The Many Faces of CGI: An Artistic Blur of Fantasy and Reality

Types of CGI worth getting to know.

The Many Faces of CGI: An Artistic Blur of Fantasy and Reality

Since the Lumi?re brothers screened the first film in the late 1800s, audiences have been clamoring to catch a glimpse of the latest and greatest filmmaking feat. We’ve come a long way since the first animated 3-D wire-frame graphic in ?Star Wars,” and by the time ?The Abyss? came around, the watery alien thing had us hooked and begging for more. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) has taken us through a maze of imagination, from Narnia to the inside of an atom, and the varying types of CGI are worth getting to know.

Artsy CGI: Toying With Fantasy Shapes and Textures

Watching 3D movies

Most of us associate CGI with larger-than-life explosions and gory mutilations scenes, but they can serve as a canvas for allegory and psychedelic imagery just as well. CGI is more than just a quest to make the most photo-realistic media around; it can be used to paint a vivid, luxurious world of textures and layers that rivals our wildest dreams.

Jeremy Clapin’s short film ?Skhizein? takes viewers on the dark journey of a 9-cm man who struggles with the pitfalls of trying to live life from his vantage point. Clapin?s use of CGI techniques are dark and murky, and none of his characters even remotely echo the look and feel of the real world ? but that?s the point. And the result brings a parable that?s more true-to-life because of it.

?Azur and Asmar? is another captivating CGI oeuvre with poise, creativity and beauty. This award-winning film was written and directed by Michael Ocelot and tells the sordid tale of two children (blond, blue-eyed, white-skinned Azur and black-haired, brown-eyed, dark-skinned Asmar), both raised by the same nurse. The allegorical aspect of the tale is enhanced by CGI, as the paper-cut-out-look of it shines a stunning light on Azur and Asmar?s aesthetic differences, while helping sew together a moral lesson that can?t be unlearned. Ocelot was influenced by French, North African and Middle Eastern art, and the stunning result plays like a buffet for your eyes.

Realistic CGI: Reality Seamlessly Threaded With Fantasy

Explosions, large-scale destruction, new dimensions and mythical and alien life forms are a driving force in the realm of the CGI world, and we’re not talking about the werewolves from ?Twilight.? Whatever your personal stance on Michael Bay might be, even top scholars of the Criterion Collection agree that the man is a technical CGI genius. When it comes to photo-realistic, visual storytelling, director Bay is at the top of the totem poll. Viewing a Michael Bay movie is perhaps the best place to start for a glimpse of realistic CGI prowess; director James Cameron has admitted to studying Bay’s methods for his blockbusters. Even ?Transformers? shows Bay’s mastery of light, shape and movement, with rapid cuts that other auteurs can’t begin to replicate in style.

Joseph McGinty Nichol directed ?Terminator: Salvation? and showed us a different kind of photo-realistic mastery, with its almost-ethereal coloring and an apocalyptic world of nightmares. For this odyssey through a Skynet-controlled world, McGinty used a mix of prosthetics and CGI blended together seamlessly to create a post-apocalyptic future. If the goal of photo-realistic CGI is to blend fantasy into a realistic situation, these films are a study not to be missed.

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