Is It or Isn’t It? Blurring the Line Between CGI and Photography

Over the past decade or so, more manufacturing companies than ever have been turning to CGI firms for the creation of images to market their products. As computer graphics software becomes ever more sophisticated and the increased power of the hardware reduces processing times, computer-generated images of photographic quality are being produced at prices that compare more favourably with traditional photo studios.

CGI and Photography

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With CGI comes a versatility that a photographic studio cannot match – camera angles that may be impossible to achieve in the real world, images of products not yet in production and a re-usable bank of environments, accessories and props that can be adapted as needed to show off a product at its best. But despite the advancing technology, photo-realism isn’t always so easy to achieve.

The Challenge Is in the Detail

Just one of the challenges with 3D visualisation is producing a finish on a computer-generated model which is so convincing that anyone would think it was real. One of the more difficult surfaces to reproduce is that of fabric. Creating a convincing set of towels, for example, takes time. And time costs money – spending many hours on a small detail could blow the cost of a computer-generated image out of proportion, especially if those towels are simply a prop to accompany the client’s latest bathroom suite design. Sometimes the real thing is the best solution.

Blending for Optimum Effect and Affordability

Knowing when to bring photographed objects into the mix is a skill that CGI companies such as red and gray employ more frequently than their finished results might reveal. CGI may be replacing photography in many ways, but here the two mediums are being worked by artists to complement one another in all sorts of ways.

In advertisements, for example, CGI cars run along photographed roads. In interior design magazines, a real vase of flowers sits on a computer-generated kitchen table, and photographed ornaments adorn a computer-generated lounge. Real foliage, blurred in the foreground, frames an image of a computer-generated detached home on display in an estate agent’s window. The techniques that are used to blend the photographed with the computer-generated into a high-quality image can not only enhance the sense of realism even further but help maintain affordability too.

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