Grand stone archways drenched with history, palatial pillars lined with coarse cobble, and exposed lintel architecture supporting it all. With Coronavirus cases still running rampant, how did the production of the South Korean mafia drama, Vincenzo, manage to film all of these extravagant scenes in Italy?
Easy answer: they didn’t.
In fact all of it was CGI, better known as Computer Generated Imagery. A shocking behind-the-scenes video of the drama showed the lead actor Song Joong Ki taking great strides from one side of a green screen… to the other side of a green screen. All while extensive editing painted the scene to be incredibly realistic.
In the 1973 seminal movie Westworld, CGI was used for the first time to produce pioneering visual effects. In just a handful of decades, CGI has made its way into every directors toolbox- and for good reason. With this technology, extensively intricate sets can be created, funky characters with otherworldly features are free to come to life, and the need to reshoot imperfect scenes diminishes.
But a dynamic tool will always have a double edge. Directors now have the freedom to impose humanlike characteristics on stand in characters, shrinking the role of actors in an industry where they are supposed to shine under the limelight. With this creative freedom, directors will also have the privilege of making characters do whatever they seem fit without any regard to hurting them, because, well, they’re not real. As a result, ethical standards will no longer be applicable as they technically aren’t being violated.
Additionally, this heightened reliance on technology takes away the interpersonal relationship between actors and viewers. With no real person on the screen, viewers lose any emotional connection they would have otherwise had. Attempting to reach viewer engagement will be like trying to stick two pieces of sandpaper together.
However, CGI is not inherently bad. Marvel fans may recall the heartwarming scene in Avengers: Endgame (2019), where a de-aged version of Stan Lee (the very creator of the comics who passed just a year previous) shouts a sweet line of humor from a car. With CGI, the long lasting tradition of imposing Stan Lee into film scenes remains to be honored and devoted fans can see their idol, more or less in the flesh, one last time.
With great power comes great responsibility, and with great technological devices comes the obligation to know when to draw the line between connecting people and bringing them apart.