The Role of Computer Generated Imagery in the Movie (Film) Industry

The Role of Computer Generated Imagery in the Movie (Film) Industry

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The Role of Computer Generated Imagery in the Film Industry

Computer Generated Imagery is the special effects used in motion pictures to create a visual depiction of an illusion that can not be easily created in real life. Directors of major motion pictures have been using these technologies since the early days of the personal computer. Early on, when and special effects were in their beginning stages, it was difficult to make efficient and effective effects that are well accepted by the movie critics and the general public. An evolution of special effects and the introduction of computerized animation brought the standards for movie effects to a higher level. The development of new methods of Computer Generated Imagery for less money and more effective than in the past has allowed even fairly low budget movies to incorporate such technology. Today, movies use CGI to create special effects to replace thousands of extras, stunt people, and puppet like characters, as witnessed in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The evolution of special effects and Computer Generated Imagery technologies has taken the film industry to a whole new level.

Computer Generated Imagery began with awkward and dull effects in the early 1980’s. The 1982 film “Tron” was a desperate attempt from Disney to jump on the CGI bandwagon and start a revolution in film making technologies ( Although this film showed an attempt at something that had never been done before in the history of cinematics, it was weird and confusing. This broke the door down for other companies to start up and aid films in creating better and better effects that appealed to a larger market. Although the effects were not good in the early days, the general film going public was astonished by computer generated effects and flocked to the theaters to see these cheesy attempts to use basic technology that did not transfer well to the silver screen. It was not until later films like “Jurassic Park,” “Toy Story,” and “The Lord of the Rings” until CGI became a film making powerhouse and the killer application for high budget movies.

The evolution of the 1980’s saw the pioneers of the early ages of CGI, but it was not until major revolutions in computer aided film making when the industry took a notice. Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” one of the first major motion pictures to use CGI on a large scale, is one of the largest grossing movies of all time (imdb.

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com). It brought CGI in film making to a whole new level. After this movie, CGI became common in high budget, high grossing movies. It clearly showed that people will flock to well done CGI films, in astonishing numbers. This film clearly opened the doors for films like Disney / Pixar’s 1995 film “Toy Story,” the very first feature length CGI motion picture ( What would “The History of Computer Generated Imagery” be without “Toy Story?” This movie was the challenge of Disney that a full length CGI could be done, and well. The success of “Toy Story” again paved the path for more common use of CGI. Now that film makers have seen proof that there is no such thing as too much CGI, they are free to carry out their most wild and adventurous imaginations.

Peter Jackson’s The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy takes cinematography to a whole new level with CGI technology. This series of film has perhaps peaked as CGI’s greatest accomplishment to this day. Nearly every frame of every film is dubbed, masked, or altered in some way to improve the effects of a real life Middle Earth. Nearly every CGI technique in the book was used to pull off this wonderful masterpiece of film. From the digitally background to the Massive produced Orcs, this movie spent attention to detail to provide a superb quality of CGI never before witnessed. Each frame of background was digitally enhanced to bring up the lighting, color, and general effect. This was the first film to use wide spread digital background enhancements. It was very effective in enhancing the cinematography of New Zealand’s countryside. Massive is a computer program that can simultaneously control thousands of CGI characters. In LOTR, Massive was used to control the Orcs in the major fight scene. It too was an effective way of creating the deception of reality. Someday, CGI will replace stunt doubles, extras, and puppet like characters completely. Through the success of such films as LOTR, this day will come soon (Watrall, T101, 2/16).

CGI has greatly improved from the early days of computerized film making. The evolution of CGI and new technologies has shown a great return on investment in most cases and a general increase in the visual quality of film. The ultimate goal of CGI films is to have the deception of real life. Hopefully for film directors, they will be making a lot of money along the way.


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