Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images in printed media, fine art, films, television programs, shorts, commercials, videos, video games and simulators. The images may be dynamic or static, and can be two-dimensional (2D) – although the term CGI is most commonly used to refer to 3-D computer graphics. The evolution of CGI led to the emergence of virtual cinematography in the 1990s where the vision of the simulated camera is not constrained by the laws of physics. Today, the availability of state-of-the-art CGI software and increased computer speeds have allowed individual designers and small companies to produce professional-quality print, films, fine art and other stunning creations from their home or work computers.
Below, Chris Christodoulou, co-owner & CEO of London-UK-based advertising and production agency Saddington Baynes (with locations in the USA, Germany and Poland), explores the role of CGI as a viable, cost-effective alternative during this pandemic. He joined Saddington Baynes in 1994 as a Digital Retoucher, eventually pushing the company to become one of the first studios wotldwide to harness CGI in-house.
It’s time to include CGI in your business contingency plan
“Lately, there’s been a lot of conversation around how to tackle work from home from a human perspective – tips on how to be productive, communicate better and feel less lonely, to mention a few. Of course, guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of employees during the stressful times we’re living in is also vital. However, from a business perspective, little has been said about the overall health of the company itself. It goes without saying that no chief executive wants to be in a position where their company fails to plan for the worst, ultimately resulting in business strategies going up in smoke. From what I could observe, as the COVID-19 pandemic advanced several months back, companies that didn’t have their digital transformation processes in place suffered considerably compared to those who did. A few were forced to halt, while the ones still standing focused on taking steps to ensure that they were able to continue operations – that’s where proper contingency plans came into play.
There are multiple elements to be considered when it comes to contingency plans in production workflows in particular. First, leaders should determine processes to effectively connect their team members online. This requires not only efficient network connections, but also a cloud infrastructure that allows for remote access to a company’s digital assets. The latter, in turn, can lead to content security issues. There are, however, a few steps managers can take in order to make sure company data is protected. Those include encryption, two-factor authentication and private virtual environments, for instance. Consequently, guaranteeing a secured remote business environment is crucial for the collaboration between content creators and clients.
In an ideal world, this should be enough to allow for studios, production companies, brands and agencies to continue operations as smoothly as possible. However, when it comes to shoot production in particular, postponements and cancellations are almost inevitable. With an unprecedented number of people at home, the appetite for visual content is, in fact, higher than ever before. Content creators need to be able to fulfill that demand while also navigating a pandemic. Of course, live-action shooting is not an option. But lateral thinking kicks in during times of crisis, and many professionals are turning to CGI as an alternate solution.
Advertising photography and the benefits of CGI
Take advertising photography as an example. It depends on human interaction and is constrained by physical assets – whether that’s a product, a location or a set – and is therefore out of the question in times of social distancing. CGI, on the other hand, is more versatile, flexible and can provide more content for the same budget with the proper planning. In addition, it reduces the carbon footprint linked to travel, as well as reductions in costs for creating marketing images (since there’s no need to even build physical prototypes).
Still, there’s been a misconception among creators that CGI doesn’t allow for the same level and quality of photographic expression as a live shoot. In fact, not only can CGI be indistinguishable from photography, it can also expand creative possibilities. It can create complex set builds that would take days to make and deconstruct. Therefore physical sets become a one-time deal – as well as any type of product – from mobile phones to cars, bottles to perfumes, cosmetics to watches, to things you cannot make for real. Moreover, it can be reused, so in the long run you have access to assets to revamp campaigns, as opposed to needing to re-shoot from scratch.
It’s now clear that CGI is a proven and powerful alternative, yet to be utilized to its full potential by the industry. I like to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call to organizations in terms of how to respond to unexpected events. Having CGI included in your business contingency plan to address challenges that eventually arise, can help provide a viable, cost-efficient, high quality alternative to live photo shoots, as well as instill peace of mind during these difficult, unprecedented times. Be well and stay safe.”