I actually have to look twice before I’m sure I’m looking at a model anymore, at least a still. Realistic models don’t seem to bother me like they used to. Did we cross it without fanfare?
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For offline-rendered models like in movies and such, I think we pretty much have crossed it. For realtime stuff, not yet.
There was no fanfare because it was an incremental process - photorealism isn’t a binary yes/no but a continuum, and we’ve been progressing toward greater photorealism for a long time.
Plus, different people have different thresholds for what they can detect as unrealistic rendering/animation. A lot of people complained about getting an uncanny-valley effect from the young CGI Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy, but personally, I couldn’t tell that from reality. And as you mention, while the rendering in stills is now very good, animation is nowadays often the thing that breaks the illusion.
I often spot irregularities in CGI graphics, but at the same time I’m expecting that and instead just embrace it. Perhaps the best CGI is when it involves nature. Mountains, volcanoes, tornadoes, storms. These effects are often pulled off with very good success. Take the movie Prometheus for example. I thought the landscape and atmosphere was very well done. In fact, you can watch a cool YouTube video of it to see how they stitched it altogether.
When it comes to everything else however, I think lighting is a dead giveaway. Models don’t blend in properly or they often look to clean. Not enough imperfection.
In addition, while stills may be convincing, motion is often a problem..
doing a still of a character that can pass for realistic has been possible for about 5 years. its not really an accomplishment. since its a 100 percent the shader. it is an accomplishment for the programmer that made the shader but not the end user that is slapping it on.
with animation its impossible to get good motion from a human skeleton like rig. it flat out cant be done. and the animator cant let the program do animation for them. set 1 key then another 5 spaces down. then have the program fill in the motion from 2-4. that is going to look terrible. every pose has to be done by hand with no automatic keyframing. 3d animation isnt really animation
By uncanny valley, I meant that the closer to realistic a model gets, the creepier it is because we notice tiny flaws that make the character look dead or robotic. It’s not that you don’t know it’s a model. It’s that it doesn’t look creepy. It may be that I’ve become accustomed to them and they’re the same as they used to be, but realistic models don’t look like creepy zombies to me anymore. They look like realistic models. I just noticed it because the Daz models they used to advertise always looked creepy to me, but they don’t anymore.
thats because the models have improved. there all high poly models, not normal mapped flat out high poly