Movies Are Using Way More Computer-Generated Shots Than We Thought, Here's The Evidence

The debate over the use of practical effects in bigger-budget tentpoles has increased this year, with audience members who reject the blatant use of bad CGI (or computer-generated imagery) embracing movies like Mad Max: Fury Road or last week’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. These films, according to the argument, rely heavily on practical effects when pulling off their stunts, and they produce more realistic visuals than the ones created in a computer. Only, those films use CGI as well, and far more than you probably imagined.

YouTube user RocketJump Film School posted the above video, which is a defense of CGI in the modern blockbuster. Specifically, it is a defense of the use of CGI in general, pointing out that almost EVERY movie uses computer-generated imagery, but only the best uses of the modern CGI go unnoticed. "Bad" CGI is often associated with Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, or Dwayne Johnson’s The Scorpion King. Heck, we ran a montage of the worst on-screen digital effects on the site just a few weeks ago.

But the extremely informative clip argues that CGI is essential to the composition of a scene, and even the films that wave the banner of practical effects use it to enhance their visuals. Let’s take George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as a recent example. The above video shows how CG, when used properly, can make this car-crashing scene go from this:

Mad Max 1

To this:

Mad Max 2

Or how this blistering sandstorm tornado sequence:

Mad Max 3

Used a car, a fan and a ton of green screen.

Mad Max 4

The clip doesn’t throw CG work under the bus, and wisely points out that the difference between inadequate CG and the type of professional, invisible CG that goes unnoticed is money and time If a studio is willing to invest both funds and time into allowing a director to perfect their CG visions, the end result can be something as spectacular as Ang Lee’s Life of Pi:

Which is why James Cameron’s Avatar sequels may end up being the most beautiful CG films ever created… if he ever finishes them. Watch the above clip. I think it will help you better understand how CG can and should be used to enhance practical effects, and that the dismissal of CG as a viable tool is shortsighted.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.