Jamie Kripke: Hey Rob – have you seen this:

Jamie: 98% CGI by a 30 year old dude in Spain with a single PC. It’s beautiful. We’ve all seen a lot of CGI over the years, but it’s usually just a bit off, or just too slick and most of it is really expensive, and requires a team of people to make it look right. But this is different — this is one guy and a PC. Low budget. And he’s not a photographer by training either. Photographers, especially ad shooters, are freaking out about this.

Rob: I’m not sure I get what all the fuss is about. I saw it a couple days ago and was blown away by how it looked, but overall it seemed underwhelming to me. Maybe I’m missing something?

Jamie: Most of this was made by one guy, without a camera, and without leaving his desk, for little or no money. Photographers and art directors aside (b/c they are not the ones cutting the checks), what client wouldn’t want to have complete control over a shoot for a fraction of the budget of going on location?

Rob: It costs dollars to make a photograph anymore and now we’re seeing CGI going from millions to thousands of dollars. The value is no longer in the creation of the product. It all lies in the creativity. The idea. Only an artist can give it meaning.

Jamie: I think most would agree — without the idea, you have nothing. This is also about the shifting role of the photographer. Here’s a guy who’s not a photographer (at least not in the traditional sense) that is creating beautiful images without a camera. He’s bringing both the vision and the execution at a very high level.

I think it’s pretty rare for one person to have both skills in spades, but if things continue in this direction, what does it mean for photographers? Will their role turn into one of simply relaying experiences or imagining images that are then recreated in CGI by a dude at a desk? Will location shoots become a thing of the past, with photographers spending their days racking their brains in windowless rooms? Who knows?

Obviously there is a random, candid human element that will always defy CGI, and portrait shooters should be ok, but when you think about landscapes, products, architecture, it starts to get iffy. Especially when you bring tight ad budgets and tight clients into the picture.

So in a CGI world, who’s going to bring the vision?

Rob: A photographer has two roles: make something beautiful and make something interesting/meaningful. Now this guy Alex made something beautiful but then he filled it with clichés: doves, cherry blossoms, dolly shots, crane shots and a bunch of focus pulls.

So, it seems that now photographers don’t need to work on making something beautiful. It can be done in post. The photographer is now an artist and a problem solver. They need to come up with the unexpected and original.

Hasn’t it always been this way with photography. The choices are endless, practically unlimited. Photography is about editing. Where you stand, what time of day and when you push the button. The CGI artist has all those endless choices too.

The big product guys already have photographers on staff to take pictures for them because it’s the idea that counts. We’ve been there for awhile with product photography.

Jamie: Yes, and photographers now have more tools to choose from than ever before. For those of us that enjoy hauling cases of camera gear to distant locations, the idea of creating images without getting on a plane or hearing the click of a shutter can seem scary, but it’s also incredibly exciting. I’d like to believe that we’re heading into a golden age of photography where literally anything will be possible.

Rob: For optimists, anything is possible.

Here’s the making of vid for the doubters: http://www.vimeo.com/8200251
and here is a bit more info on the creator Alex Roman: http://motionographer.com/2009/08/16/alex-roman-thethirdtheseventh/

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  1. It is a a beautiful synthetic creation. But it isn’t photography. Maybe we should call it Synthography.

    In some ways this new kind of photo realistic art will be liberating for some photographers in the same way that photography was liberating for painting. Photography made it possible for painters to think about painting in new ways — Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Modernism, Minimalism, Post-Modernism.

    Art is a dialog, Art feeds Art.

    What I’ve always loved about Photography is that in their essense great photographs are the result of one person being moved to emotionally and intellectually, and finally physically respond – to take action – to something in the world around them, and the result of their taking action setting off a series of emotion, aesthetic and intellectual reactions in others.

    • http://theorangeapple.ca/ Here is a company that already does illustration for advertising, pretty amazing.

    • @Ellis Vener,
      Wham bam!! End of discussion.

      Well said

  2. its very wonderful, but my thought can he make pictures like Peggy Sirota, Sam Jones, Michael Kenna and many others out there……probably not and never will he be able to. There is truly something to the human element…..just wondering does the sound track come with his pictures?

    • @Andy Anderson,

      My fear is not of this person in particular, but of the tools he is illustrating and the rapid advancement of this medium. I’m afraid that eventually clients will hire CGI artists with good eyes rather than photographers with good eyes.

      Photographers themselves won’t be obsolete, but maybe our cameras will. Though I desperately hope not.

      • @Christy,

        Everything you do will be obsolete eventually.

        You either don’t worry about it, you own the change, or you quit.

        This site is so hopelessly alarmist sometimes…

        • @craig,
          You hit the nail on the head. It’s imperative that you adjust to the rapidly changing market in any field to be successful. If you don’t than you yourself will become obsolete.

          I’m starting to visit this site less and less because it mimics the 7 o’clock as being ‘hopelessly alarming sometimes’

          “After the break — is the milk that you’re feeding your kids giving them cancer?”

          • @Jim Lind,
            I actually have the words “OWN THE CHANGE” tacked onto a bulletin board in the studio. A little cheesy perhaps, but nonetheless a good reminder that you can’t sit still too long doing the same things over and over.

            This is the first entry I’ve commented on (or even read the comments of) in some months.

            And then there’s the title “The Beginning of the End?”… ugh. I suppose it drives up those all-important visitation numbers though.


  3. Friday CGI…

    One man.

    One computer.

    Zero cameras, zero equipment, near zero costs.

    The way this movie was made changes everything, my friends.

    (h/t A Photo Editor)…

  4. I think Rob hit it on the head here, when he said that, “One would need to both skills in spades.” Alex has a rare combination of technical skills as well as a finely tuned eye. My experience is that the combination of the two is extremely rare. I am guessing that Alex is just not “sitting in a room pumping these out.” How much time do you think these take? Unless he is defying science this is still a time/labor intensive project. Really beautiful work.

  5. I’m in agreement with Ellis and Andy… synthography, something missing, doesn’t feel real.

    This stuff feels otherworldly – it’s reminding me of the Quay Brothers in a way but without the interest or the story:
    In addition to their fine art work the Quay Brothers did commercial work – bumpers for Mtv back when Mtv was about music and it actually pushed boundaries a bit because it was new on the scene.

    The second link Rob gave, to the interview with Roman, is interesting because it’s a bit confused. Roman believes there’s a “huge aesthetic difference between most clients’ commercial demands and photography of already-built structures.” Roman is on “a personal journey: to experiment with a more… photographic oriented point of view of some of [his] favorites architects’ masterpieces.”

    He also says, “I think architecture is sculpting with light.” Continuing that’s there’s no volume without either.

    But yet, his film has none of that in a real sense. What architect would argue that CGI is the best way to represent a building after the structure is built?

  6. Bloody hell Ellis you hit the nail right on the head there. Nice work!

  7. Without commenting on the nature and content of the piece under discussion (which I have seen and am still thinking about), I thought of an interesting irony as I read the dialog and comments.

    In a sense, photographers might be considering effects on their art as profound as those that photography, in part, provoked in the world of Impressionism. The invention of the camera did not end painting, and CGI is unlikely to end photography. The camera did change the notion of what the important thing is (or things are) in what a painter creates, and the ability to create worlds inside the computer will (and, frankly, already has) bring changes to how we think of what a photograph can and should do.

  8. I bet there will be ALOT of answers to this post.

    So the thing is – it’s nice and all, but really? who cares? it’s FAKE. The people look fake for one, which I’m sure will get better in time, but who on earth wants to watch, feel and be moved by the representation of a human?

    I want real. I want emotion. I want to see talent. Human pinacle. Searching for something real and authentic in life is too valuable for people to forget. I’m sure this will eat some or alot of the market, but it is in NO way the end. I think once the novelty of what a computer will do wears off, people will want and demand authenticity.

    I think the way computers are used now, to supplement imagery will always work well, but once human beings are deleted altogether, I don’t think it’s going to last long.

    If it’s computers – you can keep it!

    • @D,

      Have you heard of Avatar???? Currently, the 2nd highest grossing film of all time…. and it is largely cgi.

      Artists/creators might care about it being real or not but, I don’t think audiences will as long as it looks like it’s real and the story is there to hold your interest.

    • @D,

      To add to what Brady says, animation isn’t real and it’s got a long and very successful history with audiences. How about those movies created from the story and imagery of comic books and FILLED with cgi? It’ll all be fake eventually if the price is right, i.e. low. Only the story and production values will endure. Not the tools to make the visuals.

  9. I agree with you, Rob, I don’t know what the fuss is about.

    Firstly, what is this supposed to have such a big impact on? Still photography or motion pictures?
    If it’s photography then I really don’t know why this should be a big deal. I’m not an expert but I assume it’s been possible for quite some time to produce an excellent still image with CGI on a single computer.
    If it’s motion pictures then I also don’t know why this would be a revolution. CGI movies have been around for a long time. The more this technology advances the cheaper it gets and we will probably see more low budget CGI movies but I still don’t see how this should matter much to the creative driving forces behind motion pictures (i.e. directors and actors) other than that there are more possibilities. Sure, one might fear that someday real actors get replaced by CGI actors but, IMO, unless you find a was for CGI Brad leave CGI Jennifer to be with CGI Angelina this is not really a threat.

    • @j., RGA did a piece with a dancing car many years ago for Shell. Everything was CGI, and very slickly produced. The novelty made it fun and memorable. Soon after that commercial appeared, the idea and knock-offs of the technique in CGI were appearing all over the place. This is an example from over ten years ago of a technology wowing people, and then becoming mundane. I see nothing different with this, other than the lower resource requirements mean more of this stuff could be produced, and faster.

  10. This changes nothing!

    This movie is so stunning i almost pooed my pants!
    But what should we photographers be afraid of? CGI has been and is used quite extensive in certain fields of photography so to me this is nothing new! It´s just very well executed and made by only one guy, but zero costs?
    I don´t think so…this guy put a gazillion hours of work into this! It´s not made just like that!
    Calling this low budget is just wrong. If this was made for a client, that client would´ve paid a lot of money for that!

    Anyways, kick ass movie!

  11. So……which 2% wasn’t CGI? That actually is pretty amazing. boring, yes, beautiful, yes, well executed, yes. That had to have taken a very long time, and unless the creators time isnt worth anything, then I find it hard to believe that you can call that zero or low cost. I dont think that cgi is going to replace photography. I think it will have its place in the same arena so I dont think its a threat. The whole real vs fake thing is true. no matter how you cut it, cgi is fake. If it can be done well enough to fool the eye, great, but theres always some element that you will see that juuuuuuust isnt quite right. It would be like walking down the street and seeing a Shelby Cobra replica parked on the side of the road, you may think wow! look at that, but when you get up to it, theres something about it that just isnt right and you realize its a fake. Or like a woman with breast implants, they may look nice and all but then you get up close and are thinking, hmmmm somethings not right here. Point being (And I hope nobody was offended by my reference) is that there will always be a place for the real thing, and you really cant replicate the soul or character that the genuine article has. So there will always be those who are going to have an appreciation for and want to exploit those subtleties that a fabricated world cannot replicate.

    • @christian, GREAT comment.

    • @christian, very true. Am I the only one who recalls the panic over the MOOG synthesizer? Yes … that dates me big time but after all those years of perfecting string and horn sounds, who among us things it will ever replace those instruments?

      The fact is that the synth has added value as will CG. Competition is a good thing.

    • @christian, Hey thanks guys, appreciate the support and Im glad we all agree! True, true about the MOOG, Do you guys also recall the panic over the automobile too? Yet some people still have a fond love of horses ;-) Ot when the Philips head screwdriver came out? Everyone using a flathead fastener up till then must have freaked, yet both sit neatly next to each other in your drawer and come out when the situation calls for it. Point is that everything has its place, and this is just another tool in the toolbox the can be used as a resource, not a threat

    • @christian,

      Agreed. Back then in the early days (not too early though), some action movies have REAL stunts, with real bloods and real injuries.

      Today, there are still injuries in stunts, but a lot of things that we see in the movies are fake. Heck, stories in books are fake even before movies come along. What matters is how the author of the art execute things so well that it is outstanding.

      Plus, most of the time I go to the movies is to forget the “real” world. I know it is fake, but I can tolerate it as long as it walks on the line of fake and being real (too fake would not be acceptable for most the people).

      In the end, its how well is the artist express their vision in their arts.

  12. The first line should read: “98% CGI by a 30 year old dude in Spain with a single PC and a whole year of production. Also, he mentions two PCs in his reply to the comments on Vimeo.

    This isn’t speedy work. I don’t know of any client that will wait a whole year to see a final product at least not for advertising or marketing. I think the immediacy of this work is what keeps it from being a real “game changer”. That’s why a team is the norm, faster turnaround, that increases costs not just for bodies but for computers and software licenses.

    Let’s also talk about the software, over $8000 in software for just the visuals.

    The video is neat but not really groundbreaking, full of cliche’s and overall a bit dull – I forced myself to watch past three minutes and lost interest after six.

    Anyway, my two cents. Thanks for sharing this and opening up a dialogue about it.


    • @Matthew M Smith,

      Depending on your clients, commercial art buyers aren’t really interested in “fine art”, but instead with in-your-face cliches to sell a product. $8,000 is nothing when a MF digital body starts at $10,000. I think CGI is here to complement the creation of an *image*, not replace *photography* – and such mentality is misplaced and dangerous. Photographers should consider themselves as content creator/ image makers, and not someone who is technically proficient with a camera. Please consider CGI as another tool in the arsenal instead of a competitor, because ultimately, creatives and innovators will persevere in this ocean of flickr and Strobist technicians.

      • @James Tau, I never said CGI was a competitor, in fact I use CGI regularly in my work. What I was trying to say is there is a casualness to the opening sentence. It alludes to this work being tossed off when in fact it’s quite laborious, requires immense skill, is time consuming and costly.

  13. This was made without a camera ?
    I don’t understand.

  14. Yes, very impressive… now, can he whip up something on the current situation in Haiti?

    “…Here’s a guy who’s not a photographer (at least not in the traditional sense)”

    No, actually he’s not a photographer in any sense.

    If you’re the type of photographer that relies on fixing things in post, or shoot a bunch of different elements to merge into a single image. Feel free to be worried.

    If you’re the type of photographer who has interesting ideas, sees things in ways that others don’t, and/or has the skills to make and delivery meaningful images from Haiti today, then you’re going to be alright.

    But it’s even easier than that. If you want to be a great photographer, the key is to make images of the everyday things that everyone has access to.

    A single flower standing in a vase, sitting on a simply wooden table, light spilling in through an open doorway from behind, a stairway leading upstairs.

    That should be easy enough for this guy, or soon enough, any high schooler with a laptop.

    Should that frighten me?

    Why should I or anyone else care about the computer generated image? It’s instantly disposable, ultimately meaningless, and the cheaper/easier it gets, the less value it will have.

    We should celebrate the fact that realistic scenes can now be created cheaply with computers, from scratch. It allows us to do what we should really be doing, just like modern painters were freed up by technology (photography) to pursue their personal visions.

    In photography, the only thing that matters now is what you can see and capture in an interesting way (whether you’re in Haiti or your own backyard).

  15. Question
    How long did it take for the one guy sitting at a PC to make all of this?

    Another point, Just because he is just one guy sitting at a PC doesn’t devalue the work. I’m not sure what the numbers are but I’ll take a guess that the CGI guys who did Avatar did get paid and probably pretty well.

    I have no problem about learning CGI. In fact I would love any suggestions as to how and where

  16. CGI and no robots or explosions? Why even bother?

    But seriously, I went to an art gallery showing last week and the main presenter had some decent [what I thought were] paintings. 20 or so gallery-sized pieces, moderately interesting post-impressionist technique, although I thought the subject matter–mostly street scenes of the pedestrian-only area of our small city–was, well, pedestrian.

    I wasn’t really impressed at all until I realized the gag: he had done all this work using two $4.99 apps on his iPhone.

    To me that is an impressive although inscrutable accomplishment. However, it didn’t change the end result which was that I was not moved by, nor did I purchase, any of the paintings.

    There is definitely a novelty value for gear and gadgets but ultimately, process and result are what you make of it. I don’t have the kind of attention span it would take to do work like this, where the process is long and painstaking. That’s why I got into photography in the first place.

  17. Alex took a year off to do this project and the rumors are he put in 60 – 80 weeks which is typical of CGI efforts to get this done. So, not a small investment of his time nor a clients. There is a good back and forth on some forums from some guys in the CGI industry about the fact that photography should not be threatened by this in anyway.

    The fact is some portions of the industry will be affected, some have already, in particular product photography where CAD designs are available from the outset (ex. auto industry even some architectural work) but other things can’t be completed in the timeframes a client has come to expect from photography, in terms of turn around times / post-processing flexibility. There is also the fact that this won’t replace other aspects of photography anytime soon, work like weddings, photojournalism, portraiture, sports and fashion at least not before the decade is up (I won’t wager on it though…lol.. tech moves to fast).

  18. There is a novelty here that will attract some attention, but the part that I think will attract the most attention is the claims of low budget. If it is true that the cost was quite low, then it seems that Alex Roman did not place a fair value on his time. Just like low-ball (bidding under CODB) photographers, the worry is not technology replacing technology, it is yet another cheap trick intruding into the market. Obviously no serious photographer would try to compete at the low end, but the lure of cheapness will attract some clients.

    CGI is all the rage with Avatar, which combines lots of visual tricks into a so-so story. However, people want to react when they see a movie; they don’t want to think when they see a movie. As creative professionals, we like to put thought into what we do, and not simply react to a scene. Moon was a SciFi movie with a great story, great plot, and low CGI budget, but will never attract the attention that Avatar will generate.

  19. You know I thought I had just coined a new word in “synthography” and then I ran it through google.

    Now I feel like a buggy whip maker. ;-)

  20. The End Of The Beginning

    As faster as this stuff (CGI+HDR+Photoshop disasters) are picked up and are around … as faster and higher traditional photography will be valued.

    Just as with classic cars. To differ modern car design (‘photoshopped’ by wind channels, designed by computers, …) one has to have a close look at the name badge.
    And a classic’s price rise day by day by day …

    I guess the advertising biz will pick it up fast (… has done so already). One more reason to skip the ads.
    I guess advertising photographers will get a (big) hit. Or have to adapt.

    But once the market is saturated, call Nadav Kander & Co. to bring back the attention to your brand.

    Hopefully future cgi designs will be more thought-out as seen in the ‘Photoshop Disaster Of The Day’ http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com/2010/01/mofficer-alien-shapeshifter-lousy-at.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  21. The question that came up after seeing this was, What plugins? Did anybody give credit to the software developers who actually made the plug ins he used.

    He did not write the software, nor create any algorithms for said software, and when you see the image of the man it fails. Same with the grass. It really is the folks who write the software, for doing the hard math – physics, that make software like this truly amazing.

    Next, with a reference to Avatar, how does this scale? Can it be projected on a 40 foot screen and still hold up? I do not think so.

    As to what one can do with a single computer:
    Look back at Kerry Conran and how he started Sky Captain from a single mac, a bunch of friends, creating 6 minutes video, on quadra 840av, that would turn into a feature length film. That was impressive.

    What I am saying is that I am now jaded on cgi. It becomes too SFX and takes me out of the moment. With massive libraries of objects, actors, sets online, and access to such this becomes more and more point and click. I commend Roman for the fortitude to stay with this, but, seen it.

    On the other hand:
    I am still rattled by the in-camera work by Jeffrey Kimball in Jacob’s Ladder. That, and the camera work in the film, I am Cuba, those images truly still astound.

    Time to go out and acquire images.


    • @laurence zankowski,

      The work of Mr. Roman is not as easy as adding lens flare or star effect on photoshop. If the tools need corresponding credit, then so do all the engineers and physicists who worked on the lens and camera bodies for Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, et al.

  22. I watched this last month and didnt realize it was cgi. I actually thought it was a boring and pointless digital film test and I didn’t even make it past a minute. Technically this piece is executed beautifully but motion needs story to hold ones interest and not just stunning visuals. I think a screenwriting class could help.

  23. I thought how quaint, nicely structured, good choice of music to try and keep you invovled. I was a well formed cliche. I think the Ellis, Kenneth and Gordon, stated well, the imapct on photography, none. Yes and Rob too from the onset.

    I am intrigued by cgi, how ever it only goes so far, since the movie industry has bee using it for a long time, no offense Alex but the movie was not holding. Has anyone see Beowulf or the lastest of the Xmen movies. BeoWulf was a 100% CGI movie and it was ok. I have a copy of the Xmen – Wolverine, where I have the wireframe compositing still incomplete for the three mile island scenes, nothing really spectacular.

    Alex does have talent but to threat photography, this is another viewpoint of doom and gloom, I am not buying it. I just finished doing a market analysis and some financial projections for where I live to update my business plan. I am looking at least a 15% growth year. I am with the attitude of the post “Good News In Photography” that Rob put up earlier this week.

    My challenge is to make my marketing plan work, not to worry about cgi.

  24. Laurence,

    As a CG animator I can tell you that the software is indeed pretty special — but at the end of the day, it’s a pile of code. I don’t see any reason why Roman should give extra credit to a computer program… does a painter give shout-outs to his particular brand of oil paint? Does a photographer truly believe that it’s his camera that makes a shot? I don’t think so.

    CG animation and rendering is incredibly meticulous and time intensive, which translates into $$$ for high-quality work. I don’t think photography has much to worry about, not just because of cost, but because CG lacks spontaneity and chance. You can’t catch the light at a certain angle, you have to plan it that way by positioning your CG camera and waiting (sometimes hours) for the render to finish.

    • @Jim,

      yes, Maxifield Parrish constantly praised his windsor newtons.


      p.s. and I bet andrew wyeth praised the chickens that gave him his egg tempera.

  25. Saw this piece a couple weeks ago, still haven’t fully digested.
    Pretty, but artificial.

    As far as impact on the industry, no it won’t take it over. But it may represent a few more of the “death by a thousand cuts” the industry has seen over the last decade. Regardless of Joe Photographer having a great few years (within an entire career) the reality is, the middle class has largely dropped out of the industry. There are those doing unbelievably well at the very tip, and those staying alive at the bottom. With very few between.

    I don’t consider digital imaging to be photography. Anymore than cinema would still be called photography. Digital is now it’s own medium. A great deal of the commercial images we see today also look synthetic. Yet they are still created and used in various photography markets – inspite of and sometimes because of their artifice.

    The synthetic look of CGI may change. Production time may as well. There may come hordes of nerds making and marketing their version of “dollar stock” CGI online. Will offshore laborers be ADd to create the imagery?

    One thing is certain. By and large, wherever costs can be cut for “good enough” art, will be. There will still be some other projects with costs being second, or AD being first. How many relative to supply will impact markets. The fundamental question going forward is about ROI, relative to other careers.

  26. You get what you pay for. I don’t think this changes anything or everything. It is just the next new thing.

  27. Rob,

    So how many of us sent this video to you via email? I guess there is something to it that is worth discussing. Enough people have looked at it and many do realize that the future will be very different no matter how hard we fight.

    Anyway, here is “Alex’s” real info, cause his name is not really Alex:


  28. It looks like it was shot with a 5d mk2 and a fast lens

  29. This is pretty great. Sure it can be picked apart , but as a CGI portfolio piece, I’m impressed, and frightened.

    How does one even learn to do CGI? I’d rather stay a photographer, but as a still life photographer I can see the writing on the wall and I know even if I don’t go CGI, I want to know and understand my competition.

    When I start picking CGI apart and telling myself how soulless it seems, I hear those photographers I used to assist saying they’ll never touch a digital camera as I watched them fall behind the curve.

    • @Christy,
      I could not agree more with this, those that fear will voice the negative. As for those that say it is boring …… no doubt have tried creating images and failed. Like most things this work will be just the start of one person productions, and I’m sure they will get faster. I look forward to seeing more. Excellent, and I love the soundtrack.

    • @Christy,
      Hey, there is no “curve”. This page has so many insecure “photographers” jumping in, scared that their way of “life” is forever changed by this small, peaceful “film”. CGI has and will be around forever, photography still exists. Who cares what the clients think, or the industry will do? Take your pictures and enjoy them. You are not Henri Cartier-Bresson, and will never have the impact he had. Relax and smell the roses.

      • @Jim,
        My point is that if you make a living as a commercial photographer, you do need to care what your clients think.

  30. The end? This is just the beginning. The dawn of an age where the artist is truly respected. Where those who can inspire others with their mind’s visual manifestations over and over again. Where they will be compensated comparably to the CEO who have recently fallen, and will continue to do so.

    Welcome the new age of technological artwork. Nice to meet you!

    • @Chris Schultz,

      I completely agree. As Rob posted earlier, quoting Seth Godin:

      1. Technicians who invented it, run it
      2. Technicians with taste, leverage it
      3. Artists take over from the technicians
      4. MBAs take over from the artists
      5. Bureaucrats drive the medium to banality

      CGI is now mature and the artists are taking over from the technicians. So long, CG that imitates bad photography-as-if-taken-with-point-and-shoot.

  31. It is beautiful, but 60-80 weeks to create it! Damn! I hope to god I never have a single photo shoot that lasts that long. I have worked on large projects that were scheduled out over a years time but it was not the same thing day in and day out. I can’t see anyone turning much of a profit margin off of a media/ad project with that long of a timeline on their own. To be honest it looks like something a talented cinematographer could have shot in a couple of months. It also has some rendering issues if you view it in HD, several of the transitions are jumpy and the grass and human forms look very plastic and stiff. Still it’s an excellent accomplishment for one person to pull off. I don’t really see it impacting the world of photography but I do think it will be huge in the worlds of cinematography, CGI & film making. Kudos!

    • @Rob, it took that long because he has a PC..

    • @Rob,
      Thats’ like saying that Marilyn Monroe’s seams were not straight when she stood on that subway grate! Who cares if the grass was less than perfect? It was the overall effect that matters, don’t be such a nit-picker. Give the guy a break, he’s probably half-crazy from working on a PC that long.

  32. Story: 0
    Script: 0
    Set Design: 4
    Original Score: 2
    Costume Design: 2
    Editing: 2
    Makeup: 0
    Visual Effects: 5
    Art Direction: 3

    Overall Score: 2


  33. I think one should separate the artistic and commercial aspects of this project.

    Artistically, its nice. I’m a fan of Kahn’s architecture and he does a great job of capturing it. I think the piece is a bit long and repetitive – found myself fast-forwarding through it. The DOF effects are a little overused. The realism is pleasant, but I don’t find it necessarily groundbreaking…

    Vimeo has lots of really talented motiongraphic artists, many of whom are mindblowingly creative. You can find all kinds of great composite films. Personally I think motiongraphics is the next great frontier of art. Combining film, photography, CGI… technology is approaching the common-man point where a really creative person can put something interesting together with easily attainable hardware and software.

    Now the commercial aspects I think are a little moot given the length of time it took to put together… 70 man-weeks is non-trivial. Okay, so hire 10 people to put something together in 7 weeks, you’re still talking a big chunk of money in wages. Major ad campaigns, sure – nothing new here, many car ads are composites already.

    I photograph a lot of architecture, which this would seem to have an effect on, but if you consider that the amount of work required to do this for a billion dollar skyscraper is not much more than a modest building – I don’t necessarily see this level of artistry becoming common enough to replace the photographer’s camera. Certainly, well rendered 3D models have come a long way and are used commonly in marketing during the construction phase, but its still not the same as sending someone there to document it, as it is with its own natural light, if its actually built.

    • I think I should clarify a little further – a skyscraper project might have the funds to afford this level, but say, a custom residence, would not. And the amount of work to render the skyscraper is not much more due to repetition of elements.

      And there a lot more custom residences built than skyscrapers.

      And the time taken in this case has to do with the editing and art direction, and not so much the technical rendering. So it’s not like the time to produce this quality will substantially decrease.

      In any case, I still think its a great accomplishment though. Bravo for art!

  34. What is with the people here demeaning this work cos they feel its boring/emotion-less, etc? What, like all of the sudden every (successful) photographer/director out there only make meaningful work?

    Have you people seen the mindless photography/print ads, commercials and movies that are released everyday with often hollow, meaningless message? Most commercial photography is pointless and only serves to sell something anyway.

    The fact is, this guy made an incredible VISUAL presentation. Personally, i saw it more like it was his portfolio/calling card, saying give me a story or message and i can give you this on a screen. His mastery of light, textures & composition is quite astonishing IMO.. considering he did it all behind his computer.

    • @shahnyboy,

      I think this is a fitting companion piece…

      Kahn’s library in 1000 years…

  35. In honor of Dr. King’s birthday here is an appropriate quote to consider:

    “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

    Rob, love the photographer has two roles quote. Thanks for sharing.

  36. I think people who are critiquing Alex Roman’s editing or choice of content are missing the point. In line with the analogy in Rob’s other post, it’s like 19th century carriage makers criticizing Karl Benz’s choice in hubcaps.

    Neither he nor this film, per se, are the game changers. Rather it’s a poignant display of the state of the art. So what if it took him a year – the film is 12 minutes (too) long. How long would it have taken him (or more importantly, anyone else with a similar skill set) to complete a ‘standard’ ad campaign of 6 stills, or even a couple 30-second TV spots? How long would it take a small team of 3 or 4? The game changer is that this wasn’t Weta or Pixar, or even Taylor James or Saddington Baynes – and that producing a major ad campaign doesn’t have to cost a client $250K to fly a photographer and crew to eastern Europe.

    As Andy pointed out, this guys and his PC can’t touch Sam Jones, et al. OK, they’re safe. But what about the ability demonstrated? How will it affect anyone who shoots advertising with a mix of architecture, landscapes and products, often with secondary human elements, including…Andy? No disrespect, it’s just that we’re talking about the impact on advertising, not editorial (or fine art). Strictly editorial shooters have little to worry about for a good long while. Admittedly, this is APE and not Heather Morton (although I’d really like to see it covered there), but I don’t think it’s off-topic given Rob’s ad-industry coverage in the past.

    As for the ‘but it’s not real, people will see through it’ argument: advertising has proven itself to be concerned with almost anything except reality. Consider the extent of retouching in our craft. I’m not talking about dancing cars, I’m talking about reality being idealized. Anyone who’s ‘healing-brushed’ a few zits or swapped a sky. Anyone but photojournalists who have their job on the line if they stray into photoshop.

    Look through CA or Archive and ask the question: what’s here that can’t be replaced by the CGI as demonstrated by Alex? I’m not saying there’s many things that can’t be replaced. I’m saying there’s a lot that can and will. And I’m not saying it will be replaced by creativity-deficient monkeys in a dark room full of computers. It will likely be created by the same creative geniuses we see winning awards now, except there’ll be no traveling to exotic locations, no hands-on, and no camera. Complete intangibility from start to finish. One step further from why we all (or at least myself) got into this business.

    Bottom line: Good photographers may not need to worry, but it’s quite possible that, just as with automotive, several more large segments of the advertising-photography industry are about to become completely intangible.

    • @Matthew Turley, Don’t forget the cognitive response from the audience. I believe advertising may be losing some of it’s traditional influence on people. Some of that may be consumers are becoming more savvy. Some just may be less willing to consume. Then there are social networks to find out about goods & services.

      Go back about a dozen or so years, when PS was really starting to show it’s stuff. This is also incidentally when the concept of “reality” in creative arts started taking off too. This cognitive swing back to “reality” is still strongly influencing photography in concept, and production. Sure there still are the over the top flying pigs, and overly retouched idealizations. The entire playing field has become more niche / sub-culture oriented. This along with many other supply/demand factors are impacting the industry (ROI).

      In fine art the process is often as (or more) important than the final work. As media goes more CGI, will an influential percentage of the consumer (as well as media and creative arts) population value art/media with a more *genuine* provenance?

      • @Bob, Make no mistake – I hope you’re right :)

    • @Matthew Turley, Matthew, I completely agree. Just look at Archive. Art Directors (young, hungry, concept driven, looking to provoke and make a statement) will (are) using these tools to execute what they and their clients need, as quickly, efficiently and with as much control as possible. As a location people shooter, I can see more of my work moving back to the studio, shooting models on white to be manipulated and dropped precisely into a CGI scene. And seriously, how many of the top advertising shooters aren’t doing a large amount of that themselves right now?
      While we shouldn’t be Chicken Little, screaming that the sky is falling, we can’t be ostriches with our heads in the sand either…..

  37. It’s amazing to me the direction the commentary on this piece has taken among the photographic community. I’m truly scratching my head at the notion that this is a perceived threat to photography, and scratching it even harder that this is the primary perspective through which this is analyzed.

    Alex Roman has created what I interpret (possibly mistakenly, but here goes…) as an appreciation – a love letter – to architectural photographers and their art and discipline. He’s a CGI artist – i.e. in a different industry – and he’s used those skills to express an *appreciation* for what architectural photographers do. I.e. “I’m not one of you, but I really like what you do, and here’s my testimony to that”. (To the industries that use CGI, he’s also using this as a job application. But that’s a different audience.)

    He took a year off to do this.

    I see nothing in this work that conveys an attempt to say “The traditional work of architectural photography can be done better and more effectively with CGI.” He’s not claiming that this is photography, or even the direction photography is our ought to be taking. He’s not trying to horn in on your operation. He’s saying, via his own chosen art and discipline, that he likes your art and discipline.

    And yet one of the primary responses I’m seeing here is reactionary defensiveness, bordering on ingratitude. Sheeshus.

    • @Ian Hay, I believe you may be missing an important understanding here. If you were more involved in this industry, made a living from the creation of images, then possibly you would be able to see the great amount of change that has taken place in the last decade. That knowledge and intuition may allow one to see future potential changes as they manifest.

      I don’t think anyone commenting here feels a direct threat from “Alex Roman” as an individual artist. Most are looking at the impact of the technology in application to creative arts markets.

      The one constant: everyone needs to make a living. As markets and technology change this has already impacted ALL but a very few image makers. As specific markets change, those earning a living may have to change their focus to a different market. From PJ to wedding photography, from stock images to commissioned work, etc. Many may be leaving photography all together. Some are lucky, having a degree to fall back upon.

      • @Bob,

        Alright, point taken, and helpful and informative reply. I do see, within these 55 or so comments, direct (and what I’m perceiving as defensive) criticism of Roman’s work. Perhaps I’m over-amplifying those in my reading of this discussion, and conflating them with the broader discussion of anxiety around industry change.

        • @Ian Hay,

          Ian, I agree with your interpretation. The interview with Alex/Jorge makes his intention clear. I tend to avoid these internet discussions because they are full of negative minds, bad vibes and fear of change. I don’t think being outside the industry makes your intuitions any less valid. If anything, you don’t have the blinders on that many of these fearful “insiders” have.

          History does not favor people who put all their eggs in one basket. A photographer who only knows how to do one thing, in one way, is going to lose pretty quickly. Those who are afraid to adapt will always be second run to those who are not, those who are excited by change and inspired by progress.

          I once had an assistant who used to say “when I see great photography it makes me want to quit”. Well, she did eventually. I never understood that attitude. I’ve always been inspired by great creative work, wherever it comes from.

        • @Ian Hay, Keep in mind the context. This piece was posted with a question mark? It wasn’t posted in the same context as say the Kander piece on Jan 11. Feedback is not necessarily negative, it is often honest. Much of the arts is subjective, people are entitled to their own feelings. What is often seen online (and in person) are people reasoning with their emotions. A dissonance can develop between these subjective (emotional) values and the more objective aspects of business and marketplace.

  38. […] at A Photo Editor there is a brief discussion surrounding some  issues the film generates for photographers presently and is worth a […]

  39. Ten years ago I lost most of my product photography clients because of CGI. Today I shoot products now and then, but only if budget is too low for CGI.
    Now I see same happen in building industry. Big builders, like City of Helsinki, insist all construction drawings in 3D. For my construction company clients is so easy to render those drawings to photorealistic images.
    If you people shooters think you are in safe, be warned. With computer, artist can easily make suberb photorealistic portraits. All he/she needs are some snapshots of the person.
    What is difference between CGI and photography? It´s reality and truthfulness. And that is what we have lost using excessive photoretouching.
    If we continue to make slick images, photography can´t compete with computer drawings.
    My opinion is, that professional photography will have place in market, when clients and photographers together understand that real and convincing images are better than beautiful and unreal.

  40. needs Phillip Glass soundtrack.

  41. Well, as some have already pointed out, any claims to “low or no budget” are just false. It takes a huge ammount of time to create this, which is why it’s generally mostly used for previzualisation in architecture.

    There are however areas where some of us photographers need to take a bit care and that is product photography. Some companies are already looking hard into using CGI models of their products even in catalogues instead of photographing the item on a lightboard the “good ol fashioned way”. In fact, IKEA have a whole department dedicated to producing the in-catalogue representations of items using 3d software and allthough the process isn’t always cost effective yet, it’s getting there fast.

    As for trying to diminish the artistical merit by claiming that its just a bunch of code doing the work, its just nonsense. A digital camera in the end is also just a bunch of code that is your TOOL to create the image. So is photoshop and any other software you may use in digital photography. And for film photography, you could argue that unless you do your own emulsions, its the film manifacturer’s work. So the entire argument is kind of moot, its about using the tools, not making the tools.

    Is the photographers role changing? Absolutely yes. But as they say the only thing that is constant is change. So we all need to evolve and see how our expertise can be used in the future.

    • @Henrik Bengtsson, Agree.. If anyone needs to be worried i think it would only be the product photography people.. But otherwise i hardly doubt CGI is going to replace photography as a lot of ppl seem to be worying here.. Theyre both different kinds of art and have their own place.

  42. I’m a day late, dollar short.

    I’ve been hearing about this guy, but never stopped to look. The shots are amazing on screen. Speechless quality from the amount of work.

    Was this a span of one day or a week or year? Will this type of image making ever end up, being a table top art book?

    As for the cost effectiveness to do this “shoot”. The artist’s time is now pure profit. The overhead has shrink to a box and screen (few more boxes).

    • @david, Over 60 weeks work. So how much do you think he should charge? How many companies will wait nearly a year for something similar?

      When is any creative professionals time not “pure profit”? Time spent on any project should be compensated. Every professional has expenses, so there is never “pure profit”.

  43. art; state-of-the-art; art

  44. @Gordon,

    This was his longest short and as such, experimental. Like in every industry it takes much longer to complete an experimental work. Why do you think that a similar work would take another year to complete ? What makes you think he will not push the envelope and produce a flashier clip within a shorter time frame .

    I have been reading most of the comments. What I gleaned from most of the posts is resentment and a bit of jealousy, some of the dismissive comments are hilarious, and the fact that people think they can assess the financial value of a Hig Res CG clip upon looking at it is just funny to me.

    I was under the impression that we were here to celebrate an alternative way of representing the reality within the framework of art .

    • @Lechatnoir, as a technical achievement, I was first impressed by this when viewing it at Creativity.com. What I disagree with in this is the claim by Jamie Kripke that it is “Low Budget”. I’m not dissing the work, but I think a statement like that from Jamie Kripke is a disservice to the work that went into this.

      Also, I come from a formal art BFA background, with a specialty in painting. My first commercial work was illustration. I could do everything on paper, or in the computer with a WACOM tablet. Nothing about the technology or software does much to lessen what it took to create any illustration for any client. Some clients might see “software” or “computer” or “one person” and think “lower cost”, but there is no one-to-one relationship. Creativity takes time.

      Even in photography, it takes more than an index finger to be a photographer. Great images take time, and critical thinking. Technology will not make someone a successful photographer. Technology does not generate ideas without input from the user of that technology.

  45. Being a photographer and a CGI artist at the same time i must say im quite fascinated by the concerns given by the photographic community on this. Most of them doesnt seem to have a clear picture of both the sides.. or at least they dont talk like that… Theyre probably forgetting the amount of time and effort the guy has put in as an artist is tremendous to get this kind of a result. Fine, it was created by one man using one computer but that doesnt mean its the end of photography. These guys dont create CGI by pressing a magic button called ‘Make Awesome Images’… They need to do a lot more work to get a result of this quality than the photographer.. and its way too much of effort to be overlooked just like that thinking anyone with a computer and CGI knowledge can make this and so its gonna take over the industry.
    If you were to approach an Animation studio and a photographer to get a similar kind of work done you’d be surprised by the difference in the cost involved. CGI would be a lot expensive. If a single photographer could finish this in 5 days time it would probably take 50 days for a single CGI artist to do the same at this quality.. Unless you have 50 people working on it thereby increasing the cost by 50times that you pay 1 guy.
    My point is they are both different arts and both has its own place and are not here to replace each other… nor can it if it wanted to.

  46. Photography or Image Making or Whatever

    pho⋅tog⋅ra⋅phy  [fuh-tog-ruh-fee]
    1. the process or art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light or of other forms of radiant energy, as x-rays, gamma rays, or cosmic rays.

    so how many real photographers are out there?

    who loves gamma rays? I do!

  47. The MOOG, lol. Exaclty.

    “The next great photographers–if there are to be any–will have to find a way to reclaim photography’s special link to reality. And they’ll have to do it in a brand-new way.” Peter Plagens (Newsweek c. 2007)

  48. I don’t care how this was generated… or who created it… it’s FREAKIN BORRRRRRING! Sorry… didn’t do ZIP for me. Regardless of whatever technology used… the music was ‘sleep city’ and subject content was LAME at best… :/

  49. thanks for posting this wonderful blog. im sure this can help a lot. i like it so much.

    thanks guys.

  50. Take away the music and you have a very repetitive sequence of image alterations over and over again – hardly worth discussion yickkkk.


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