The Emperor’s New CGI

Hollywood has a perception problem. The myth persists that audiences favor practical effects over CGI. Thus, studios shout “shot practically” and “no CGI” in marketing materials.

Peel back the poster to find hundreds of VFX artists in the credits. Open the bonus footage to see the reality – vast green screens and actors reacting to tennis balls.

In “Top Gun: Maverick,” authenticity was the narrative. The mission was to capture the skies for real. “No CGI!”.

Yet, beneath this, a different reality buzzed. The credit roll revealed 400 VFX artists. While some real jets were filmed, many were later digitally altered or replaced in post-production. L39 stand-in jets, initially filmed and tracked, were digitally transformed into other aircraft.

Significantly, the Dark Star, F14, and enemy’s fifth-generation fighters were pure CGI creations. During the climactic dogfight sequence, the audience saw a sky filled with CGI-crafted jets, blurring the line between reality and digital artistry. The tangible F18s flown had CGI counterparts for safety or specific visuals, challenging the discernment between real and rendered.

The ‘all practical’ narrative was a marketing angle, yet the blend of practical and digital revealed a broader truth.

Evidence mounts. Scan interviews and watch as directors and talent cautiously navigate the subject, contractually silenced. The shiny new blockbuster is a Trojan Horse, CGI concealed within its practical facade.

This is the theatrical industrial complex in action. The fear: audiences may reject the magic required to create today’s cinematic illusions. So, the wizard stays hidden.

It’s time to challenge old notions. CGI is not a crutch, but an artform. A tool for creation unbound by physics and practicalities. The modern filmmaker’s new palette.

When done right, CGI vanishes from mind, melding seamlessly with the practical. We can’t tell the difference – and that’s its triumph. The real magic is in the imagining, not the technique.

Now, it’s time for transparency – to champion CGI in both process and marketing. To educate audiences that CGI is the illusionist’s latest trick, not a cheat but a leap toward new realms of possibility.

Perceptions change slowly, but progress demands honesty. We must pull back the curtain, spark a new dialogue around CGI. Showcase its artistry. Celebrate its collaborative role alongside practical effects. Only then will outdated stigmas dissolve.

Emerging AI technologies are further blurring the lines between practical and digital. The next-gen tools will foster new levels of automation and realism, requiring less specialized skill and effort.

The future of CGI is a shared canvas – practical, digital, AI-powered. It expands our imagination.

Isn’t it time we openly appreciate its possibilities, not its limitations?