The readings around photorealistic effects of digital compositing

One of the important aims of digital compositing and visual effects is to achieve photorealistic effects in Hollywood cinema. I have been reading literature that discussing this topic. I am writing this post to share what I have read and I think in relating to photorealists effects of digital compositing: Scholars such as Prince (1996 and 2001), Rodowick (2007), Giralt (2010) and Davies (2012) focus on to what extent digital imaging practices challenge theories about the nature of cinema, especially that of its relationship with reality. During the history of film theory scholars such as Bazin (2005), Cavell (1979) and Kracaucer (1997) believe cinematic realism is associated with the concepts of indexicality between the photographic image and its objects. The others such as Metz (1974) state that one of the important ways film affects audiences is to represent their impression of reality. The reason for the discussion of realism and the digital visual effects is that the computer-generated images on one hand do not have the indexical relationship with reality. On the other hand, computer generated images could be combined with other source of images through digital compositing to persuade audience what they see is real or the audio-visual recording of reality.

Regarding photorealistic effects in cinema, Prince (1996) suggests a new ground for realism critics, which are based on “perceptual and social correspondences, of how the cinema communicates and is intelligible to viewers” (28). Prince (2011) further argues that computer technology equips filmmakers with numerous tools for producing more convincing effects, which are closer to the visual experience of audience in the real world than what analogue film can achieve. Giralt (2010) argues that digital postproduction technology offers more possibility and potential for filmmakers to produce and visualize the “subjective reality” (14), which is their imagination or interpretation of the real world. As a result the artistic purpose of visual effect film directors shifts from representing reality to the mastery of using technology. Davies (2012) believes that the lack of indexicality of digital images does not have significant influence on the concepts of realism and reception of cinema. He explains that these digital images still aim to achieve a photographic reality and generate the same effects and feelings for the audience. Furthermore, Rodowick (2007) indicates digital compositing covers the natural look of digital images and give birth to a new imagery, which is the “the composition of elastic reality” (170). Furthermore it also shifts the object and focus of traditional “perceptual criteria for realism” to “imagination, fantasy, and the counterfactual powers of possible worlds”(170).

The above discussion about realism and digital compositing is mainly focused on the final composition in film text, in which the works of digital compositing mean to be invisible. For example, in the first scene of visual effects breakdown of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, Peter Jackson). The scholars above are concerned mainly with the outcome of digital compositing, which is the character Gandalf’s interaction with the Hobbits in their Hobbit hole. However as shown in the video, digital compositing is a process, during which the images of the characters and different backgrounds of the scene in Hobbit were being manipulated and put together. Therefore, further research need to be done to reveal the process of compositing, especially relating to the current industrial workflow for the creation of digital visual effects in Hollywood cinema. Furthermore, the researchers discussed above indicate that digital composting offers more space and chances for the influence of human on the compositing. The human influences identified by them are: the perception of the compositor as well as the audience (Prince: 1996), and the imagination of filmmakers (Giralt: 2010). This research will investigate more about the way that the factors influence the look of composition during the process of digital compositing.


Davise ,D.(2011), Digital Technology, Indexicality, and Cinema Rivista di estetica, 46(1).

Giralt, G. (2010), Realism and realistic representation in the digital age. Journal of film and video,62(3),3-16.

Prince, S. (1996), ‘True Lies: Perceptual realism, digital images and film theory’. Film Quarterly 49 (3), 27- 37.

Prince,S. (2004), ‘The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts: Cinema and cinematography in the digital era’. Film Quarterly 57 (3), 24-33.

Prince, S. (2011), Digital visual effects in cinema: The seduction of Reality. Rutgers University Press, US.

Rodowick, D.N. (2007), The virtual life of film. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.


Creative Skill Set: The Core Skills of VFX handbook

Creative Skill Set: The Core Skills of VFX handbook

Creative Skill Set, which is the licensed Sector Skills Council for entertainment media, fashion and textiles, publishing and advertising, marketing and communications in UK lists the following points for understanding career in visual effects industry:
1. VFX is a team sports
2. VFX needs both efficiency and creativity
3. VFX is not about single software solutions is about the pipeline
4. Deadlines are real deadlines
5. Somewhere, there is a client
You are working towards a clients satisfaction
6. Explaining yourself and communicating your ideas to the team are important
7. VFX is often about creating photoreal imagery, but only within the context of making the image believable and familiar within the world being portrayed.
8. Realising what works visually and how to mimic it are core skills across VFX.
9. Being able to dissect both shots and tasks into constituent steps or elements is a highly prized skill that needs to be worked on.
10. The best Visual Effects tool is paper
11. The visual effects Lexicon
(As with any discipline or sector, there is a shared language across VFX companies that enables clear communication of concepts and day to day processes.)
12. VFX is cinematography and maths-If you’re an artist don’t worry, this isn’t essential (just as life drawing isn’t for a programmer) but an appreciation of what each other needs to know will help you bridge the artist-techie gap. It’s really about thinking logically and mental arithmetic.
13. Computer literacy with UNIX/LINUX is essential in today’s VFX house
14. Optics: Understanding how the eye works, how it can be fooled and even directed to certain areas of the screen, is useful.
15. Film Theory : Film theory can be really useful if you can apply it
to practice.
16 VFX is not new. A sense of pre-CGI VFX history and context can help understand where we are now, culturally as well as technologically, and can open new insights into current practice.

HM treasury : Analysing responses to whether introduce new tax policy to support the development of UK Visual Effects Industry

HM treasury : Analysing responses to whether introduce new tax policy to support the development of UK Visual Effects Industry

Background: HM treasury ran a consultation between 21may to 2 July 2013 on options for providing further support to the visual effects industry through tax system. This consultation is responding to part of the announcement of the UK chancellor at Budget 2013. Now HM treasury are analysing the feedback and will publish the result soon.

Policy context:

According to the policy context of this consultation document of HM treasury, the Government is committed to supporting the creative industries, which were identified in the Plan for Growth as having the potential to drive significant growth in the UK. This includes providing targeted support for the creative industries through specific spending and tax measures.As part of its wider ambition to support technological innovation and to help the digital, creative and other high technology industries grow, the Government is now looking to explore options to further support the visual effects industry through the tax system.

Key points for this consultation:
The Government are responses from external stakeholders in the following key points:
• the current size and composition of the UK visual effects industry;
• details of the economic and cultural contributions of the industry;
• any recent trends within the industry; and
• the factors driving any change within the industry and their likely longer term impacts.
They are seeking responses from external stakeholders
The responses will inform its decision on providing further support for the visual effects industry through the tax system.

This consultation and related document provides useful context for understanding visual effects industry in UK. It informs me to look further about the influences of government policy as well as tax system on the development of visual effects industry. And also its impacts on Spec its the global visual effects market as well as the position of UK in it. For example, the costs of doing visual effects in UK, the number of visual effects companies in UK, practitioners and their skills.

Moreover this consultation document states that their decision will be made on if visual effects industry has cultural benefits to UK. After reading this, I am if it is possible or in which way visual effects can embody certain culture? Moreover according to the report on screen digest,  South Korean and Chinese government seeking cooperation to support the visual effects industry in this two. How about other countries such as US, Australia and Canada? If their governments are providing support for their visual effects industry? And what are the consequences of these government involvement in this field?  Are they leading to the visible of their culture in the visual effects films?  I will do more reading about this point.

Reading: The language of New media

The Language of new media is another foundamental writing about digital media. While the authors of remediation trying to identify the connections between digital media and previous media forms, this book focus more on what makes digital media different. Moreover, this book also indicates that computer technology as well as the specific knowledge of this technology is essential for the content making of digital media.

This book theoretically illustrates the defining characters of digital media, which are numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability and transcoding. This research is significant for digital media study because the five characters it identified show the new materiality, structure and mechanics of digital media. And more importantly it identifies the fact that the new computational nature of the media influences on both itself and its content. Manovich argues that the media has both “culture layer”(46) which refers to media content and “computer layer” (46) which means the ontology of computer. He further suggests that these two layers influences each other, which result in a new computer culture. Although this book did now show enough evident for the new computer culture, it provides an important perspective for studying digital media, which is from the “computer layer” and how it interacts with the “culture layer”.

In relating to my research, the study of global digital compositing companies in film industry might further explore the economical meaning of the “computer layer” and also the interaction and dynamic of the two layers in context. Further more this book is relevant to my research because it redefines digital cinema as well as points out the aesthetical space of digital compositing. Manovich advocates that digital cinema is a combination of live action material, painting, image processing, compositing, 2D compute animation and 3D computer animation. Therefor he claims that digital film becomes a special animation. This argument illustrates that filmmaking is becoming an increasingly complicated process (like animation), which demands time and labor. So that team work as well as the efficiency of the pipeline is important for the digital post-prodution industry. Further research into these two area mentioned above need to be done.

Further more the author points out that digital compositing creates four new spaces for moving image, which are “Spatial order of layers in a composite”; “virtue space constructed through compositing”; “2D movement of layers in relation to the image frame”; and “the relationship between moving image and the linked information in the adjusted window”(147). Therefore, he further suggests that digital moving image belongs to an “audio-visual-spatial culture”(147). From this point of view, space is one of the essential elements for understanding digital compositing. More over it is important that not only looks at the final scene constructed through compositing, but also different spatial dimensions that the process of digital compositing deal with. Especially, in which countries and places these different dimensions and elements are composited.

In addition, in this book Manovich discusses his idea of software studies for the first time. He suggests that in order to truly understand digital media we need to move from media studies to software studies.  His argument overstated the power of software as software is a tool and the contribution and efforts of digital artist could not be ignored.  However the capability and functions of software might be one of the factors influence on the techniques and efficiency of film post-production industry. Finally, co-operational relationship has been built between software companies and post-production studios, which allows them to work closely with each other.

Reading: Remediation

Reading Remediation

Remediation is one of the fundamental readings for understanding digital media.It is the first few books that I have been reading since I started doing my research. I think it is valuable because it did not isolated new media from previous media forms but look at it from the perspective of  art history. More importantly, from the authors point of view, what could benefit the development of digital media is not only computers but also other previous art forms. The techniques as well as creative ideas, which has been developed over time in art history by human could be a useful source of the development of new media.

In this book, the authors who are Bolter and Grusin explore the influences of technological development on the aesthetics of visual media. It focuses on the studying of aesthetical character of representational media facilitated by digital technology. They analyze various digital media forms such as computer games, the World Wide Web and cinema with computer graphics and identify their relationship with previous media such as painting, photography and film. The authors argue that digital media borrow and mix techniques from previous media as well as repurposing and refashioning them to achieve their aesthetical or cultural values. They defined this dialogical relationship between digital media and earlier media forms as remediation.

The authors further suggest that historically remediation also happened during the development of other visual media as photography remediates perspective painting and film remediates photography and drama. Another key finding of the study is the two strategies that digital media implement to remediate other media. One of the strategies is transparent immediacy, which means that media try to erase themselves from the audience and the space it represented. In another word it describes the moment that audience highly engaged with the media content and feels like directly look at certain reality without medium. The other strategy is hypermediacy, which refers to the feeling that audience is aware of the existence of media.

This book is useful for my research because the concept of remediation and its two strategies help understand the aesthetics of digital compositing in contemporary mainstream cinema. From this point of view, on one hand digital compositing could be understood as a process that remediates many different film techniques such as cinematography, mise-en-scene and editing. So that for certain extant, the existing aesthetical theory of these film forms might still meaningful for digital compositing. But it is important to notice here that digital compositing might borrow from these film techniques but does not simply equal with any one of them. On the other hand, it allows different media such as painting, film and computer graphic to have a dialogue with each other. It might be worth to look at that what aesthetical value has been created through the dialogue.

Further more, the two strategies of remediation could be considered as a theoretical framework to critic digital compositing and visual effect. One of the purposes of photorealism digital visual effect might be achieving transparent immediacy, which persuades the audiences think they look at something real. Moreover it generates visual pleasure by letting the audience experience hypermediacy at the same time. It creates a feeling that watching something very much unlikely real but looks real.

However this research have the following limitations. First of all it denies digital media have any authentic aesthetics. The nature of the subject of this study is ever changing with the rapid development of digital technology so that it might be too earlier for the writers to draw this conclusion. The history of cinema suggests that it might borrow from painting or drama but it still forming its own aesthetical language over time. So do television and other media. So it is hard to say digital media could not have any unique aesthetics. Further more this book did not provide a clear explanation for the reason why remediation happens. It indicates technological, social and economical facts all contribute to the remediation of previous media in new media. But the authors did not illustrate any of these points clearly and specifically.

Support for the visual effects industry: consultation launched

Support for the visual effects industry: consultation launched

I found an useful document on UK Government Website: GOV. UK. This article is about the government is seeking to find out how it can further support the visual effects industry in the UK through the tax system. It is an interesting document to read for my study. I will read and think about it further tomorrow.

Here are some more relevant article which are about the situation of visual effects industry in UK

1. BBC News: Keep Uk’s special effects dream live

2. Gardians Graduates: VFX Career Do you have the skill the film industry is crying out for?

3. BBC NEWSBEAT: Visual effects workers in film industry ‘overworked’

China and South Korea Co-production Visual Effects Film: Mr. Go (2013)

China and South korean co-production film: Mr. Go (2013)

The image above is the poster of  the Korea-China joint-production film Mr. Go which will be released in July this year. The gorilla in this image is a CG character in this film which is produced by  visual effects companies in Paju, Korea named Dexter Digital. This studio is  founded by film director Tim, which is responsible for all the 3D imaging and visual effects of the film.

After I read the report about the co-production agreement between China and Korea, I Checked the English Website of South Korean government called: And found some useful information about the co-prodction visual effects film. I plan to do more research into Dexter Digital and also other south korean visual effects studios and also contact one of the producer of Dexter Digital, who is in China.

The report of the also provides background information about Dexter Digital and the film. The founder of this studio who is a Korean Director Kim has tried to corporate with Industrial Light and Magic  four years ago. He realized that it would cost almost KRW 80 billion to do special effects for the film in Hollywood, and he only had a budget of KRW 22.5 billion. He decided to do it on his own in Korea, spending KRW 3 billion from his pocket and founding Dexter Digital. One of reason why the cost reduced is because the studio hire less people. As Kim said,  “In the end, 180 artists made something from scratch with crazy passion.”

The part of the report about the film reveal the fact budget is one of the crucial problem that visual effects industry in Korea or other asia countries faced. As when I was interview the project manager in Crystal CG, which is a visual effects companies in Beijing, he also mentioned that they only got a little time and limited budget to finished the tasks for the domestic market. How dose  it influences on the work they done?  How does the 180 artists in the studio manage to fulfil the task?

As a report about Crystal CG in one of the major Chines online news platform named Sina says artists in Crystal CG was almost ill when were fulfilling their tasks for the film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale. If the time and budget for visual effects project could be increase, does it mean the artist may have a chance to do a even better job? What factors the influence the budget that is available for visual effects?