Do You Expect ‘Movie-Standard’ Visuals On Your Serialized TV Shows?

LOST: Ben Surrounded by Smokey

It could be argued that serialized television has become increasingly high-concept over the last few years, with shows such as “LOST“, “Fringe“, “The Walking Dead“, and newbies such as “Terra Nova” and “Falling Skies” (to name just a few), pushing the boundaries of what is possible on the small screen.

While all of these shows have  had (and will have) varied success with meeting their high-concept portrayals of worlds and situations with visuals and effects, there’s growing signs that television is bridging the gap between the small screen and the big screen.

The pending transmedia monster that is “The Dark Tower” is another indication that television is now seen as a medium that can not only provide realistic character stories and meaningful arcs, that are not regularly possible in movies, but also visuals to match.

The Walking Dead - do appearances matter in this high-concept show?

With all this in mind, do you now expect ‘movie-standard’ visuals to accompany your favorite serialized television shows? How important to you are realistic visuals in helping you to believe the world of a particular show?

Below we’ve included a poll for you to add your vote:

Do You Expect Movie-Standard Visuals On Serialized TV Shows?

View Results

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V - how would this have looked 10 or even 5 years ago?

Further points for consideration:

  • Would creating realistic worlds in shows like “LOST”, or the upcoming “Terra Nova”, have even been possible, say, 10 years ago?
  • Do you think such shows would be as perceived as ‘high-concept’ without the visuals and filming techniques that are available today?
  • Can you think of any ‘high-concept’ serialized television shows that don’t attempt to employ high-concept visuals?

Some of you may note the irony of the image I have included at the top of this post. I thought that scene with Ben (“LOST”) contained well executed visuals..and not so well executed visuals. I thought I’d include it nonetheless. 😉

In truth, I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface here, but please feel free to use to comments to bring any of your own views or perspectives to the water cooler.

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  1. Underseer says

    While it’s great that Hollywood level effects for tv series add realism and can take the medium to a new level, there’s a danger too.

    More money on the line = far less tolerance of even minor ratings fluctuations.

    They can pull out before an entire season budget is expended, much more easily than canning a movie halfway through production, because they have the measurables of viewership figures.

    All that said, working on the periphery of the cg industry myself, I can tell you that technology is advancing so fast that increasingly ambitious effects are possible from smaller teams and lower budgets. Event Horizon showed that.

    It’s just that Hollywood doesn’t think it’s getting value unless it’s paying through the nose – and the bragging rights of major budgets still con the movie going public into equating expense with quality.

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  2. ICE-H says

    It is always nice to see good visuals, but good story is more important.

    I myself have some experience of working with CG graphics, and I agree with Underseer, with today’s technologies it is a lot cheaper to make such effects. And it will be even cheaper in the future.

    I think one of the most impressive visuals on TV were on Battlestar Galactica. The ship battles were gorgeous! When I think about Battlestar Galactica, I remember about battle scenes first. But the story also was very impressive.

    Lost did have a good effects, but that’s not what I remember first when I think about it. I remember Ben, Alex’s death, MIB, Locke…

    So basically while visuals are good and pleasant addition to the show, they are nothing without a good story.

    PS. Fringe has a damn good visuals too!

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  3. says

    Underseer and ICE-H: Excellent insight all-round, particularly regarding the diminishing cost of creating high-standard effects in today’s industry.

    I think the upcoming “Terra Nova” would be a great case study in this regard. It seems as though they opting for industry-first motion capture tech to realize the dinosaurs. There are probably cheaper options, but would they have the same effect? I guess we’ll be able to judge once the show arrives, but I find it interesting nonetheless to see a serialized show really going for the cream in terms of visuals.

    Underseer, you may also have a point about ‘bragging rights’. I’m sure Fox will constantly remind us how ‘ground-breaking’ “Terra Nova” is. Not that I could blame them after how much they’re paying for it. 😮

    As for “Fringe” – I do wonder how the show will ‘look’ next season, with Fox picking it up despite what I perceive to be ‘borderline’ renewal ratings. Will anything have to give in the SFX department? If so, how will this impact the story going forward?

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  4. Page 48 says

    I love (and want) movie-quality effects, but I just have to watch a show like BtVS to realize that there is more to engaging TV than top-notch effects. That said, I love the eye-candy that a movie like “Avatar” offers.

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    • James says

      You kinda undermine your argument when you ask “What would V look like 5-10 years ago?”

      That’s what it looked like almost 30 years ago.

      High concept isn’t anything new. And I’d argue there is actually LESS high concept shows on television than there used to be, particularly when comparing to the 80s and early 90s. In fact, almost every single Fox show was high concept because they were trying so hard to be different from the other networks. Same goes for MTV (in that period where it was producing original, non-reality based content).

      I think you’re confusing production value with high concept. Joe’s Apartment is high concept, as is Knight Rider, Battlestar Galatica, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Different Strokes, Three’s Company, Bosom Buddies, Small Wonder, the list goes on and on (the original V). The only thing that’s increased since the 80s is the use of the term “high concept.”

      I also think the proliferation of reality TV, pseudo documentary style, handheld, intentionally adding lens flares, has stylistically narrowed the gap between film and TV. There used to be a higher standard (or at least a standard that was harder to replicate in TV than film). That line is blurry now that you have films like Paranormal Activity and TV shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead. But on the upper end — Terra Nova still doesn’t hold a candle to the original Jurassic Park, but we forgive it because it is TV. I think that’s something that will always happen.

      Ringer has one of the most horrifically bad composite shots (Sarah Michelle Gellar on a boat) and despite this massive flaw, I still enjoyed the series. If it had been a movie, that would have been a deal-breaker.

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