Following on from last week’s thoughts on planning VFX shots, I’m now going to look at the issue of CGI vs. miniatures. In this post I’ll cover some of the advantages of choosing computer generated imagery, and next time I’ll look at the advantages of miniatures. As any regular readers will know, I much prefer miniatures, but I aim to be completely impartial in what follows.
To start off with let’s go back 20 years to Jurassic Park, the movie that really started the CGI revolution, and find out why Steven Spielberg chose this emerging technology over traditional techniques. (Skip to 13:12.)
So Spielberg favoured CGI because it produced more realistic motion. In fact, watching Jurassic Park these days I find the CG dinosaurs are easily differentiated from Stan Winston’s full size animatronics by the fact that the former move much more fluidly. Even when miniatures move “live”, i.e. without stop motion animation – vehicles powered by motors or pulled on hidden wires, for example – the motion is often less realistic than a CGI equivalent because the laws of physics dictate a small thing will always move differently from a large thing.
Next up, here’s a clip from Going to Hell: The Making of Soul Searcher, in which I discuss how I arrived at CGI as the best method of creating the spectral umbilical cords the script required. (You can watch the whole of this feature-length documentary at neiloseman.com/soulsearcher.)
So control was the key thing there. There were 80 shots, many with camera moves, and the umbilical cords had to be locked to the characters. Trying to achieve this with string and cables was just not realistic, or would have required so much manipulation in post as to make shooting a real element pointless. CGI can be controlled completely and adjusted quickly, without the need for reshoots.
Here are some other pros of CGI over traditional techniques:
- No shooting required, so no crew to pay, feed, transport, etc. On a micro-budget where the crew are unpaid, CGI is completely free, whereas any kind of miniature shoot will always have costs.
- CG elements can be tracked to moving plates without the need for expensive motion control cameras.
- There are far more talented and experienced CG artists out there than model-makers.
- You can create anything you can imagine, without any practical or logistical restrictions.
Can you think of any others? Let me know. Next time I’ll look at the advantages of traditional techniques.