Once more, with feeling
Wherever we go we are surrounded by visual stimulation - passing us by, unnoticed, until something catches our eye. Someone we know, something we recognise, something that evokes a feeling either consciously or not.
It seems to be human nature to want to create these images, whether it’s for ourselves or to show others what we want them to see. Since the dawn of primitive man we have recorded the world through cave paintings right up to the present day with photography, for the real world, or CGI for the imagined world not yet real
From Facebook to Instagram, cinema to VOD, we are now overwhelmed by things to look at.. This has meant that so much of what we see becomes disposable, we can’t take it all in and our brain adopts the “use it or lose it” mentality.
It’s not that what we see isn’t always good. It’s just that it doesn’t always resonate with us personally. For example, consider a comedic story, what are the jokes we laugh at most? It could be a punchline that surprises us, using our predefined expectations of what comes next against us. Or it could be elements of a story that we recognise in our own lives.
‘It’s funny because it’s true!’
To me this is what’s required in a strong visual, it’s either the surprise or the connection.
If you’re as old as I am then you’ll remember when E.T. came out at the cinemas. It became the highest grossing movie of all time, and remained so for 10 years until Jurassic Park came out. Why did a film about a boy’s relationship with a stranded alien do so well?
I would say it’s for both reasons stated above. The ‘surprise’ and ‘the connection’, the surprise came from the sense of wonder, something different, something Alien. It also came from the story, from not knowing what was going to happen. And how could we? It was an alien concept in a human world.
Then there’s the connection, the feeling. As a young boy at the time of watching E.T. I could relate to the main character Elliot. He was my age, liked bikes and toys,- what wasn’t to like? I could also relate to the difficulties of a dysfunctional family. Whose family isn’t in some way dysfunctional?
Parents could relate to the difficulties of bringing up children. And I think we could all relate to the idea of something fantastical that could come along and transport us away from the normal world. The very purpose of going to see a film like this in the first place.
If you go to the other end of the spectrum, what about a film like Transformers? It bombards you over and over again with flashy images, great SFX and lots and lots of explosions.
But to me this film and the sequels leave me empty and exhausted. I switch off before the film is even finished, it’s like my brain has said
Yes it’s made lots of money; but will it be remembered in the same way as a film like E.T?
So let’s bring this back to Architectural CGIs, how does this fit in? To me the weakest images are the very practical CGIs. Here is a building, here are its finishes, this is its shape and here is its location. But none of this sticks, it doesn’t connect, it doesn’t resonate; it just shows you how it is.
When I had just left school I worked in a Seaside pub kitchen during the summer . To get the customers to order food we would fry onions in the kitchen and waft the smell through the bar, much in the same way someone selling a house might boil a pot of coffee. This is all about using our experiences to attract us and draw us in.
The best images pull you in, make you want to explore the space, feel the warm breeze, sit in the comfy sofa, drink the warm coffee, and talk to the person laying on the grass. It’s all about connecting with the viewer, using the experiences of that person to bring out the nostalgia, their dreams, and their goals. The best CGIs are the ones that tell stories, surprise us and connect with us.
By Chris Lown, CGI Artist at DJS CGI