Myths & Truths of CGI & VFX

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Myths & Truths of CGI & VFX

The Media & Entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. Among this, there is considerable buzz surrounding Animation, CGI, and Visual Effects. Consequently, considerable confusion regarding the terminologies, and the scope in each of these as a career. This is an attempt to dispel some myths about CGI and Visual Effects.

Computer-generated imagery (CGI), often incorrectly referred to as Animation in India, is the application of 3D computer graphics to special effects in films, television programs, commercials, and printed media. Video games usually use real-time computer graphics (rarely referred to as CGI), but may also include pre-rendered “cut scenes” and intro movies (or FMVs–full motion videos) that would be typical CGI applications.
CGI is used for visual effects because computer generated effects are more controllable than other more physically based processes, such as constructing miniatures for effects shots or hiring extras for crowd scenes, and because it allows the creation of images that would not be feasible using any other technology. It can also allow a single graphic artist to produce such content without the use of actors, expensive set pieces, or props.
3D computer graphics softwares such as Autodesk’s Maya is used to make computer-generated imagery for movies, advertisements, etc. Recent availability of CGI software and increased computer speeds have allowed individual artists and small companies to produce professional grade films, games, and fine art from their home computers. This has brought about an Internet subculture with its own set of global celebrities, clichés, and technical vocabulary.
VFX
Visual effects or Special effects (commonly shortened to Visual F/X or VFX or SFX) are the various processes by which imagery is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a live action shoot. Visual effects often involve the integration of live-action footage and computer generated imagery (CGI) in order to create environments which look realistic, but would be dangerous, costly, or simply impossible to capture on film. They have become increasingly common in big-budget films, and have also recently become accessible to the amateur filmmaker with the introduction of affordable animation and compositing software.

VFX in Bollywood?
Visual effects plays a role in every single Bollywood film, mostly in necessary tasks such as colour correction, air brushing and clean ups, wire removal, colour treatment, etc. A look at the top 10 films of 2010 reveals that at least 5 of these films had extensive use of visual effects techniques in their making.

Some Key Visual Effects Techniques
Matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to build or visit. Historically, matte painters and film technicians have used various techniques to combine a matte-painted image with live-action footage. At its best, depending on the skill levels of the artists and technicians, the effect is “seamless” and creates environments that would otherwise be impossible to film. Many of the stunning sceneries and backgrounds in The Lord of the Rings were matte paintings and do not actually exist.
Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into a single image in order to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene. Live-action shooting for compositing is most commonly called “blue screen,” “green screen,” or “chroma key”. Today, most compositing is achieved through digital image manipulation.
Compositing involves the replacement of selected parts of an image with other material, usually from another image. In digital compositing software commands designate a narrowly defined color as the part of an image to be replaced. Then every pixel within the designated color range is replaced by the software with a pixel from another image, aligned to appear as part of the original. For example, a TV weather person is recorded in front of a plain blue or green screen, while compositing software replaces only the designated blue or green color with weather maps.

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