CGI is Getting So Good, You Can No Longer Trust The Interwebs (or Anything Else)

You might have seen a recent viral video that looks like it was taken on a cel phone, of UFOs darting over a deserted highway. (see below, UFO Over Santa Clarita) The quality was somewhat shaky as we would expect when the video is taken from a handheld device like a smartphone, and it looked pretty believable. Well, the entire video was done as CGI. The sky, the car, the ships… all CGI.

Now, given our scepticism around UFOs, this one was probably relatively easy for us to dismiss as a hoax, right? Well, it turns out: not exactly. The video was originally posted in late 2012 and its authenticity was debated online until the creator admitted that it was entirely digital. (Incidentally, it was created by Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas, who has worked on Titanic, Hellboy and Star Trek.) According to this article on Wired, he and a team spent 4 months designing the clip. Apparently the hardest parts were the car and the desert, since they had to be believable. The final effect was quite effective but anyone who doesn’t believe in the likelihood of UFOs appearing over the desert could be pretty quick to dismiss it.

That video and others like it prove that CGI is getting better and better. In fact, it is getting to be so good that it can be impossible to distinguish it from reality.

Consider, for instance, the following video, developed by Juraj Talcik. Take a minute and give it a view.

That stunningly realistic video is entirely CGI.

According to a post by the designers over on Behance,
Origin of this scene comes from ambitious project of creating complete classical apartment, renovated and filled with furniture in very modern style where we wanted to model everything possible inhouse, fully custom content…. 
Individual stills rendered on average for 9 hours at 3000px, with sole difference on main perspective, which was printed fullbleed on two-page spread with 6000px width and took 20 hours. For FullHD animation, individual frame at 1920x1080px rendered for 20 minutes, as we didn't have whole month to render it. More than 1000 frames were rendered for animation by two of our strongest workstations.
It took about 6 weeks to produce.

Here are some diagrams from the design process. They give a really great sense of the evolution from line drawing to realistic rendering.

All photos credit:

Isn’t it gorgeous?!
And scary?!

Now when I found this over at One Cool Thing a Day, I realized that those writers and I had the same reaction to this video: paranoia. The first thing that came to mind when I realized that this wasn't just a pretty video of a real room was: Will I ever be able to watch the news and believe any of it ever again? My brain filled up with Wag The Dog conspiracy theories. I’m a split second away from asking:
Can we believe any videos at all?
Is anything real?
We’re living in The Matrix, aren’t we?

UFO Over Santa Clarita

(Source: One Cool Thing a Day)