(CGI) Photography is dead long live Photography!

As a professionally qualified photographer (ABIPP) on my final year of a Photography BA (Hons), I became incredibly interested in three dimensionally created photorealistic computer generated imagery (CGI). Using Blender for just over a year and presently writing a dissertation based on, how for some CGI (form previously outlined) can be accepted as real, the hyperrealism perspective, its influential effect on our lives, is our perception of the term ‘digital photography’ limited.

I am greatly interested to hear Blender artist’s perspectives on the following questions. CGI acronym used is in relation to three dimensionally created photorealistic computer generated imagery.

1. With presently achievable and the ability for ever-increasing complexities with photorealistic CGI creation, have we now or are we reaching a point where CGI can/will replace photography and cinematography?

2. If there is no longer a need for photography/cinematography due to CGI proliferation, will we reach a point of no return beyond which our expectations exceed the physically possible?

 <b>3.</b>      From a Hyperrealism perspective, do we accept CGI as more real than ‘real’ (one area for consideration being CGI movie special effects)?

 <b>4.</b>      Based on presently unequivocal accepted levels of photographic manipulation and re-touching, has CGI become a fundamental driving force in our quest for imagery perfection?

 <b>5.</b>      Are we ready to accept alternative forms of image creation encapsulated by the term ‘digital photography’, for example, CGI?

Thank you kindly in advance for your replies and time,

*** UPDATE: Based on replies, have tried to remove some of the ambiguity from the introduction, dyslexia is challenging, hope it now provides focus and clarification. Thank you to everyone so far for their replies. ***

*** UPDATE 2: For those who do not like to read full threads…
I would like to kindly thank everyone for their replies, it has been of great interest to read Blender CGI artists views from around the world, the answers given (there was no wrong answer) helped provide the conclusion for my dissertation. This thread has served its purpose and can be locked. ***

PS: While trying to find the correct place to post, almost feel between a rock and a hard place. This thread “Discussions related to Blender or other computer graphics. No off-topic chats here please”. Off-topic Chat “Discuss things not related to Blender or Computer Graphics…”[/SUP]

I don’t think that we can sell Blender as a real “photorealistic solution”, in many cases you don’t really care about photorealism, for example in the animation industry this is not relevant, and animation is probably the first main focus for Blender.

Regarding who or what can provide a real photorealistic solution for explosions, movies, commercial-grade stuff, try to take a look at the engine called Arnold :wink:

edit: if your point is that the industry needs photographers, sure it does, but the main task is different and most importantly, the same thing can be done simply by a digital alone artist with a good technical background. There is plenty of photorealistic scenes in TV shows and movies that you can’t tell that are manipulated or computer generated. Between a career in the CG industry and a real career as photographer, you probably have more chances as photographer for magazines or stuff like that.

  1. similar discussions and arguments were made with the advent of photography and whether it would replace traditional art - especially hyper-realistic painting and drawing. Do some research on this, and you will find your answer.

  2. not going to happen in my opinion, looking at history of art. I actually think this is the wrong question to ask.

  3. our brains accept almost any symbolic representation of “real” objects, except for when those symbols creep to close to the real physical representation of the object we perceive in reality, and fail to achieve the same level. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

In that regard humans have no qualms accepting a stick figure or a cartoon character as representing a “real” existing character. But we still have issues with the latest hyper-realistic 3d generated and compositied representation of Audrey Hepburn.

  1. Again, I feel this question is composed of two parts that collide (like q2), and is the first part an a prioiri or posteriori statement? Is that proven, or based on any research?

CGI is composed of more than just 3d generated images. In some of your questions the term CGI seems to have different interpretations, confusing me. Please elucidate what you mean by the term “CGI”, because to me it means “computer generated images” which also includes Photoshop filtered images, the opengl viewport in Blender, fractals, and all that. HDR photos are CGI to me, and do not equate to how our brains perceive visual reality, yet most people accept this as a form of photographic art or interpretation of a ‘real’ photo.

You will need to be more specific what you mean with the term “digital photography” and its relation to CGI before I can give you an answer to question 5.

If I may be blunt here, I feel the topics and questions are a bit too broad for a BA dissertation. It comes across as too vague.

  1. Will be used what be cheaper. If you need a scene with a hellicopter you will be doing it using CG. If you need a tree you will be using a image always probably. We live in a moment where time is short and money too.

  2. I don’t understand if the question asks what the future will be about “people going to the movie theater”. I read channelings and in one of them a guy living in a spaceship around Earth explained that in their society they don’t go “to the theater to see movies” but instead go to see other planets and other races and we will be doing the same once we get rid of the few controlling the advancing of the society. We are living just now with the real technology supressed from the people. Our lack of things our society is living on is artificially created to keep the control. And he said that is going to change. So forget about movies and welcome spending your whole life in quick trips (the trips are done with teletransportation). Well you just asked. Don’t make those questions and I don’t have to answer them!

  3. CG is not replicating realism sometimes but creating what one would expect the real thing to be. Is like Michelangelo doing the head of David bigger because from ground you would see him as having a small head (as that guy in Bitelchus movie) if he were doing the head in the correct proportions. CG usually also corrects things that are not beautiful in the real thing. Is that called hyperrealism? I think it is just searchinf for beauty. All is this search.

  4. CG in my opinion was a way to not spend big amounts of money. It began with matte paints, then moving matte paints and then recreating the whole thing. That way you can create a whole environment in days instead of spending millions in creating the whole environment in some movie stage. Just look to Star Trek The New Generation BluRay where they say that the 90% of the money was spent in creating those stages. Today just a room in blue and done.
    So it was not any quest for anything but just money restrictions.

  5. You mean photography where you then changes something there. Like a photo of a bride and you places her on Hawaii. Well, depends on the customer. I would ask them always and place them where they want.

  1. CGI is disconnected from physical reality (i.e. exists in a computer). Photography has a much closer interface with the so-called Real world and physicality. That won’t change.

  2. I’d say that - in general - our expectations already exceed the physically possible.

  3. The age old question of ‘what is real’. No quick answers there, I’m afraid. Look at Lacan, Kant, Plato, etc. for what those lovely people had to say about it.

  4. To answer that you need to define ‘perfection’ and what ‘acceptable’ means. Technically? Ethically? Morally? Philosophically?

  5. Use a toaster if it does what you want it to. Cameras are a small subset of the whole world of sensors, imaging devices and tools of analysis / observation. We create images with LiDAR scanning, we also model things in 3d and take pictures.

The problem with all your questions is that you haven’t provided a set of parameters that you’re evaluating things by. You need to define what you see photography / image creation as aspiring to. If it’s Truth, then you’re shit out of luck in this day and age. If it is something else, determine what that is and then ask those questions in that context.

I realize you probably have to write a long thesis about this, but there is just no “meat and potatoes” to your question.

Computers are just new tools for making art, there is no need to think too much about it. CG is not used for realism, but to show something that does not normally exist in the real world. If it was all about realism, we wouldn’t have animated cartoons. Or any other form of visual art.

Photorealism is just a small part of art creation.
CG is a little bigger one.
Another medium, that’s all.
A very welcome one, if I may say so.
The only that changed is cinema screens, they look a little like screen savers these days.

Do you remember Kodak ? At a period, it was most well-known than Instagram.
Argentic film seems to be dead.
Now, everything is work on pixels.
Need does not change. Only technics to satisfy it.

Yes, it has been like that for a while, check out

There will always be a need for cinematography… just not in the conventional sense… most VFX that happens have cinematograph elements in them, created by the artists them selves… Look at life of pi, one of the most visually stunning films around… yet… loads of that was cg… and i am sure that it was heavily influenced by the artists themselves. they are creating the shots, coming up with the ideas… sure they are guided by directors and what not… but they are really only giving suggestions as to what they want.

When seeing a blockbuster, they want to see something they have never seen before. and the easiest way to do that without coming up with an original story / setting… is to have a more epic battle scene / bigger explosions / more lens flares / more slowmo etc.etc. Moreover, insurance wise, its usually cheaper now to do CGI stunts instead of getting stuntmen to do it…

Yes. but, it all comes down to three things… time, money and quality…

i dont understand this question. are you saying films like beowulf / avatar ?

Thank you all,

I would like to kindly thank display, Herbert123, Boa2, StompinTom, Pesho, michalis, zeauro, doublebishop and Charblaze for their replies, it has been of great interest to read Blender CGI artists views from around the world, the insightful answers given (there was no wrong answer) helped provide the conclusion for my dissertation.

Due to a dyslexia typographical error (question 3), I mistakenly asked the question from a Hyperrealism perspective as opposed to Hyperreality, even so, it still helped provide great replies.

Just to warp up. As a mature student, having seen many changes in technology over the years, I find the advancement of CGI and its impact on our expectations one of the most interesting.

Thank you again,

This thread has now served its purpose and can be locked.

Just my personal opinion of photography’s biggest legacy. Photography has documented our history as a nation. And, in many cases played a big role in changing it. An example would be child labor in the 1800s and early 1900s. It also had a hand in the labor movement as most folks had never seen the inside of a damn coal mine or steel mill. And, who can forget the fine pictures of the depression era photographers. Not to mention the more recent pictures taken in space which many CG artist use for reference. And, as a tool photography has gotten way better in this important role. A photojournalist can now upload his photographs almost in real time from a war torn region using his laptop. On top of that CG porn simply sucks.

Thirty more seconds before I can turn on the safelight … a minute and a half before I can open the door again …

I agree that the question “will CGI photography replace real world photography” is the wrong question to ask.

Photography enabled producing portraits much faster than hand painting.
Producing equal CGI photos is requiring a tremendous amount of work to get even to something similar realistic.

The proper question would be to ask were does CGI photography fit in, or what can CGI photography add to the work content where real world photography cannot provide it. In CGI I do not deal with physics, I can be more experimental as an example.

Professional photographers like Zach Gold show how traditional photography can be combined with CG work and 2D work into a very attractive combination of styles forming a somewhat new statement.

It is much less about the technology by itself as about what you do with the technology. Thats the deciding question to ask.

Sure there are some artists that through their work try to challenge the perception of an established opinion.
But then again that is also the content of the body of work such as a cultural reflection and others.

Trying to proof that technology can beat older technology is more an exercise of invested labor rather than an artistic skill or direction.

Having studied also animation as a graduate student the question at what point CGI characters will or can replace real human actors is very interesting. We made great advances in that area and technology will only get better.

But I think as with photography and hand portraits nothing will really replace something 100% rather enhance each other.

I am in general agreement here, plus a lot of people still have a need to use photos to obtain textures for their photorealistic images.

On top of that, it can take a very long time to get something resembling a photo from a 3D program, GPU rendering has helped to an extent, but even the latest sampling and lighting algorithms are not all of the way there yet when it comes to capturing every light-path and doing it quickly and efficiently. (especially when it concerns really complex shading features like volumetrics).

So I will agree that rendering with the various unbiased engines is getting closer to photography, but photography will still be the choice medium for a lot of people since it’s not near as technical or as difficult as 3D.

Ace, IKEA is switching to studio rendering because this is cheaper to do in the long run, it makes studio set ups and ADJUSTMENTS much easier and you can quickly reshoot errr re-render a setting this way.

Currently I am bidding for a render job where the furniture company also switches from studio photography to rendering because I can easily swap out a material and render it. In real life they would need to first build the furniture to even be able to make the photo.

On vimeo is one artist who made an incredible perfect animation of digital architecture renderings. That itself is so perfect you can consider this already sensual art because you are just in awe about the skill and tallent because besides the technical level also the geometry and compositions are perfect.

But thats an art project incredible time consuming, and I am sure price wise out of range for many we need a product shoot fast!
Sorry that I dont recall the name but many here know it.

Cg is the next step for that realism though. If you think about what “art” is, first when it was fine art (painting, sculpting) then to photography… the interaction between the viewer and the art is one of voyeurism. The brain identifies and processes the image then either an emotional response occurs or it doesnt.

Even throughout history, sagas were sang (beowulf for example) and written texts were presented, often describing what couldnt be seen or truly created in any realistic manner outside of personal imagination.

CG allows not only the creation of imagination in a realistic environment, but the next step which is interactivity.

Interactivity is key. At the forefront of any art and how we react to say photography, is the behavioral sciences. What exactly occurs to make the human brain accept what it sees, process it and either care or not care via emotional response.

Interactivity actually triggers an action from the viewer and a response from the image(s) being presented. This means the response is not one sided.

So now consider where technology is going and has been trying to go for quite some time now. Virtual reality? head tracking, haptic feedback via sensory (touch feel taste…ect).

Hardware like the Novint Falcon allows for touching and feeling digital imagery, something a mere photograph cannot do. The sense of realism increases through interactivity and feedback. I currently own a falcon, and can attest to its ability to feel many types of 3d (and even 2d) surfaces. I dont recommend anyone get it unless they plan on coding using its sdk, since the company behind it seems to have fired the one employee actually pumping out content for it to be used it. Thus it went back to being a developer tool as opposed to a consumer product.

Then you have haptic headphones which actually give physical response based on sound. Then there is the Occulus Rift which allows the viewer to be in the image or 3d environment visually 100%, in which moving the head moves the camera and even displays it in stereoscopic creating depth.

At one Siggraph a few years ago, I tried out a 3d head set which allowed me to walk around in a 3d space, not just move the head but actually walk forward and backwards.

Then theres augmented reality, using ones surrounding and digitally enhancing it even to the point of interactivity. When tied to something like the Occulus Rift, the possibilities increase tenfold.

At the core of all of this is sensory feedback. Not mere voyeurism, but interactivity via touch and feel, through response from bodily actions and thus far more forms of realism can occur…even if the image itself is not 100% “photorealistic” though it can be.

As technology advances, and more importantly it becomes priced at a consumer level, the game changes and expectations change based on the emotional responses experienced.

Photography then becomes more of a starting point rather than an ending point. It can be used to capture data for another purpose, and it probably wont go away, but its importance rather dominance is fading as both technology and expectations change. Real recording for data gathering purposes will always be around, but in regards to art, it becomes fairly limited when expectations begin to rise.

Be wary of considering interactivity as the “next big thing” in art… because it isn’t. Interactive art has existed in the form of performance art, theatre, installation, and (to a lesser extent) sculpture for a loooong time. Classifying traditional art as voyeurism is a gross oversimplification of what happens. And I wouldn’t say that CG brings imagination to life any more than a painting or written text or a photograph might. In the best case, it might help the audience understand the artist’s imagination, but it’s a far, far cry from reproducing the audience’s imagination when experiencing the work. In fact, it might be argued that the increased believability of CG images actually hampers the audience’s ability to engage the art on a creative level. Why be inspired to consider the art in the context of your own life (where it might have more significant meaning) when you’re given so many tools to only consider the work in the context of the world that the artist created?

Art, be it traditional or digital, is more “interactive” (yes, I know I’m stretching the definition of the term here) when it engages the audience’s life rather than requiring that the audience become a part of its world. In the former case, there’s a true give-and-take, whereas in the latter, the audience is merely playing a part in the artist’s world.

Art, be it traditional or digital, is more “interactive” (yes, I know I’m stretching the definition of the term here) when it engages the audience’s life rather than requiring that the audience become a part of its world. In the former case, there’s a true give-and-take, whereas in the latter, the audience is merely playing a part in the artist’s world.

Quite the opposite. in my opinion.

Please try not to forget the “IMO” when posting such ideas.

“About what one can not speak, one must remain silent”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

In a discussion about the nature of art, I assumed some level of subjectivity would be implied. My mistake.

Please also note that I made no value judgments that claim superiority of one form over another. Re-reading my post, I think I may be unintentionally conflating engagement with interactivity. In short, I think I’m trying to say that (perhaps ironically) “traditional” artforms have an easier go at engaging the audience than interactive CG art since traditional art relies more on contributions from the audience’s imagination.