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How Computer Graphics (CG) Changed Special Effects in Movies

By Saju Asokan




If you spend some time during your weekends to watch some old thriller titles, you would get nothing but boredom, from those special effects that kept you at the edge of your seat, a couple of years back. What makes this tremendous change in the special effects industry in such a short span of time? Nothing but the magical entry of computer graphics into the special effects industry.



Special effects in olden days: The special effects in olden days were sometimes referred to as camera techniques. During those days, computers had no role in the industry that we see today. Most special effects movies with human casts would do some stunts with an alien or a monstrous creature. Either they would make a full sized model of the creature with the aid of robotics and hydraulic systems or would create a small scale model and magnify it while mixing up the scene. Usually a combination of these techniques was used in olden days.



How computer graphics revolutionized the field: Computer graphics really became a magic wand for the movie director. lets see how:



Limits imposed by real world models are gone: Before its introduction, a movie director how ever creative he is had so many limitations. The special effects he could incorporate into a movie were limited by the robotic creatures, whose movements were obviously limited by the hydraulic machines that powered them. Keep in mind that the robotics field was not as developed during those times as it is now. In the case of computer graphics, the models are modeled using a graphics workstation. All it takes is a team of skilled graphic designers and powerful workstations to render the scenes. The physical restraints got almost completely dissolved.



Cost has been dramatically reduced: In the olden days, budget had been a significant constraint since, the monstrous models created for movies used to cost a fortune. These models were crafted with robust devices and the drive train that powered them would be highly sophisticated, so that they would appear as real and their movements as fluid as possible. Due to this level of sophistication, the expense for the creation of such models always turned out to be high. With the introduction of computer graphics, the cost of creation of a model could be limited to the hiring cost of a team of graphics professionals, a farm of fast computers for rendering and experts to control the work flow. The physical models created could be brought down to the minimum.



Minimal wastage of resources: In the past, the models created for a movie would cost a significant share of the whole budget but if the movie happens to be not a sequel, the models might not find a reuse in the future at all. This would be nothing but a pure wastage of money and resources. Since, in computer graphics, nothing much exists physically, no wastage of real physical resources occur. If a CG model ever needs to be altered, all it takes is the effort from the part of a graphics professional.



Time saving: The fabrication process, used for the creation of physical models was time consuming. The process would demand time for the setting and fixing of joints irrespective of the availability of human labor. But in the case of computer graphics, the more the number of skilled workforce the production team has at hands, the faster the work will get done.



Far superior reality: With the advent of the latest animation and modeling software, the scenes are getting so realistic that it is hard to distinguish. The presence of latest composing, mixing and editing software, makes it a cakewalk to blend special effects scenes with the usual cast shots.



The introduction of computer graphics can be claimed as one of the very few industry refinements that has caused almost zero negative effects. The days of fabricating huge casts and models to make a six legged creature, that would make the audience scream are far gone. CG revolutionized the field so dramatically that our expectations and benchmarks have been quadrupled in a time-frame of couple of years.




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