Back when Computer-generated imagery was a new thing, it was pretty easy to spot on films. It really stood out, and while it was more than obvious when it was used, it was pretty cool to see all the cool ways they started implementing them. Suddenly we had huge explosions, crazy aliens and robots, giant dinosaurs, and anything you could imagine.
As time passed movies were getting more and more filled with CGI everywhere. And while it started as a way to create incredible special effects, it is now deeply engraved into the very basic elements of most movies.
If you take a quick look at the highest-grossing films of all time, you’ll see that pretty much all of them make heavy use of CGI. This has now become part of what makes a movie a triple-A title. Movies like Marvel’s blockbusters and the top action are now more CGI than anything else, and that can be amazing, but it can also be negative.
Too much CGI and the bad implementation of it can end up ruining the look of your film. But possibly the most interesting use of CGI is that which blends so perfectly with the real. Life image that goes unnoticed. That’s the kind of CGI we’ll be talking about now.
Under the radar
CGI is a great tool for helping filmmakers in every way, not just for crazy stunts and weird creatures. Even from its early days, CGI has been used as a tool for making the impossible possible. There are some elements that, even though to the eye of the spectator may look simple, can be a real pain for the filmmakers. Elements such as lightning, some props, and especially set pieces and sets. There are hundreds of incredible movies that make smart use of CGI to complete what they already managed to put together in practical effects.
But is it really easier to make things in CGI rather than just physically creating the stuff they are trying to cover? What are some of the uses they give to CGI? What movies have you seen with more CGI than you think? Well, let’s talk about all of that.
Making things easier
Making things easier is an incredibly important part of every production. Every single producer has to find the best ways to optimize results when working on a film. Surprisingly, more often than not, productions work in very tight margins. Not just the time, but also the budget is limited, and there are only so many things you can do before your numbers go red.
CGI helps a lot in making things simpler, now, that’s not to say it is easy to work with realistic, believable CGI, but at the end of the day, it is much easier to use CGI to create a different skyline, than it is to change the weather or build new buildings.
What are some of the things that under-the-radar CGI can help out with? Well…
- Makeup: A huge part of getting actors ready is to get the makeup right. All actors use makeup, but some films require much more complicated makeup than others. Sometimes you need to get the actors to look older than they are, or much younger.Such is the case of “The Irishman”, where Scorsese got the cast made into younger versions of themselves to make sure every actor really looked like a real younger version of themselves. In the case of “Logan”, they had to add some extra details into making Hugh Jackman look older than he is, even beyond the point of makeup for some scenes.
- Scenery: Even though for the most part, all the complicated set building and stuff is a thing of the past, they still put a lot of work into that in many films. But it can be pretty complicated and expensive, not to mention all the problematic paperwork you need to get permissions and stuff like that.CGI is used to complete a lot of the scenery in these films, even if it’s just to make it more according to the period of the film.
You’d be surprised to find out that even movies like “Joker” use CGI for the background buildings, this is to make sure it was more of an older Gotham City, and not have the skyline confused with it just being New York or something. The movie “Gladiator” stands to be even to this day one of the most accurate representations of the Colosseum ever made, and this is all thanks to the clever use of CGI and deep study of the original material.
- Helping out the actors: Stunt doubles do an incredible job at making the actors look like they are acrobats, trained fighters, or they can do impossible tasks. But of course, there’s a limit to how much they can do. After all, they are still humans.
But they don’t just do some of the most intense scenes with CGI doubles, but they also help a lot in making them more similar to the real actors. Even though they tend to pick stunt doubles that look similar to the actors. Thanks to the use of CGI they can replace the face of the stunt doubles with the actual actors themselves.
But there are plenty of other ways to help the actors out with the use of CGI. In the movie “Tag”, Jeremy Renner had an accident shooting a complicated scene. On the third day of shooting, he broke both of his arms. Using green screens on his casters they replaced them with CGI arms. The effect is so well managed that it’s nearly impossible to spot unless you just know it’s there.
Now, when talking about the under-the-radar CGI there’s an honorable mention we always should keep in mind, and that’s of course “Forrest Gump”. This movie uses tons of CGI to recreate period sets, create multitudes, add Tom Hanks into key historical clips, and of course, making him a professional table tennis player.
One could argue that using CGI that’s so real that it goes unnoticed it’s the best use of CGI, as it is there to expand the experience. Sadly, it’s becoming more common nowadays to see films abuse CGI and special effects, making them the center of the movie, instead of a tool.