Monday, March 13, 2006

Weird Picture

In the Onion's review of the movie Ultraviolet, they display this still from the film:

What's weird is that this picture looks almost like a 3D rendering to me, except that I can't think of any good reason why they would CGI a character standing calmly doing nothing. I think it's the shadows - for some reason, the picture looks like a sample render designed to demonstrate ambient occlusion shadowing. For those who don't know what I mean, here's a quickie example I whipped up in Poser 6:

Because of the way ambient occlusion is calculated, it tends to over-emphasize certain small details like the belly-button. I left mine with the flat look Poser 6 gives with the default IBL/AO lighting (it lacks specular highlights), just to emphasize what I'm talking about. If I spent more time on it, matching lighting and so on, I suspect I could come up with something that looks even closer to the other pic. You can see some of the kind of "show-off the ambient occlusion" sample renders I'm talking about at this gallery page on e-frontier's Poser pages.

I don't think the Ultraviolet image is actually CGI, but I wonder if they've deliberately lit the scene in some way to make the live-action shots look as much like CGI as possible, in order to better match the CGI special-effects shots. And if so, I wonder how they did it.

I also think it's impressive that consumer/hobbyist-level software like Poser is now capable of producing output like that. Poser up through version 4 (and even 5 to some extent) was a whole lot less realistic than it is now.

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