Photorealism – An Exciting New Trend in the VFX Industry

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Photorealism – An Exciting New Trend in the VFX Industry

photorealism - game of throne

Since the conception of the term by Louis K. Meisel in 1969, the word “photorealism” has gathered much-deserved attention and applications across all traditional and modern-day artistic endeavors. In simple words, photorealism is a visual effects technique that includes drawing, painting and all graphic material available at a photographer or filmmaker’s disposal and then using different platforms and mediums to make the gathered information as life-like as possible.

Although photorealism originated from pop art, it has evolved considerably over the years. Photorealism has survived this long because it has been undiluted and has managed to stay consistently compelling.

Understanding Photorealism

One of the most commonly-heard statements from cine-goers these days is, “Wow, that looked so real!

Now, how is that made possible? A huge misconception is that all a VFX artist does is make an
image as realistic as possible. The approach to creating a VFX sequence depends on the object in question and whether it follows the laws of nature or not. For example, if a VFX supervisor is to shoot a car or an animal, he chooses the photograph which has the most detailed texture, composition or light to enhance and make it look more realistic on screen. But when it comes to preparing for a sequence that has an alien ship or sci-fi props like the ones used in Star Wars, there’s nothing much to compare the image to. It all now boils down to the VFX artist’s vision, creativity and skills to use all the information and create magic on-screen.

Mind-blowing Examples of Photorealism

To cite some examples of the use of photorealism in VFX, we can refer to the imagery used in movies like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Disney’s The Jungle Book. The use of realistic imagery and the finished product gives you a preview of what photorealism can do for the VFX industry and not just limited to the movie business.

  1. Photorealistic changes in composition and lighting in Korvath’s appearance
    photorealism in guardians of the galaxy


  2. Photorealism-infused VFX used in Maleficent
    photorealism-infused vfx in maleficient


  3. From the production sets of The Jungle Book
    photorealism in junglebook


The science behind creating all these effects and sequences, in layman’s terms, is called image rendering. Fortunately, no added resource training or new technology training is required when it comes to the use of photorealism in the world of VFX. It is simply compiling all the information and details gathered from multiple frames and making it ready for the final cut of the film. That being said, the higher the demand for photorealism, the more is the time required for final visual output or sequence to be created.

Which Are the Most Popular Photorealism Tools?

The most widely-used rendering software or image-enhancing tools include 3Delight, Arnold, Artlantis, Clarisse, Maxwell Render and Octane Render Solidworks Visual. These are the most in-demand tools currently being employed by VFX studios such as Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and DreamWorks.

Over the years, VFX companies like ILM, Weta and Pixar have come up with state-of-the-art 3D modeling, animation and rendering technologies that can convincingly simulate anything of everything. Subsequently, these technologies were included in the commercial software sector, where anyone could buy them, and with the easy availability of high-tech hardware, it only makes it easier for VFX studios to have access to these capabilities (which were once exclusively reserved for big production houses).

The Future of VFX

So, what comes next? As VFX technologies and filmmaking techniques evolve with each passing day, it is quite possible that very soon, it will get more and more difficult to distinguish between reality captured on camera and that synthesized on visual effects software!

The only way for VFX studios to stand out is to never settle for anything less than the best (in terms of visual outputs) and keep scaling things up in terms of quality. At Toolbox Studio, a VFX company in India, we spend a good amount of time discussing and embracing technological advancements in the world of VFX, frequently conducting interactive sessions where younger VFX artists can learn about what is new in the industry, and sharing creative thoughts and ideas that can then be implemented on the projects that we work on.

What are your thoughts about photorealism? Where do you see the VFX industry 10 years from now? We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions – so type away in the comments section below!




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