Stop Overusing CGI


Juliette Fang, Staff Writer

Nowadays, whenever we watch movies, it’s common to see the use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). CGI utilizes computer software to create special visual effects in movies, television shows, commercials, animations, and other media. Using CGI is a way to create scenes that would otherwise be impossible and is a great example of technological advancement in filmmaking. However, when CGI is overused, excessively relied on, or simply used in scenarios when it’s unnecessary, it can become a hindrance and a distraction to the quality of the film or other piece of media.

A large part of the problem is that the general quality of CGI is declining. Filmmakers have started to disregard realism and physics, especially when it comes to the textures and movements of computer-generated images. Ironically enough, realistic versions of movements, physics, and textures are what drew producers to CGI in the first place. Yet, filmmakers are starting to use poor quality CGI that breaks the viewers’ immersion in the actual film. 

For instance, many noticed the overuse of CGI  in Cats (2019), where sloppy and strange looking visual effects made viewers squirm. All unrealistic CGI does is fail to immerse the viewer in the film and can distract the audience from the plot and characters.

It’s important to note that low-quality CGI is not to be blamed on the workers who create CGI and visual effects (VFX). On the contrary, these CGI and VFX artists are incredibly hard working and talented. However, producers are notorious for imposing sudden deadlines and rushing projects, which understandably leads to sloppier work. 

An example of this can be seen in Marvel’s new trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, where despite having a budget of $25 million (per episode), the CGI looks incomplete and messy. This is most likely due to the fact that CGI and VFX workers at Marvel have started to speak out about how Marvel’s overwhelming amount of work and rushed deadlines put strain on the quality of their work, not to mention their mental health. 

In an interview with CNET, animator and VFX specialist Peter Allen commented that “You bid on a number of shots and hope that on average they don’t end up being too complicated or difficult, or that the client gets too caught up in minor details and keeps sending shots back for more work.”

Another issue is that CGI is being used in place of practical effects (special effects that are created physically, not digitally) when it’s not needed. For example, the dinosaurs of Stephen Spielberg’s classic, Jurassic Park (1993), were entirely made of practical effects such as animatronics. By using animatronics instead of CGI, the appearance and movements of the dinosaurs seem more realistic. In contrast, one of its successors, Jurassic World: Dominion (2022), sacrifices emotional depth and character complexity for an overload of loud and poorly executed CGI dinosaurs.

Moreover, CGI consumes far more resources than necessary, ultimately making the overuse of CGI wasteful. Using CGI in a scene where simple practical effects can be used eats up more of a film’s precious budget. This is particularly problematic when money and resources are being wasted on CGI that doesn’t even appear realistic, can be created with practical effects, or are unable to capture the audience’s attention. 

Overdone CGI also changes the way people perceive films and other media. As CGI creates more and more over the top scenes, it has less of a shock value on the audience. Instead, we wonder what filmmakers will do next to top it. Why have relatable, real life scenes when we can have overly dramatic and costly computer generated scenes? Television and film should have the audience thinking about the piece of media itself, not how great the special effects are. 

CGI works best when it’s used in a way that suspends the audiences’ disbelief. This can mean high quality graphics, as seen in Life of Pi (2012), where one of the main characters, a tiger, performs lifelike movements and sports realistic features, to the point where the audience forgot that it was all computer generated. 

CGI that’s well done would create a balance amongst the actors, settings, props, and CGI. Avatar (2009) achieved this perfect equilibrium by using special technology to blend CGI over the actors’ movements, which created thin, blue aliens whose movements and features weren’t so outlandish that they looked fake. High quality, sweeping shots of scenery also worked to immerse the viewer in the Avatar world, in addition to the special technology that made even the minor details seem realistic. 

CGI certainly has its benefits; it can transport the audience to a whole different world and can create scenes that would otherwise be impossible, especially when it’s executed well. However, when CGI becomes overly relied on, its pitfalls can make it more of a burden than a benefit. 


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