The term photorealistic is thrown around a lot and is often undefined. Although it seems obvious—photorealistic means something looks like a photo—the word requires a greater explanation. There are many facets to photorealism. This is true because as a CG artist, you have control over everything. Achieving 100 percent realism takes teams of people to pull off. Their combined talent is paramount, but so are their perceptions.
Different things make each one of us believe something looks real. For some, if a character moves properly, then they believe it can exist. For others, it’s the lighting that has to be perfect. Most people can’t say for sure what it is they don’t believe—they just know something doesn’t look right. Therefore, when we talk about photorealism, each step in the process needs to have its own level of expectation. CG animated family movies are a great example. The characters are intentionally stylized, but the lighting is done in a real-world fashion, giving the movie a realistic look. In this book, our goal is to look at the individual elements and establish a photorealistic foundation.