Why You Should be Striving for Photorealism

Why we should all be jumping on the photorealism bandwagon. Recorded from a live presentation at Pausefest in Melbourne.

If you've been in the 3d industry long enough, you've likely heard complaints about the "photorealism trend". And that it's "pointless since cameras can do it far quicker".

They usually point to cartoon styled movies by Pixar or Dreamworks as examples of why stylized rendering is more important.

But whilst those studios exist, it's ignoring the majority of work that exists today based on realism.

To put it bluntly, if you want to work in the industry someday, photorealism may be one of the most important things you could learn.

Let's explore why...


More and more directors today are relying on CG to help them tell their stories. Not only is it often cheaper than filming it, it's often necessary for their totally outlandish stories.

Behind the Magic - The Visual Effects of 'The Avengers'

When New York city is overrun by huge alien space-fish, and a giant green man, half-robot, demi-god team needs to defend it - CG is the only way to pull this off.

And since the visuals need to blend in seamlessly with the live-action, it needs to look photorealistic. Anything less and the illusion is broken, taking the audience out of the movie.

Low-Budget Productions

Lower-budget films aren't exempt either. They rely on CG because it's often far cheaper than trying to film it.

from Stalingrad  VFX Showreel 2013

TV Shows

The TV medium has evolved, and now a fierce battle for viewers exist in the endless stream of dramas available today.

One way TV shows try to pull viewers is with high end looking productions that you'd normally only see in movies.

Game of Thrones, season 4 – Rodeo FX shot breakdowns reel

And unlike movies, if the TV show is any good, it'll run for multiple seasons resulting in continuing work for the studio and artists.


Since lots of gamers today are choosing to buy games based on the level of realism in the game, the industry is looking for new ways to achieve that next gen look. It's the reason game companies release tech demos with their trailers.

It may have little to do with how fun the game actually is, but it has everything to do with how immersed the player feels. And so for that reason, game companies are looking for talented artists who can create realistic environments and characters.

Call of Duty - Advanced Warfare Review


Advertising is changing too - many car commercials are now at least partially if not completely CG because it's often cheaper than filming it. It allows for total control over the final look.

The all-new BMW i8. Official Launch Video, Making of 'Note' for Nissan

Product Display and Arch-Viz

What used to be a photo is now CG. Believe it or not, but 75% of IKEA's catalogues are now renders.

Why? Because unlike photography, CG allows them complete control over the end result. And as other studios follow suit over the years, artists who can achieve true photorealism will be in even higher demand.

Technology advancements are even allowing for new mediums like real-time photorealistic arch-viz, allowing you to take a virtual walk through your home before it's even been built.

I'm betting that architecture studios and interior designers will soon be ordering Occulus rifts and hiring CG studios to allow their clients to take virtual walkthroughs of their potential home.

Architecture Real-time - Unreal Engine 4

So whilst it may seem like a trend, there's a really good reason artists are striving for photorealism: it helps you get a job.

ProductivityAndrew Price