The article “True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images, and Film Theory” by Stephen Prince manifests the emergence of some significant changes in movie-making caused by technological progress. The author tries to incorporate these novelties into the general film theory and investigate the ways it affects realism in movies. The analysis is supported by the description of certain scenes of a range of the films shot since 1980s.
The critic distinguished between cover applications and computer-generated imagery (CGI) proper maintaining that the former is meant to remove objects while the latter adds them to the video sequence. Prince claims that the distinguishing feature of motions pictures, as opposed to other art genres, is indexical referencing, and in order for the picture to remain realistic CGI designers should at first create 3D models of the objects.
The usage of special effects also creates a debate between realistic and formalistic film theoreticians. The author offers to resolve the conflict by the correspondence-based model of representation in cinema. It is based on correlations between the featured sequence and the real world. Special effect developers should design the imagery in such a way that it would fit the notions of the physical world, only then the films with CGI can be treated as realistic. It refers to the notion of perceptual realism.
Such an approach demands great precision in reflecting the real objects, for the viewers will immediately detect unnatural features. In this regard, some visual information is especially difficult to render. Skilful special effect designers are able to form false correspondences which maintain the realism of the modern films, and it constitutes the main paradox of movies with CGI. Prince concludes that the appearance of new types of films might make critics review some of the old theories and adjust the modern ones.
CGI and other modern inventions of the cinematic world are extensively used nowadays, thought they still remain insufficiently covered by the special literature. In his article, Prince offered his correspondence-based theory explaining the issue.
Related Review essays