25 best movie CGI effects ever
Stuff.tv recently visited visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic to find out how they conjure up virtual worlds on the silver screen – you can check out the full feature in the October issue of Stuff magazine, out now. Fired up with enthusiasm, we've decided to bring you the best computer generated visuals seen in movies. Note: we haven't included full-length CGI animated features like Toy Story and WALL-E in the list.
So without further ado, the 25 best movie CGI effects ever, in no particular order, are:
District 9 (2009)
Neill Blomkamp’s ET “invasion” movie didn’t move the CGI cheddar, but it did supply photorealistic exoskeletal aliens on a a shoestring budget of US$30m. The (non-special) effect was to open the SFX door to bedroom filmmakers, paving the way for Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010, shot for US$500,000) and Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block (2011, £9m).
Painstaking attention to detail was used to bring about on-the-fly transformations in meticulous detail. Optimus Prime comprised 10,000 individual parts; each frame taking Industrial Light & Magic a staggering 38 hours to render. But it was just a stepping stone to threequel Dark of the Moon’s Driller, which had more than 70,000 components. Shame about the plot.
Scoff all you like at James Cameron’s box office-baiting blue people, but the innovative facial motion capture techniques required some serious tech – not least a Microsoft custom-built cloud asset management system and a 10,000 square foot server farm, managed by 35,000 processor cores. The final digital cut commanded over 17GB per minute, mocking your newfangled Blu-ray format’s pitiful 50GB capacity.
Considering the tech available at the time, it’s little surprise that only only around 20 minutes of CGI was created for Tron. The computer used to create those iconic scenes had 2MB (yes, that’s an M) RAM and not more than 330MB of storage. Then again, that was enough to create the light-cycles – and a classic portion of sci-fi that 2010’s US$170m Tron:Legacy could only dream of looking up to.
Ridley Scott’s epic may have looked like it was scribed on wax tablets and filmed by men wearing sandals, but it was Brit CGI post-production house The Mill who added tigers to the fights and created 35,000-strong crowds using a couple of thousand extras. Oh, and when Oliver Reed croaked it mid-production, they got around the problem by placing a 3D CGI mask of the late thespian on a stand-in for some scenes.