E3: Game Look vs. Film Look

I was hanging around E3 on Tuesday, indulging my gamer geek side (games are a sister industry to the film industry so I get in on an industry pass, but I have no real legit business reason to go. It’s just fun.).

One of the things I’ve noticed about games is that the ‘look’ is still very much the same as it ever was. Yes, the polygon counts are higher and everything is in HD, but the look is the same. No depth of field and harsh lighting (usually either on or off). I was looking at a couple up and coming games and they just reminded me of Half-Life and every other game I’ve played. They look better, but they don’t look like film.

This is interesting, because films are starting to look like games and I don’t think it’s a good direction. I want games to start looking like films, not the other way around.

Where is this ‘Game Look’ for films coming from? I think it starts with 3D.

One of the smaller booths (You should’ve seen the xbox, ps3, wii booths) at E3 this year.

3D is fine if you’re watching the film in 3D, but even Avatar in 2D lacks depth of field and is overly bright in many scenes. Now directors are toying with faster frame rates. Peter Jackson is shooting the hobbit at 48fps. I have not personally seen it, but some accounts by those who have, say that it starts to look like a game. If so, between that and 3D, films are going to start getting a look that I think is very distracting.

The beautiful thing about depth of field and good lighting is it mimics how we tend to view things. We focus on an object at the beginning of a hallway, and the further away parts of the hallway go out of focus. Games are not like that. Everything tends to be equally sharp. Yes, some games incorporate some tricks to fake the depth of field, but it doesn’t look particular real. Of course, real time depth of field is computationally expensive, so there’s a reason games don’t incorporate it (Although I hope they do). But I think films need to be very conscious about not accepting a look that isn’t cinematic just because games have primed some viewers to accept it.

Also, I don’t buy the rationale that because of games there’s a lot of viewers that are ready to accept it. Yes, there’s a generation that’s very used to seeing video games. They’re also use to seeing Game of Thrones, 24, and many other shows that have a cinematic feel to them, resembling films more than TV shows.

Anyways, here’s to hoping that we see more games that look like film and not vice versa.

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