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10 Things you didn’t know about CGI

If you have watched any sort of films or television and you’ve likely seen a decent amount of computer generated imagery – or CGI. Some of it can be pretty bad looking but, for the most part, CGI has come a long way and is now integrated into many things you may not be aware of. From movies and television to magazines and even outer space, it may surprise you the sorts of places CGI pops up.

1. Catalogues

Catalogues

Ever looked through a magazine or catalogue and seen a watch, chair or living room set you really like? Odds are what you’re seeing wasn’t really there but instead inserted afterwards. That’s right, a lot of printed material you see is trying to sell something that is made with CGI. Why? It’s easier to create and edit afterwards if need be. You see, real objects like smartphones, watches on tables can get fingerprints, dust and send off a reflection. CGI of those same objects don’t face that problem at all.

2. Movie #1’S and #2’S

In movies for many years ago, if a scene required an actor to pee or poop, it had to be done with actual, physical props. That is, someone would need to make some yellow liquid and rig up a contraption to make the pee look real. For #2, someone have to create a realistic looking deuce. Today, thanks to CGI that is a thing of the past. Need a scene where dog is pooping on cue – like in the other woman? Not a problem, with a little CGI that dog can do its business in a way that is believable and easy to clean up afterwards.

3. Nature Documentaries

Nature Documentaries

Have you ever watched a nature show and thought the footage you were seeing was pretty incredible? Actually maybe, too incredible? Well, sometimes that perfect real life shot is impossible to get, so the studio steps in with a little help from CGI. In fact, if a lot of the shots you see seem too good to be true, odds are a computer and some blue screen helped to create the image. From faking the animals to entirely creating a computer-generated world around the animals in a TV studio, some pretty big name companies have opted to go the CGI route to get that perfect wildlife moment.

4. Car Commercials

Car Commercials

In the old days, car commercials showed a car, driven by a professional, whipping around the corners, carving through the mountains and sliding across the parking lot. They still do that today – only it’s rarely an actual car. In fact, most commercials insert the vehicle they are selling after the shoot is done. All the driving is recorded thanks to a smaller go-kart like car. Then, once the shot is captured, a CGI Corolla, Civic or Fusion is inserted over the stunt vehicle for the final AD.

5. Guns

Guns CGI

In the action films of the 1980s and 1990s, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and Bruce Willis all fired guns that use blanks or some other pyrotechnic device. Such methods created a realistic effect, but could also be dangerous. Enter CGI. Today, most action films rely on a heavy dose of computer help when it comes to shootouts. Those dramatic flashes coming out of the muzzle? Almost entirely fake. You see, gun makers intentionally try to limit the muzzle flash which doesn’t make for good action scenes. With CGI added afterwards that wimpy little gunshot turns into a fiery blast.

6. Blood

Blood

Perhaps one of the things that makes shows like The Walking Dead or a movie like The Expendables 2 so over-the-top is the amount of gore and blood. However, don’t feel too sorry for the crew that is responsible for cleaning up the set after the bloody scenes – because there isn’t one. Unlike in the past where blood and severed limbs required real and messy props, todays gore-filled programs use CGI instead. In fact, during the shoot for the Expendables 2, every drop of blood you see flying around was added long after the shoot was done.

7. NASA’S Photos

NASA’S Photos

All those fantastic pictures you’ve seen NASA release recently from outer space – well they’ve been touched up and computer enhanced to make it easier for people to see and interpret the photo. In fact, some of those great shots of deep space look nothing like the original picture. That’s because many of NASA’s cameras pick up images in wavelengths the human eye can’t detect. Since that would make for a terribly boring photo to look at, the images are processed through a computer to create a spectacular image of the cosmos like that one so many of us use as our computer wallpaper.

8. Weather

Weather

While watching your favorite television show or movies have you ever noticed how weather can really affect a scene? Odds are, the actors you’re watching aren’t being exposed to any of the rain, snow or fog you are seeing at home. Sure, years ago crews had to create filters and equipment if they wanted to give the appearance of a cloudy day or a snow storm. But now, in a show like Game of Thrones, all of that realistic weather is added in afterwards. It’s why Jon Snow’s hair only gets a tiny dusting of snow, despite the fact that he’s standing in a blizzard that should leave his whole head white.

9. Food Ads

Food Ads

A couple decades ago, a fast food joint like McDonald’s or Burger King would have used actual props to advertise their burgers. An actual burger would be assembled carefully and then given a layer of shellac to make it look perfect and absolutely nothing like the smooshed, leaky burger we actually got what we ordered. Today, it’s just easier to use CGI to build that perfect meal. Not done there, some companies have even inserted the CGI food into the hands of the actors while they eat it.

10. People in Television

When Nancy Marchand passed away during the third season of The Sopranos it created a bit of a problem. You see, Nancy played Livia soprano, and her character wasn’t supposed to die on the show. Nonetheless, with the help of CGI, old footage of Nancy was worked into a scene to make her character’s desk work better with the show. This technique, while crude at the time, continues today – even in commercials. For instance, galaxy chocolate recently released an Ad that has Audrey Hepburn inserted in a fairly believable manner.

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