What's the best CGI ever?

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    I saw Blade Runner 2049 this week, on a screen several orders of magnitude too small to get the full effect, and was impressed by the convincing CGI that might finally have earned its place as the successor to practical effects.

    Then I learned it was practical effects.

    I can appreciate CGI when it’s used for nice-looking backgrounds and landscapes, since it’s not as if traditional matte paintings were about being convincing anyway, and to augment things that are actually there. But when it comes to creating flying cars, spaceships and characters out of nowhere, does it ever really convince that they’re actually there?

    I don’t watch many new films, and rarely the big-budget ones, so this is curiosity rather than moaning. Though as a Red Dwarf fan, there is some latent PTSD to get over.



    To answer my own question, whatever was involved in compositing a c.1982 Sean Young likeness into a 2017 film really impressed and confounded me. That convinced me (albeit on an iPad screen with bad eyesight). I haven’t seen the Star Wars film where they also do that.



    CGI is sometimes unfairly maligned, I think. Often it’s used to bring an idea to life that couldn’t be done convicingly any other way, which means that it could be as realistic and brilliant as possible and people would still say “oh, that’s obviously CGI” and denigrate it.

    But there are frequently some brilliant effects accomplished with CGI, and it’s always gobsmacking to me when characters like Gollum or the Hulk can be made to feel like such real, living, breathing characters.

    That said, I think the best CGi is probably the really subtle and unshowy stuff that we don’t even know is CGI. I’m always impressed when I watch behind-the-scenes videos and see them extend sets or add objects into scenes that my eye reads as 100% real.



    Here’s a quick vid about Rachael in Blade Runner 2049:


    That moment was absolutely electric for me in the cinema.



    Inspecting it for faults to ruin the magic, her expression/mouth movements at the end of that video do look a bit artificial (“of course it is”). Still, that’s the first time I can remember CGI blowing my mind since seeing Toy Story 1 at the cinema.



    Young Arnie in Terminator Genisys is pretty impressive too.



    Ben Saunders

    I always thought General Grievous looked really good. That shot of his eyes, when he kicks Obi Wan and picks him up and throws him, when he bursts into flames. The Hulk is pretty convincing, too. You’ll notice that neither Greivous nor The Hulk are human characters, making making them more easily believable as realistic.
    But it is true that a lot of the best CGI is stuff you don’t realise is CG, set extensions and scenery and stuff. A lot of CG in newer films is worse than it needs to be because they’re given relatively little time and money and have to deal with reshoots; the reason Grievous looks better than any of the CG in Justice League is due to those factors and the fact that years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears and money were passionately put into the former.

    A lot of “bad CGI” is more like bad compositing of the real actors into a CG scene/miniature where they fuck up the angle or lighting or scale



    I generally only experience TV-sci-fi-budget CGI, so no wonder I’ve been a bit underwhelmed.



    Some of the most impressive CGI I’ve seen lately is in Spider-Man Homecoming. The bit where he’s on the side of the Stark cargo plane with the active camo is so so so impressive.

    Sony Pictures Imageworks are shit hot. ILM take the lead on most if not all of the other MCU films, but Homecoming is another level in my opinion. Lighting and physics 10/10.


    Flap Jack

    Gollum from The Lord of the Rings always sticks in my mind as an amazing example of a fully CGI character in a live action film. That level of animation and photorealism has become pretty common nowadays, but for 2002 it was incredible.

    Though I suppose it could be argued that the true *best* CGI effects are the ones where you don’t even realise it’s not real, like how New York is basically entirely CG at the end of The Avengers.



    The first film that really shocked me with how visually impressive it was was Spider-Man 2, the first fight between SM and Doc Ock on the side of the bank wall. It seemed so fluid and free. I guess it should have been Jurassic Park or LOTR, but I was just engrossed in the story of those film that I never stopped to think “how impressive, that creature isn’t real”



    …I thought Grevious fighting Obi Wan was pretty awesome too. Just how fluid Grevious moves. And the Superman Returns shuttle-catching scene.


    Ben Saunders

    Yeah, the only bit that looks dodgy in the Greivous encounter is Obi Wan riding that dinosaur thing, and the clones, because that’s them trying to marry live action Ewan McGregor/Temuera Morrison with what I assume is an otherwise entirely CG scene, a scene which is itself very complicated. Revenge of the Sith in general I think looks pretty good for the most part, outside of a few select moments.

    I watched a RedLetterMedia Half in the Bag yesterday where they showed clips from the trailer for The Hunger Games, and holy shit it looked terrible, even simple stuff like a moving shot of a big screen being played to a crowd looked extremely shoddy. I wonder if it genuinely was that bad in the film or if it as unfinished trailer effects.


    International Debris

    Cityscapes and the like are, as mentioned, all pretty excellent. I’ve been out of touch with mainstream cinema for a long time, but this summer and autumn I’ve been working my way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe – sticking to the films, Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter (had a go at the Netflix stuff but it’s so tonally different and unconnected to the others that it’s pretty jarring) – and I’m still finding I’m spotting so much compositing. Lots of the CG design is great, but when it’s all put together it still looks like a man in front of a computer image, or a computer-designed plane pasted onto live footage, even if the designed bits look superb on their own. I also find Hulk pretty unconvincing a lot of the time. Good, but not quite there yet. The best I’ve seen so far is the reality warping stuff in Doctor Strange.


    Ben Saunders

    Yeah, compositing is the issue. There was one shot of Finn flying towards that cannon at the end of The Last Jedi which looked utterly abhorrent, I think they zoom in on him during the shot and it just looks shite. I remember not quite believing it in the cinema.

    I’m also out of the loop with most of popular culture which is why my examples are Revenge of the Sith (2005) and the result for the Hunger Games (2012?), lol



    Can I nominate this as the best?




    Bah, I’ll try again!

    View post on imgur.com








    I prepared a few QI klaxons for obvious joke replies but forgot about that one.


    International Debris

    Why did you combine three image posting attempts into one, though?



    The secret of comedy is



    Sorry, that post didn’t work. The secret of



    Timing. The secret of comedy is timing.



    I’ve not seen many newer movies, so I haven’t really seen much CGI. That chocolate commercial with the CGI Audrey Hepburn was really convincing though



    The space battle at the end of Rogue One looked unbelievably great but then they scanned the ship models to achieve that.

    The end of The Avengers is also amazing. No idea that so much of the city was CG. Marvel movies nowadays do often look a bit substandard though due to an over-reliance on CG and the short time turnarounds on the FX work.

    Game of Thrones is doing unbelievable stuff that is topping most movies though they’re really smart with how they mix practical and CG elements.

    As said above, there’s a lot of great FX work that goes unnoticed (in David Fincher movies for example).


    Ben Saunders

    >but then they scanned the ship models to achieve that
    Is that really cheating? They did that on the prequels a lot as well



    No, not cheating but it does make it understandable as to why it looks more tangible than some of the other CG space sequences in Star Wars.

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