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Slicing Adam Savage's Nose - Can VFX Beat Doing it for Real?

Jun 23, 2022
in the allotted time it took to build a prop and actually shoot something pretty much where you

real

ly get everything on camera can you

real

ly get to the same bar of quality using nothing but digital tools i built the prop i want to get killed yeah let's kill

adam

Wild let's do it so you're directing a movie and you have to decide do you do this effect for real and capture it on camera or do it later in post production using computers and visual effects, which one looks better, which one gets saved. you more money which one will make you the best movie this question has been discussed millions of times on the internet and today we will answer it or at least explore it you know there is no simple answer to this question however i find this really compelling to find out in the allotted time it took to build a prop and actually shoot something pretty much where you really get everything on camera can you really hit that same bar of quality? ity using nothing but digital tools and of course we are going to test this concept with none other than Adam Savage Adam invited us to San Francisco to see this prop that he is working on based on the scene in this movie Chinatown where Jack Nicholson gave him they open up their

nose

you know what happens to nosy guys huh they lose their

nose

dude that looks pretty cool what makes that work is you see the tip of the knife disappear inside their nose then come out laterally , you can not. do that because there's a nose in the way and you see his nose could stretch out the nostril yeah he's actually acting like his nose was cut open because it's like when you're splattered with blood it's hard it's a very visceral feeling I'm guessing now.
slicing adam savage s nose   can vfx beat doing it for real
We don't know exactly how this effect was done, but Adam studied the scene frame by frame to reverse engineer not only the props but the blood splatter as well, even timing every moment of the build which of course , you can see. Now on the tested YouTube channel we'll take that amount of time and give the same amount of time to a visual effects artist, in this case Fenner to see what they can do with the exact same amount of time and resources now if the shot is as good or better which has some interesting implications we will discuss why if it is worse the same at the end of the day it is quite a learning experience for us to judge the nuances and complexities around this topic and what one has to think if you're a director or producer trying to decide between actual practical effects or digital effects okay guys you're in luck it turns out the original prop knife made for chinatown by prop master logan frazee fraser doesn't know what the pronunciation is The real one was auctioned off a few years ago and this is a picture of the real chinatown knife now there are a few things I learned about this that are really cool one is that it's an imitation fake ation of an Italian stiletto and I know this because I can see on this like stainless steel and the Italian it would actually have the name here and it will also be on the blade.
slicing adam savage s nose   can vfx beat doing it for real

More Interesting Facts About,

slicing adam savage s nose can vfx beat doing it for real...

This imitation was what every prop master in Hollywood used for switchblade knives. but i had a really impossible time finding a cheap imitation that was 30 years old because they had all fallen apart oh so i ended up buying a really good italian stiletto um um which is much better protection and this is my here is my knife chinatown when i took the blu ray i had and froze it framed there is a frame where you can see the tip bent just the only thing that is just a shadow from the tip to the back so i was thinking of the tip and I was thinking of making a mechanical pivot as a kind of direct mechanical pivot to get it out of the way and then I realized I was thinking too elaborate what is one of my pensions huh so I just used a spring instead you see if you go ahead and move that d or not it's very very smooth so i knew i was on the right track and then you also know this is just a tom savini straight blood rig fill this with fake blood squeeze it the blood comes out here, so you took two different knives. he cut them, he shredded them, he attached all this material to it, he tested it, how long did it take him about two and a half hours? two and a half hours that's not a lot of time I reckon until that successful camera test is all the time we invested in getting us to work getting this shot right so any time we spend

doing

this is part of my build time which it makes sense because you can execute something practical like this you have to practice and rehearse and nail it all right let's load the knife with some blood i think you'll be excited about blood too so this blood was given to me by the splinter effects team from Alien Covenant ridley wanted so much blood for this movie that they had to make their own and they made like 3,000 gallons of oh wow so as soon as they told me I was like can I have something like what goes in as fake blood like this which is a little bit of corn syrup a little bit of water you always want to add a little bit of cornstarch for a little bit of opacity and then it's never just red you always add a little bit of blue and a little bit of green and to darken it and give it a little more body there is a lot more green in humans than anyone realizes i was thinking that would you be cutting off my nose oh great i built a prop i want to get killed yeah yeah let's kill

adam

savage

let's do it you want rock paper scissors to see who can do it you can do it you don't want the pressure i don't want to be responsible for hurting you i don't care it's really just about getting the time the way i solved it was easy to think of it as slide and squeeze but it's more likely to be swiping it's like thinking about squeezing first and then and then moving right before you do it so i think you should practice if you're going to do it you should practice a few times make sure we feel good about it you have some nosy guys lose the noses I didn't do it it's pretty hard me I thought this was going to be easy, actually it's much more difficult, it's because you need to do the blood correctly, you need the right timing, you can't hurt your actor, you need to make a fair cut, you need to hide the light bulb, yeah. you need to clear the frame they need to react like it's a whole bunch there's something like this you're getting this is exactly what it always is practical effects work let me also tell you this about being a practical effects guy on set is that what you don't you experience in cg is that when i'm

doing

my job everyone's looking at me oh this hurts the gaffers are like that shit ain't gonna work they'll tell you you're an idiot right when you're doing the effect while the director yells at you the fists are waiting for you fajes If everybody knows, it's 20 10 grand a minute, right?
slicing adam savage s nose   can vfx beat doing it for real
You do your job under the most egregious duress when you're a practical effects person, so think about that as you do your visual effects, maybe imagine having 10 people behind you watching. your screen thinking about every mouse click you're making so now we've officially restarted work on the practical part here which means we're on the clock so all this time right now counts towards oh yeah let's see Nicholson actually, so let's just stand. where you gonna cut like this yeah the nicholson camera is here so cutting is ah oh and it moves like this so it's like yeah yeah yeah oh by the way nico i totally forgot tell you this is what I'm wearing for the I met Gala tonight.
slicing adam savage s nose   can vfx beat doing it for real
It is imperative that you do not stain me with blood or you will ruin everything. I'm sorry, just bring this up, but at the last minute, let's talk for real, even though I'm a little nervous and have a bit of an adrenaline rush. but it's just because I really want to get it right is it okay oh yeah okay I'm okay I'll tell you if I'm a little yeah that's cool here we go I'm speeding up speeding up speeding niko let's see the knife in his place just to make sure we're not going to make him wait i'm watching i'm watching the tube i'm watching two of when you mention it oh okay okay yeah you really got it we're on the watch niko rolling huh what you sayin about the visual effects? that the practical effects are better. you don't think the visual effects can cut it. all the time it takes me to clean myself wait wait brent did you put something in the shirt you're wearing to the met gala? oh my god i didnt make a perfect splash yeah i think we have a chance oh all right and that total timer adds time to the build time of adam

savage

1553 ok now its time to fire the vfx board so here we have the handy knife i dont have built and here we have the knife we ​​are going to use for vfx luckily adam needed the tip of the second knife so we have a perfect vfx knife why is this a perfect vfx knife niko well if you've seen other videos on our channel where we talk about swords and knives we often talk about half blades because in movies these days when they're stabbing people and cutting them they just cg the tip of the sword but they keep the hat the other half of the blade or sword so when you poke someone with it it's not like you're floating on their chest so this is really perfect so one thing we're going to do for the version of visual effects of this shot is to film it in the same way that it is going to be portable and then do the same movement. see you later we'll make it look good later ok we've shot our sho Now we're going to go back and spend the same amount of time with a visual effects artist to see if they can make the shot look as good as practice .
I love it. It is fun. I don't care who. win i love the ex don't get me wrong i know i win but i love you for it i love the exercise i would love to hear your thoughts on practical vs digital effects we could play with in the future because this is already something of most fun I've had in a long time and I can't wait to see how it turns out I mean I know I won but I really still can't wait to see how I mean we'll see if you guys got any ideas where I could help us I want to see those comments ok adam we'll get back to la we're working on the shot and we'll show you the results are you estimating the flight time to la in your time we'll get back to you ok we're back from san francisco it was a trip awesome oh boy like pretty cool but this isn't about how great our trip was this is about t getting the right shot so we got the shot we did pretty much with adam and it looks great oh that looks amazing HE looks great doesn't it it looks just as cool as the actual store yeah yeah so what we what I didn't anticipate is the amount of blood that ended up on my face which is great how you sell it yeah it feels like you have all the real time here where it's like you know something is going on your body reacts instinctively and then as your brain calculates it figures out what's going on then you get a second layer of reaction but this is the problem :fenner the tip of the knife wobbles when i stick it into adam's nose so it's not good we can't use it it can't do any visual effects on this shot but we did it a second time so they had to reboot and re-film everything.
I think that adds to my timer a bit, everything counts, so here's the second shot, yeah the knife definitely sells a lot better in this shot, not as extreme. the blood slice but in a way like it's mo is realistic on adam's face but you just don't get the big blood splatter done in ren you get a little bit i like the blood splatter pattern on adam's face better adam in this shot, but I think the overall gore from the first take is still a better shot, so maybe something we can do is try to fix that practical first shot, but that's not why we're here. now, we have a clean plate version of this where there was no knife tip and no blood. or something like that, so let's take a look at that shot because that's what you're really going to work with fenner, he's a little bit behind on the reaction, hey, the performance of all of us is not as good as when we did it practically. that's just one of the benefits of pretty much shooting with stuff like that is you get the real shock of having blood on your face you feel that pull from the tip of a real knife like it's collapsing but the fender will have a hard time matching this in terms of its quality.
I have a feeling that the parts are going to be just for finding the items. We have some cool action vfx blood elements that we can use for this. The hard parts are going to match up with what we're actually looking at in our hands-on shot here. Obviously, the perfect motion blur. the tracking is perfect because it's actually there on adam's face a big thing will be those reflections in the blood that will be hard to emulate for sure it will be interesting i think the biggest thing i'm noticing is the performance difference i think which will be doable but definitely going to be a challenge finner adam told us that it took him about 2 hours and 31 minutes to build this fixture and that is how long he has toget as close to the final practical shot as possible if you can't get there let's go ahead and see how long it takes you to get there, most importantly i want to see given the same amount of time where the visual effects end up versus the practical effects what we'll try an hour less exactly things are going well starting to make good progress here we have the blood trail on adam's face at In my opinion one of the most powerful tools the foundry has added to the nuke in recent years , smart vectors before something like smart vectors, you know, trying to 2d trace this grid, maybe distorting it to try to match the subtle little movements that adam's face has like he's acting like he's just got of cutting off the nose and the amazing thing about smart vectors is that it gets all those little details and essentially makes the most of the intense follow up work for us something like this would not have been feasible in this amount of time even a few years ago so I'm very very grateful to the foundry team thanks guys I think it looks pretty good just I'm working on those little things to think about next. up I think I'm going to do that knife tip which can be a little tricky but we'll see how it goes crazy crazy you got it dude you got it you're doing great I'm a little worried because in the real world . bets like defending doesn't win this is a big brand in the VFX community to where you know it could be the death of the VFX community realistically I think the corridor closes its doors I think we start something new maybe we become farmers no I don't think we could be in better hands but I'm sitting here kind of stressed about it how long have you been on this so far?
An hour 56 so far so you did pretty much everything in the type. little trace of the knife and then basically I just wrote that the blade of the knife made a smooth little rotor for the tip and basically morphed it so we get all the nice little details of the reflection I would say as the reflections change oh you've got the blood in there on that too yeah just that little extra for father's d relatives the little extension with the handy blade is moving his nose you've got the nose movement there too oh my gosh heck yeah honestly it came together a lot quicker than i expected but a big part of that is like the availability of the tools we have in nuke and nowadays makes our job easier for sure great job man this is good thanks dude yeah so i'm going going to spend a little more time on this trying to get it all fixed i think i have another hour to go but once it's done i'll render it and we'll be ready to show adam how it goes dam, all right, how are you gentlemen today, we're ready.
Fender here did the job so Defender was our victim he had to go up against you you know you're a master of practice Fender is a master of digital so I'm curious to see the two combined but first what? what was your final tally? in terms of time to build the knife now we also added the amount of time it took to film the effect and the total was two hours 31 minutes and 18 seconds wow ok that's pretty quick did you make it late or early? It would have been a little longer than that, I think it was two hours and 56 minutes, but you had a finished version that could have been done in about two hours, yeah, oh, smoking like a real producer, the rest is good enough, print it out, looks like we're pretty close, sounds like fenders, maybe a few more minutes, it's comparable, we'll call. even in the wash here's a thought we'll show you with tomar and you tell us if this is the handy version or if this is the digital version okay okay yeah sure i'll take that challenge okay here we see okay meet a guy , you know what guy, those guys here want to guess, or if you lose your nose?
That was the digital, he understood it, he gave it away. technically some blood splatter on my face in the shot yeah not enough not enough we actually got two different shots of the practical shot the first shot was the best sadly unusable when i stuck the knife in you the nose i didn't quite get it so the blade wobbles as it goes if we were to do a version without digital effects the second take is one we had to go with the ideal way to do this is to combine both to do his practice with visual effects so he took that first take and cleaned up the knife wobble so it can be used and here's our version of both techniques married together knows a guy you know what dude knows the guys from around here to

beat

that blood splatter, yeah looking at these shots what differences stand out to you?
I'm impressed with the blood splatter on the digitalis. this delay with practice where i pause but then in the original movie nicholson also pauses right after the blood hits as it's like blood and then it moves i was trying to do the same thing but i think that the timing works a bit better on the digital it's interesting to mention that because that was our biggest observation as well the performances are quite different between the two while you're right it's tighter on the digital in our opinion the handy gets this really real reaction you end up with the blood in your eye it makes you jump a little bit you can almost tell it for a moment you forget where you are and then it all reconnects like oh yeah i gotta play these

beat

s and then you go back to it which gives it this authenticity that the digital version doesn't have and this also goes exactly to what directors influenced by ridley scott want to build big fat sets that put their actors inside of a real environment because you are always there will be better when there are real things around.
I think that in the real world there is no clear answer as to which is better, practical or digital. At the end of the day, the best version is usually a combination of both. At this point, with the kind of things that John Knowle and the Mandalorian team are doing, the practical effects are also reducing their cost and what it takes to implement them, so I want to say that I think what they ended up doing is the best take. It's that hybrid of the physical and the digital is exactly what's happening in the industry, institutional knowledge is now coming full circle to encompass both. we love special effects because it's not about one method being better than the other, it's about solving the problem of bringing the story to the screen in a way that is emotionally engaging right, yes thanks for making this project with us, it was great to explore it from both angles and get the results, and I'm glad to say now that I've restricted Adam Savage. you reveal the secret to a magic trick the answer is disappointment but i feel like with something like this it's the complete opposite it's like a thrill that something so simple has such a powerful impact it's a clever solution that when you see it you're like oh this is it super smart i love it instead of oh you just lied to me this isn't the last time i want to do this i want to figure out another effect to play with you guys this is what it looks like to me a rich mind to start digging i'm ok 100 we would love to do more of these if you want to see these videos you need to subscribe to Quarter Crew and to prove it we will have links to them in the description everywhere. otherwise also leave a comment for any pr practical effects vs digital effects you might want to see, we can use those for inspiration as we explore this further

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