It’s not a secret that all of the big movies today have CGI effects in them starting from realistic-looking textures to a 3D rendered dog poop (we’ll get back to that one, I promise). Now settle down, children, we’re going to have a short yet exciting history lesson!
Back like in the last century, the first 2D computer imagery was featured in the sci-fi western “Westworld”.
3 years after that its sequel “Futureworld” used 3D graphics for the first time in the history of moviemaking.
In ’77 3D wireframe graphics were introduced in the first “Star Wars” movie and everything went uphill since then.
“Tron’s” extensive 3D scenes (1982)
First-ever animated short from Pixar “The Adventures of Andre and And Wally B” (1984)
First realistic-looking textures in “Jurassic Park” (1993)
First full-length 3D animated film “Toy Story” (1995)
The unforgettable bullet dodging in “The Matrix” (1999)
And the mesmerizing facial capture technology used in Steven Spielberg’s “Avatar” (2009)
All these exceptional CGI benchmarks look exciting but one should wonder how would movies look without the CGI effects? Nice segway, eh?
It is hard to pretend something is there when it’s not. What you see on a movie screen is the result of hundreds of CG animators, special FX artists, stunt-doubles and cleverly built movie sets, not to mention actors, directors, producers and other essential people working hundreds of hours on movies like Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Green Lantern only to have them bashed by the fanbase for plot holes and horrible CGI. Look, not everything should be exactly like in the comics, give these movies a break! Sorry, I digress. Let’s have a look at some of the most prominent examples of human ingenuity:
1) In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to make the apes look more like humans and less like puppets, the CGI wizards used facial capture. Lots of it.
2) Obviously, there were no real tigers or even an ocean in “Life of Pi”, but there were endless green screens and a stuffed blue… tiger head? Yeah, that’s real magic!
3) Another motion capture gimmick, this time for the famous Harvey Dent aka Two-Face from “The Dark Knight”.
4) “Marvel’s The Avengers” … Gee, where do I start? It’s safe to say that this movie is 90% CGI at this point.
5) Andrew Serkis deserves a medal and a pizza with cheese crust for his role of Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He had to actually wear a full body suit with motion capture sensors attached to it, while crouching most of the time.
6) Who would have thought that the astounding settings in “The Hobbit” movies were CGI? Sad fact: one day while working on “The Hobbit” Ian McKellen a.k.a Gandalf the Grey broke down in tears because to shoot scenes with tiny dwarfs and the giant wizard they had to do it separately. All he had were 13 photos of dwarfs with little lights that flashed when the appropriate dwarf was talking. He cried, actually cried. Then he said out loud, “This is not why I became an actor” but unfortunately the microphone was on and the whole studio heard.
7) What’s worse: pretending to talk to 13 dwarfs who are not in the room or pretending to shoot flames? In “X-Man: DoFP” Adam Canto who played Sunspot had to do just that – “just pretend you’re shooting pillars of scorching fire from your hands”.
8) “300” Spartans vs all the CGI Persians! The visuals in this movie still look amazing to this day.
9) More motion sensors for Davy Jones’s tentacle beard in “Pirates of the Caribbean”
10) Green screen is so 5 minutes ago. “Gravity” creators used a snow-white room while filming the space scenes with Sandra Bullock.
11) Remember when Bill Murray and Matt Damon found that huge underground storage in “The Monuments Men”? Turns out it wasn’t all that big.
12) Being a fairy tale, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” uses huge amounts of visual effects and CGI or a combination of both. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were actual actors walking on stilts while wearing green suits.
13) Angelina Jolie’s exceptional performance in “Maleficent” made the movie feel very real, yet she too was forced to play the “pretend” game in the great Greenscreen Forest.
14) As we’ve previously established, the first “Tron” movie included extensive 3D scenes but “Tron: Legacy” throws it all out of the window and makes everything 10 times better.
15) What do you do if you want your robots to act more human? In “Elysium” robocops were all real people!
16) Speaking of robocops, in the new “Robocop” reboot the huge bipedal killing machines were made of sticks!
17) Are you surprised to hear that “The Chronicles of Narnia” is also 90% green screen and CGI?
18) You can’t have a decent-looking “Godzilla” movie without spending half of your budget on CGI!
19) Zero-G training room in “Ender’s Game” was pretty cool to watch but in reality he was being carried around like a human piñata in front of yet another green screen.
20) This one’s my favorite! Pretend zip-lining in “Captain America”. Yeah. Pretend. Zip-lining. How fun is that?
I promised you dog poop, didn’t I? In one of the scenes of “John Wick” there’s fully rendered pile of canine feces. Because they were not allowed to give laxative to the puppy they had to pay $5000 to make that scene look real in the movie.
Money. Well. Spent!