How has CGI improved over the years

CGI effects: How film worlds are created on the computer

CGI effects were first used in 1982 in Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan. Since then, the animation industry has developed so quickly that Hollywood can no longer be imagined without computer effects. We'll show you the tricks the filmmakers use and introduce you to some of the best CGI productions.

CGI effects in the film

CGI is a collective term for digital effects and stands for Computer Generated Imagery, that is, computer-generated images. CGI effects are usually combined with real film recordings and create a new overall picture. For example, scenes that were before Green screens or Blue screens were recorded in the studio, can be subsequently inserted into a computer-generated backdrop.

There is also the technology of Motion capturingthat is used to realistically move animated characters. An actor wears a suit with tracking markers, which records his movements using the triangulation method and transfers them to the computer. The recorded movements are then transferred to a computer-generated 3D figure.

Performance capturing goes one step further and also records facial movements and emotions. A well-known example of this technique is the character Gollum from the Lord of the Rings films.

In addition, CGI programs enable various Color adjustmentsto create the mood you want. This includes, for example, shading, in which the most realistic images possible are created by illuminating a body. Ray tracing, on the other hand, is a computationally intensive method in which light-shadow effects are used, taking into account the viewing angle, in order to represent various types of surfaces as realistically as possible.

6 films with fantastic CGI effects

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Superhero movies usually have a lot of CGI effects to bring their characters and worlds to life on the big screen. Compared to its predecessors, however, Infinity War sets new standards: The film consists of 96 percent CGI sequences and is therefore practically one large CGI scene. The environment, the weapons and also many characters are computer generated. Thanos and every member of his Black Order is completely CGI, as are several characters on the hero side such as Groot, Rocket Racoon and Hulk. The characters played by actors have also been revised and improved with CGI.

2. Life of Pi

The story of the Indian boy Pi, who drifts on the sea with a Bengal tiger in a lifeboat, also has a high proportion of CGI. The entire film was shot in a large water tank in front of a blue screen. The tiger, the other animals, the background and the sea are completely computer animated. Life of Pi won the Oscar in 2013 for the impressive visual effects - albeit with a stale aftertaste. Because the executive animation studio Rhythm & Hues Studios had to file for bankruptcy and lay off many employees who had worked without wages despite overtime to complete the film.

3. Departure to the moon

Director Damien Chazelle took a different approach to the use of CGI in the brand new Neil Armstrong biopic Aufbruch zum Mond. He used CGI effects comparatively sparingly and also worked with replicas and craft tricks. For example, the scenes on the moon were shot completely without CGI. The result of this way of working are visual effects that are barely recognizable as such and appear very realistic.

4. Terminator Genesys

CGI effects give filmmakers the opportunity to create realistic and believable implementations that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. One example of this is the action blockbuster Terminator Genesys, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger meets a younger version of himself. The young terminator is completely 3D modeled. A bodybuilder was used for the basic image setting, but he was then completely replaced by a CGI animation. Schwarzenegger's 3D headprint from the Terminator filming in 1984 was used in combination with motion capturing for facial expressions.

5. Benjamin Button

An example of complex CGI effects is Brad Pitt's transformation into the role of Benjamin Button, who was born old and gets younger and younger over the course of his life. In order to authentically represent the rejuvenation, Brad Pitt's face was scanned while he was speaking and acting alone in a studio. The effects specialists then let the digitized face age and mounted it on the actors who played the scenes in the different phases of Benjamin Button's life on the set. The animation process took more than two years and employed 155 people in total.

6. Game of Thrones

CGI effects also play an important role in “Game of Thrones”. In addition to the epic battles, for which groups of horses and actors were filmed several times and digitally assembled into huge armies, the realistic dragons are particularly impressive. The animators got their inspiration for the mythical creature from the animal kingdom. Chickens and bats were used to study muscle, running and wing movements, while the elephant skin served as a template for the external appearance of the dragon.

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