Directors, stop saying there's no CGI in your movies

An image from Barbie the Movie
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

There was no CGI in Oppenheimer, right? Nor in Barbie. That's the impression that's been given about two of the biggest movies of the season. There's been a reaction against visual effects and it seems to have become something of a fashion for filmmakers to boast that they made their films the 'old-fashioned way'. 

It's perhaps understandable that, amid the explosion of AI image generation, the idea of making something without computer assistance is becoming attractive again. But it's not true, visual effects artists say. If Barbie used no CGI or VFX, why does the film have such a long list of visual effects artists in the credits? (and those are just the ones that got a credit). See our pick of the best video editing software if you're looking for software for your own work.

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The filmmaker and VFX supervisor Hugh Guerra wrote a post on Twitter in response to a Guardian article that was headlined '"It’s exactly as they’d have done it in the 1910s": how Barbenheimer is leading the anti-CGI backlash'. The article had commented on a spate of recent films using practical effects and prosthetics instead of CGI.

"If you bothered to watch Barbie until the end credits you would have discovered that the film which you claim has 'almost no CGI or VFX’ has a credit list of 207 VFX artists and 5 VFX companies." He said that three out of five companies listed had missing credits, so the complete number of artists would be longer. "Just like Oppenheimer and Mission Impossible, these films have hundreds of invisible VFX and CGI," he added.

Guerra's tweet provoked comments from VFX artists who worked on the film, including some who didn't get a name check in the credits. "People have no idea how broad the term 'VFX shot' is. There is no movie made today without VFX," one person replied. Someone else suggested "'Almost no CGI' tends to mean 'good CGI'. 'Almost no VFX' just doesn’t even really mean anything."

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Some have suggested that it's a great compliment for the quality of the visual effects in the films if reviewers can't tell that they aren't real. However, others raise concerns that the so-called 'VFX-backlash' downplays the importance and contribution of VFX artists to film, which can provide an excuse to cut budgets, leading to poor VFX, which ends up being what people think VFX is.

"It's so sad to see how underappreciated VFX artists are. Especially since studios are being sucked dry and then when the effects are “subpar” they blame it on the artists without having any context," one person wrote. "VFX artists have given us some of the most iconic moments in cinema."

Feeling Barbie mania? See our pick of the best moments from the Barbie movie marketing build-up or Glamour's controversial Barbie-inspired AI magazine cover. If you're looking at upgrading your own video-editing setup, see our pick of the best laptops for video editing and the best monitors for video editing.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.