Why Christopher Nolan Avoids Using CGI So Much

Although he’s not against CGI, Nolan isn’t fond of using it in his movies and definitely doesn’t rely on it for the visual effects he wants to achieve. Nolan has chosen to minimize the use of CGI for special effects in his movies and instead uses it as a tool to enhance his use of practical effects and what he has already photographed in camera. Nolan has even explained that he believes there’s “an absolute difference between animation and photography”, and no matter how advanced and sophisticated CGI is, if it doesn’t come from a physical element and you haven’t shot anything, then “it’s going to feel like animation”. Visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, who worked with Nolan in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Inception, told Wired in 2010 that Batman Begins and Inception had only about 620 and 500 shots of visual effects, which is minor compared to most sci-fi movies with around 1500-2000 VFX shots, as their goal was to “build on the existing reality that’d already been filmed”.

Scenes like the zero-gravity one in Inception, the truck flipping in The Dark Knight, and even most scenes in Interstellar are all the result of camera tricks, projections, special sets, and more, which only make them more fascinating and entertaining. Nolan’s use of practical effects and minimal CGI also has an impact on the actors on set, as it makes it a lot easier for them to act like they are in certain places and situations when these are as real as possible, rather than having to imagine them as they will be added in post-production. This also elevates Christopher Nolan’s work as there are many scenes in his movies that are truly impressive achievements with no help of CGI, and using this as an enhancer of what he already shot is an excellent approach to it.

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