The Future of CGI Films: Creating True Photo-Realism

James Cameron may invest into this new system of rendering CGI films f he truly wants to remain ahead of the game

CGI Films and UnchartedIf keen observers of video game cinematics and CGI films think the computer graphics look great now, especially in how cloth material and hair are rendered, the next wave is going to be amazing.

The science behind how these surfaces are rendered have been restudied and restructured in such a way, where if there was a real world analogy: the way any type of thread is weaved on a loom in specific patterns is what the team of computer engineers from the Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego looked at, but at a microscopic level. What they have discovered is a simpler method which matches this real world analogy and the ‘virtual threads’ are more cylindrical.

When writing software to deconstruct how the real world looks inside a computer, programmers are required to have an intimate mathematical understanding of how to make those visual images understood within the machine. For the technically inclined, that means writing a proper sequence of logical statements to describe how a ray of light reflects off a particular object molecule by molecule. How the computer responds is by instructing what’s inside its mechanisms to draw the right color, shape, transparency and density (to name a few) to a screen after all that complex math resolves what a computer eye sees of this virtual object.

But for the team who already know this science known as ray tracing theory, to find a new method to measure and render how light reflects off fabrics is going to revolutionize how any entertainment product utilizing computer graphics is going to look. When the next wave of display technologies include 4K, a ultra-high definition display format, this recent discovery will most likely take advantage of really making any CGI world look beyond photo-realistic. It will be unmistakable from the real thing!

(Image: Iman Sadeghi, et. al/Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

Software like Maya or Cinema4D will have to be updated for those computer artists looking to recreate the world of James Cameron’s Avatar.

In a report by Gizmag, Oleg Bisker is a fellow researcher who believes that the new algorithms developed can simulate any kind of weaving pattern and thread types in a computer animated world. Even in still life, the simulations of real world cloth objects look far more realistic than ever before. Bisker is working with Henrik WannJensen, PhD advisor to Iman Sadeghi, software engineer who has done work in the past with ILM and Walt Disney Animation Studios.


When the team consists of people who have done work within the movie-making industry in the past (Sadeghi worked on Lord of the Rings and Tangled), their work will certainly not go unnoticed. Gizmag also reported that their work has raised eyebrows at SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics conference. As for when it will appear in end products is simply a matter of time.

If Cameron is not aware of this technology yet, he will hear about it soon enough. He may invest into this new system of rendering CGI if he truly wants to remain ahead of the game with creating visual wonders to wow audiences with. After all, that is what he does best.

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

8 thoughts on “The Future of CGI Films: Creating True Photo-Realism”

  1. I’ve always been amazed at how realistic CGI has become and one day would like to see the work flow (#studio, server farm, processing power envy kicking in) Having said that my eye can (kinda) pick out all the rendered stuff in movies, and I find my self cringing at bad green screen scenes. I still enjoy the experience tho, and its a plus if the story line is engaging..
    As an aside, inanimate objects tend to be more believable , but I’m yet to see a convincing CGI human being..and am torn between keeping them cartoony as opposed to ‘realistic. Just my two sense, but I’m still a fan.

    1. Animators are getting closer to mimicking the human body. I think the time will come when the technology and algorithms will be able to mimic all the muscle groups required to get the face right. On the day that happens, I doubt that will replace actors on a set. But it will give the level of crazy stunts pulled off a kick up the impossibility factor without someone getting injured.


  2. True that! I’m sorry I forgot to mention your blog is cool and appreciated. As mum of 3 I’m all for it being family friendly. Looking forward to coming back soon.

    1. Mkay, being family friendly was my vision from the start. There was alot of geek/nerd/pop culture sites and to dive into the pool with the rest of them probably would not have been a good idea. The one thing many of them were found lacking in were articles that was family friendly first. That meant no swearing, little or no references in articles to subjects that are not family friendly and to try to write about subjects that are not gory or ultra violent. I admit doing so has made it tougher for us as bloggers as the news we could report are now far less but comments like yours lets Ed and I know that we are doing the right thing. Thank you.


      1. I tend to see the future of film making from the financial point of view, and wonder if it isn’t much simpler and financially better to go completely CGI than to create a film with the expenses that go into the production of paying for demanding, HIGHLY over paid actors that work on THEIR schedule and NOT the studio. Then you have stunt doubles (if the film calls for it), extras and crew. And then, you have the scenes that call for those stunt doubles, scenes that can be made to look 100 times more realistic through CGI (World War Z is a good example).
        There have been several CGI films that are VERY close to being realistic, and as our technology grows more and more in this area, so to will the feel of realistic CGI create a whole new cinematic world for us to explore, and just maybe, become a part of like what is seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Holodecks.

      2. After having just seen Ender’s Game this weekend, the subject if CGI can totally replace human actors can be doable, but its subject to what kind of effect the director’s want. Ender’s dream sequences had this air of “Final Fantasy: Spirits Within” style effect to it. In this instance, that was on purpose to tell audiences that was a dream-sequence. I’ve seen some very impressive motion-cap sequences which can replicate the motions of a human body and I think stunt-people may soon be out of a job! I recall hearing of a technology that’s being worked at with the goal of letting directors create stunts to the CGI realm. That can be good so no lives are in danger.

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