with the regular actors for some scenes, implemented very well and with some nice (physical, non CGI) gadgetry. They even had large puppet-like costume rigs for the bar scene in the first film.

I recently saw some of LOTR on HD and it's looking a bit less wonderful than it did back then. Scary how quickly that happens...
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby grab » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:03 pm

Yeah, I watched all the "making-of" extras on the extended-cut DVDs too.

Sure they used trick camerawork where possible. But the "masks" were actually CGI, superimposing the "name" actor's face over the small stand-in's face. And there was heavy use of blue-screen too.

I thought Iron Man was done rather well, too. Powered flight is always going to be easier to portray though - no awkward flapping, wings, or movement of arms/legs. And the scenes of him practising with the suit (and wiping out spectacularly) were brilliant. I think that was actually very good for establishing "real person equipped with this stuff moves like that, therefore real person in suit will also move like that".

Spiderman was a bit less successful, I thought. The arms/legs never seemed to quite move properly in the "swinging" sequences - again, we're back to flying and the dynamics of motion. (Quite apart from the perennial question of Peter Parker apparently producing a greater volume of spider-silk than his entire body could contain, which is a whole nother issue.)
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Guest » Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:06 pm

RE: Gollum in Lord of the Rings worked very well indeed


Well, I think it was impressive but not still not quite right for me. Too fluid. Human and animal movements aren't the complete opposite of robotic movements because we have bones in. In CGI everything's too floppy and they seem reluctant to make things just 'stop'. Instead, they want to go through an overly elastic deceleration first. I think they're trying to rebel too much against stop animation! (Also, a man moving around would have different forces acting on it than a figure like Gollum, so there's always a problem with 'translation of movement' with that approach. That said, I don't actually know anything about this, I'm just going from observation.)

'Lord of the Rings' is a good example though. I hated it, but I'm not saying it's not really brilliantly clever. But, I always imagined it to be much darker, more like Grimms' Fairy Tales etchings brought to life...

Image

Image

...not so treacly and colourful and synthetic. I get that feeling that I'm watching a computer game demo after about 40 minutes, but I understand what a technical achievement this stuff is.

It's not the realism anyway. I actually love the unrealistic animation in (the original) Jason and the Argonauts, the insect-like movements of stop animation can be more effective sometimes. There, the naturalness really only comes from the 'craftedness' and not the actual movements. Passion Pictures created a piece of stop motion for Martin Scorsese’s film HUGO, so I guess it's here to stay. I'm not suggesting we should abandon CGI for stop animation, but maybe be more subtle about it and less gimmicky. When they zoomed into King Kong's fur in that latest CGI flick, it was just so over the top.

It's just a case of less is more, what is artistically good isn't necessarily always technically clever or difficult, and so on.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Gone To Lunch » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:09 pm

I think that 'records' or 'tracks' however produced are cultural artefacts in their own right, distinct from (though related to) other cultural artefacts such as 'performance' or 'gig'....
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby petev3.1 » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:12 pm

J.A.S wrote:RE: But how do you consider the over-editing over-polishing of today's music productions ? The equivalent of prosthetic breast?


Exactly equivalent and equally appealing.

The appeal of ‘slickness’ and perfection in production is a throwback to the analogue days when that was very difficult to do and when the result still had enough analogue imperfection to sound natural. I find that getting things to sound ‘naturally imperfect’ yet professional is now more challenging than achieving clinical perfection! So I think most people desperately need the limitations of a natural medium (think George Lucas!) or they just don’t know where to draw the line.


Excellent point. Listened to some old ToTP tapes the other day and the records are full of 'imperfections' that wouldn't have survived a modern mix session but which made the music come to life and sound real.

Still, there is hope. If we have the sunspot activity predicted for this year then maybe all our PCs will stop working.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Folderol » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:03 pm

Just a couple of thoughts.

What have you got against double glazing? I find it a massive improvement over single pane windows. Much warmer and - almost as important - much quieter!

My music is almost entirely produced on a synthesiser, but played for real with my fat little fingers on a keyboard. It's not a case of getting instruments on the cheap, I do it that way to realise sounds that are (as far as I know) impossible to achieve any other way.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby shufflebeat » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:27 pm

Re: parallels with music (particularly folk stuff).

I'm a bit conflicted about this. I'm with Mike Senior when he justifies the use of timing and tuning correction on the grounds that punters are so accustomed to squeaky clean production that the goalposts may have permanently relocated.

On the other hand I watched a rerun of the Cambridge Folk Festival today and was completely and utterly unmoved by anything I saw. It has been stripped of anything meaningful to the point of passionless drivel. Robert Cray was good but I consider him to be of a previous era.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Guest » Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:20 pm

Just a couple of thoughts.

What have you got against double glazing? I find it a massive improvement over single pane windows. Much warmer and - almost as important - much quieter!


Yes, practically double-glazing is much better. I actually have triple glazing in my flat! But when I see these old Victorian and Edwardian houses being converted it's really tragic -aesthetically speaking (though I can't say I really blame them). But the frames are too thick, too white and the glass is so flat is looks like someone might to blow it through into a bubble. Again, I think less perfection is more pleasing. I could really go into my views on the 'whys' of this in greater depth, but I'm not sure it'd be well received.

My music is almost entirely produced on a synthesiser, but played for real with my fat little fingers on a keyboard. It's not a case of getting instruments on the cheap, I do it that way to realise sounds that are (as far as I know) impossible to achieve any other way.


I mean 'cheap' as in crappy, not inexpensive.

I'm a bit conflicted about this. I'm with Mike Senior when he justifies the use of timing and tuning correction on the grounds that punters are so accustomed to squeaky clean production that the goalposts may have permanently relocated.


A little adjustment hear and there by ear can often improve things. But if by "tuning correction" you mean autotuning, that whole concept is really an aberration. Not only is inexact tuning not the same as inaccurate tuning (because we can express feelings with intonation) but equal temperament isn't even in tune. And that's not me being awkward, thirds/sixths in equal temperament are really far out from natural tuning. Many good singers are inclined to sing more in tune (or expressively out) than equal temperament permits. (If you've ever tuned a slide guitar by ear to a major chord, you might notice you've tuned the major third too flat for it to be correct at the other frets.)

P.S. Other naff stuff: Fake tan, strong perfumes and deodorants, fake coals on gas fires. But some tacky or 'kitsch' stuff can be interesting or at least funny. I'd quite like one of those creepy Jesus pictures where the eyes blink.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Mike Senior » Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:56 am

J.A.S wrote:A little adjustment hear and there by ear can often improve things. But if by "tuning correction" you mean autotuning, that whole concept is really an aberration.

+1 on this. I do quite a lot of timing and tuning adjustment on some of the mixes I do, but I really don't like any of the automatic correction algorithms. I only seem to be able to get results I like when I tweak things manually by ear. Usually things don't line up with the software's pitch 'grid' when I've finished, but that's irrelevant -- it's how the tuning sounds in context that matters.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Andi » Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:50 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:I can't watch any film when they display the channel logo in the corner. It's just reminds me the whole thing is fake & instantly removes any belief I have in the plot/characters.


Doesn't the fact that that skyscraper is on a small screen in your room rather give that one away anyway.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Andi » Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:53 am

Perhaps audio engineering isn't the ideal passtime for the OP seeing as the end product is, by definition, not real.
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Re: 'Fakeness' Threshold

Postby Guest » Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:35 pm

Perhaps audio engineering isn't the ideal passtime for the OP seeing as the end product is, by definition, not real.


I did mention in later posts that it's not so much about 'realism' (or realness) but 'naturalness'.

You could argue that magnetic tape is man-made and therefore has nothing more natural about it than digital effects applied to a digital recording, but of course, the virtual world of computers (algorithms, etc) is much more detached from nature than a physical medium such as tape which has a multitude of natural chaotic forces acting on it at all times. So I suspect your argument is (or will be) more about words and definitions, while I think it is more important to focus on what people are actually trying to say.

P.S. Some people aren't bothered (and often barely notice) when their telly is on the wrong setting (aspect ratio) but it really gets on my nerves and makes me feel quite strange after a while. (It's also a let down when I realise my favourite newsreaders aren't really that curvaceous! )
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