CGI: many people – especially those in the photographic, film and visual effects industries – know what it is. But what the letters stand for (computer-generated imagery) is nothing compared to what they actually mean. That is precisely what TRG has set out to discover. 

During their downtime at the studio, photographers are encouraged to play, and this “recess” time affords the opportunity to not only learn what their CGI software is capable of, but what each photographer is capable of as well. CGI Specialist Doug Kiley is one of those lucky kids on the playground, and I had the opportunity to sit and chat with him about the artistic process behind his creation, the first installment of the TRG blog series “CGI Playtime.”

The Concept

The TRG Reality team decided ahead of time that the subject of the pieces they were going to create for the series would be the company logo, but when Kiley sat down to begin manipulating the object, he quickly realized that he didn’t have a clear vision of where he wanted to go. As he was mulling over the various ideas, a song popped into his mind, and that’s when he had it: the concept of a journey. The exploration of the software, the creation process, and the execution of the product are all parts of the voyage into a world of infinite options. “Hmm…” Kiley wondered to himself. “I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey the other night. I got it: monolith.” And thus his trek began. 

The Process

As I sat next to him at his computer, I watched Kiley manipulate the simple gray block letters of the logo across a slate-colored plane, the lifeless image lackluster to the point of inducing sleep. And then he gave the logo life. Kiley became animated as he walked me through the creative process. I felt as if I was inside his mind watching the animation come to life. He spoke of the colors he considered, the way the shadows would play off of the surface of the logo, the texture of the letters, and as he continued to explain I too felt excited and intrigued by the seemingly endless possibilities. “I had the image in my head, and so I ran with it,” he said, almost breathlessly as he readied the final product on his screen and handed me a pair of headphones.

The Unveiling

The screen was black. I heard the horns of that most famous of theme songs trumpeting their approach. The light, as if from the dawn, slowly began to fill the screen, and from the shadows, a huge monolith slipped into view. I was taken aback by how immense Kiley managed to make the image appear. Though I was looking at a computer screen, I felt as if I was standing below the massive structure, squinting as I gazed up towards the unknown. The object began to rotate, and as it did, gleams of light glided over the buttery metallic surface. The tricky camera angles didn’t allow for me to completely take in what I was looking at as I was teased with a series of close-ups of the smooth façade. Alas, just as the music reached its crescendo, the mysterious and formidable image was reveled to be…the TRG logo. Cue the applause, both on the sound track and my own. The playful tongue-in-cheek humor in which Kiley both celebrated and lampooned the logo was impeccably comical. I laughed as I handed the headphones back to him, which is when it dawned on me: I had just experienced something.