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I know many examples of videos where an object or a person has been added after the recording (e.g. political propaganda or CGI characters in movies). I also know that animated movies are more or less entirely generated on computers. There is also the art movement of hyperrealism which produces paintings that are very difficult to distinguish from an actual photo. Has there been a realistically looking film produced entirely virtually without using any recordings of the physical world (except maybe for models of the characters)? What techniques would be important to produce such a film (e.g. ray tracing)?

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  • How long is a film? 90 mins? Does a 75 min one count? Does a 15 min short film count? A one minute animation? A single frame? What's your criterion for realism? Real enough to fool everyone? Anyone? Are you really asking, "what is the most realistic, completely computer generated x-length film to date?" Because that would be an opinion-based question. Jul 8 '20 at 22:01
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    I mean, I thought the LEGO movie looked pretty realistic, but I know LEGOs don't move on their own. Jul 8 '20 at 22:03
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Well if you take a look at the mandalorian, almost every background is computer-generated. Sure, the actors are real, but almost nothing else. If you're looking for entire cgi-sequences, you can take a look at the marvel movies. Many of the fight-scenes are completely CG.

Asking what's important for photorealism is a hefty question. There's a bunch like:

  • Accurately ray-traced shadows
  • Accurate reflections
  • Accurate roughness on reflective surfaces
  • Sub-surface scattering (like light shining through a hand)
  • Accurate motion-blur, focus rack and rolling or global shutter, depending on which camera you're imitating.
  • Accurate physic simulations
  • Accurate fluid simulations
  • Accurate wrinkles and stress-maps for skin, cloth and other flexible solids
  • Proper animation of people and animals, preferrably motion-tracked
  • etc. etc.

I could go on for pages, but the point is that simulating all the jazz of the real world is very expensive and hard labor. That's why most films rely on CGI only when filming it for real would either be too expensive or too dangerous. No person in their right mind would try to make a whole film CGI with the goal of the viewers not noticing, when they could save around 75% of the budget by just filming it in real-life and getting a similar (often better) result.

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