CGI or Not

May 13, 2010
Photographer News

In the days of CGI and movies like Avatar, I’m never surprised when image elements are created with 3D computer programs. In fact, I can’t always tell which is “real” and which is not. And so I present to you this test. Which of the following uses CGI, and which does not?

Image 1:

Bryan Traylor created these beer foam images for an Emerald Casino campaign.

Image 2:

Bruce Peterson’s image of this sponge boy was done for Abbott Nutrition ads.


Image 1: No CGI employed. Bryan used relatively low-tech means to photograph the beer foam, aside from his sophisticated lighting and eye for detail. According to Traylor, who shoots out of South Africa:

The foam was made with Guinness beer foam. It was painted on the counter with a small paint brush by the art director. It is 100% real. And we did it in one take for each design. Whole shoot was like an hour long. And then we drank the Guinness afterwards.

Nice work. And good thing there was enough beer left over for the wrap party.

Image 2: Let’s ask the artist for this answer:

Sponge Boy was actually pretty straight photography, with only mild retouching, at least by our definition of mild. We researched sponge material, found some big sheets that come compressed, large flat sheets, about 1/8 of an inch thick, expanded to around 5/8 of inch when wet like a regular sponge. The agency provided the illustration and we had that negative space area laser cut into the flat sheets of foam, and then added water to expand the foam.

We used the positive shape from the negative space cutout for the “running boy.” That was a second shot on a white background so we would have flexibility on where to place him for different ad proportions. The little puddles of product in the negative space area were done as separate shots and dropped in later. When we shot the puddles we coated the edge of the sponge material with vaseline so the liquid wouldn’t get absorbed by the sponge material….

So this was more involved on the compositing side of things, but all of the elements were shot traditionally.

Okay, so this was a trick blog post. Neither campaign used CGI. I just thought that both campaigns were sophisticated enough that they could have. But at the end of the day, the concept is the most important part, no matter how the images are executed. Something to keep in mind when producing a shoot, too: some projects might work better with 3D, others may not.

-Neil Binkley

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