“Benjamin Button”: Can special effects be too good?

Last weekend, my wife and I went to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“, the movie that received the highest number of Oscar nominations this year. Frankly, I wasn’t too thrilled about the movie itself, although it was obviously done very well from a technical standpoint (which is what you would expect from a David Fincher movie).

However, when I later read more about the digital special effects that were used in that movie, I was simply amazed. Since I’m pretty interested in movie technology myself, I can usually spot digital effects. They still tend to look artificial in most cases, particularly when humans are generated digitally.

I therefore was very surprised to find out that the “old” Benjamin Button in the first part of the movie was not played by Brad Pitt under a lot of make-up, but was actually generated digitally. I did not suspect that for a single second during the movie. Some scenes that played at sea very obviously used digital backgrounds, but I never recognized the actual main character as a digital object.

The clip on this page here explains how this was done. Amazing technology!

The scary thing about this is not only that apparently technology has advanced so far that entirely artifical actors seem possible. It’s also that even relative experts don’t recognize these effects as the illusions that they are. And I don’t mean myself, but the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures that will soon vote about who will receive the Oscars. Actually, “Benjamin Button” might be in danger to embarassingly win an Oscar for make-up, but maybe not for special effects, because even people in the movie business don’t recognize this as a digital effect. The movie studios behind “Benjamin Button” have therefore produced a closed website for Academy members that explains everything, in the hope to get the nod in the right category.

And they clearly should receive the SFX Oscar. This is really a breakthrough.

Was, noch ein Blog? Yet another blog?

Ja. Aber keine Angst, wird nicht sehr anspruchsvoll.

Der eine oder andere Leser wird vielleicht wissen, dass ich seit bald vier Jahren blogge. Zuerst war das auf meinem eigenen Blog “Beobachtungen zur Medienkonvergenz”, das 2008 dann im Gruppenblog netzwertig.com aufgegangen ist. Netzwertig.com ist inzwischen eins der meistgelesenen (und -verlinkten) deutschsprachigen Blogs und kümmert sich primär um Internet- und Technologiethemen.

Aber da das Leben nicht nur aus Internet besteht, hatte ich seit einiger Zeit wieder das Bedürfnis nach einem persönlichen Blog, in dem auch andere Themen Platz haben. Und dank Blogwerk-Obertechie Philip steht das jetzt auch schon in voller Pracht zur Verfügung, freundlicherweise gehostet auf Blogwerk-Infrastruktur. Danke!

Dieses Blog hier wird vermutlich mehrheitlich in Deutsch geführt, mit gelegentlichen englischen Beiträgen.


Yes. But don’t worry, it won’t get too sophisticated.

I’ve been blogging since 2005, for the first three years on my own technology and media-oriented blog “Beobachtungen zur Medienkonvergenz” (Observations about media convergence). Last year, I merged that blog with the new group blog netzwertig.com, which is produced by Blogwerk AG, a blog publisher of which I’m also a shareholder. Netzwertig.com is now one of the most widely read German blogs and writes mainly about technology and the Internet economy.

But since there’s more to life than the Internet, I’ve felt for a while that it would be good to have a new personal blog where I can write about other topics. And here it is, just installed by Blogwerk webmaster Philip. Thanks!

This blog will probably be mostly in German, but with some English articles from time to time.