Whenever you talk to film fans about CGI, you typically encounter two types of people. You get the ones who complain and moan and belittle the accomplishments of CGI, calling out for the days when practical effects were king, remembering only the great accomplishments of the age all the while forgetting that the vast majority of effects were, understandably, subpar when held up today's CGI. The other main group simply doesn't care how an effect is achieved. They just want more popcorn. Let's just say that we're in neither of these groups.
We recognize that CGI has a very important place in films. We also enjoy watching films that had the time and the ability to make quality practical effects instead. While we certainly love seeing high quality work of any type in a film, we do recognize that the use of practical effects are vastly overrated, or, at the very least, overly hyped and confused with superior filmmaking. You could make an argument that films that rely too heavily on CGI usually end up looking like crap. Well, yeah, but that's an obvious claim. Too much of anything, by its very definition, is excessive.
So, what are we saying? Apparently, not much. We merely want to point out that this list, while it glorifies some scenes that don't use (or use very little) CGI, does not and should not condemn CGI altogether. All we've done is compile some of the most iconic scenes that most viewers would assume utilized CGI more than it did. The list is a credit to the creative minds and amazing talents of the film crews who, for whatever reason, chose not to use computers to create these particular effects. Unfortunately, there are plenty of incredible films and scenes that were left off the list due to a lack of space. Some, like The Lord of the Rings franchise and Mad Max: Fury Road, were left off because there has been ample discussion about their practical effects and camera techniques already. Here are 15 scenes you assumed were done with CGI but weren’t.
15 That HUGE Explosion in Spectre
14 Levitating Truck in Thor: The Dark World
13 Earthquakes in 2012
12 The Tesseract in Interstellar
11 Car Chase in The Raid 2
10 The Costumes in Cabin in the Woods
9 Zero-Gravity Fight in Inception
8 Bloody Room in Nightmare on Elm Street
7 The Streets of Fire in Independence Day
6 The Magical Bread in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
5 The Holocaust in T2: Judgement Day
4 Microphotography in The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is criminally undervalued in the industry, as it is easily one of the most beautifully shot films ever made. As a visual experience, there are few films that can match it, and, perhaps the most amazing part of it all, is that the film team used relatively little CGI. Yes, there was computer-aided design, layering, compositing, etc., but to achieve almost all the shots, the film team brought in a microphotographer, Peter Parks, to film almost all of the space elements in a petri dish. The result was magical as Jeremy Dawson, one of the VFX supervisors, explains. "We got Peter to shoot different chemical elements and globules floating [as star fields] and we had more size and density variation than you usually see in space movies," Dawson said. "He used yeast and curry powder but was cagey about everything else."
3 Spiderman Reflexes
2 Tsunami in The Impossible
1 The Universe in Tree of Life
In Terrence Malick's beautiful film, Tree of Life, there's an extended universe sequence that shows countless stars, galaxies and a number of striking planetary visuals. It would seem easy to do this on computers nowadays, but Malick wasn't overly enthused about the early mock-ups he was seeing. This led him to approach Douglas Trumbull, a SFX master who had been gone from the industry for nearly 30 years. Trumbull had worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and he asked Malick, "Why not do it the old way?" To achieve these incredible shots without any computers, Trumbull pulled out his entire bag of tricks. "We worked with chemicals, paint, fluorescent dyes, smoke, liquids, CO2, flares, spin dishes, fluid dynamics, lighting and high speed photography to see how effective they might be," he said. "It was a free-wheeling opportunity to explore, something that I have found extraordinarily hard to get in the movie business. Terry didn't have any preconceived ideas of what something should look like. We did things like pour milk through a funnel into a narrow trough and shoot it with a high-speed camera and folded lens, lighting it carefully and using a frame rate that would give the right kind of flow characteristics to look cosmic, galactic, huge and epic."
Sources: IMDB, ScreenRant, HuffingtonPost, Independent
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