How the CW Network Pushes the Limits of CGI


When pushing the limits of CGI television show creators cannot be satisfied with mere recreations of streets and buildings anymore. Now they strive to capture a big part of what makes Hollywood blockbusters so successful. On the forefront of those creators, we find one network in particular: The CW Network. It defines itself lately with its new promotion: ‘The CW: Dare to Defy.”

The CW Network is an American television network owned both by the CBS and Warner Bros. The network had its breakthrough in the television landscape in recent years with its action/sci-fi programming and shows like Arrow or Supernatural. When thinking about the CW Network we cannot but associate it with CGI. From those angels falling from the sky in Supernatural to the slow-motion fight between Barry Allen aka The Flash and Reverse Flash in Barry’s past, going through the fine team of time travelers in Legends of Tomorrow, it is obvious that the network is pushing onto our screens some of the best CGI we have ever seen on television.

Advances in CGI make this kind of storytelling possible.

The flash Running
When it comes to those things keep in mind that what drives the shows is, first and foremost, the narrative and the characters. Even though special effects don’t define characters most of the CW’s series are based on DC Comics’ material a medium in which super powers are extremely common and the more they exist the crazier they become. Transferring this to screen is no small task. Super powers do define characters but actors cannot act with them. What makes us believe in those powers and monsters like The Flash’s extraordinary speed or Firestorm’s fire body is the clever and somewhat realistically grounded use of CGI.

We can see characters we’ve only imagined up until now.

To achieve this level of credibility in their work the special effects teams of the CW work a little bit differently. They also have at their disposal so many great technical tools such as a machine that allows an actor’s face and body to be photographed from every angle and then completely recreated digitally. This machine is called the Light Stage and it analyses how light is reflected on an element in real life in order to create a digital clone. If we look at The Flash’s Giant monkey… or ape: Grodd for example, the team was told earlier on that such fully computer generated character will be needed at a later point in the show.

Armen Kevorkian, The Flash’s visual effects chief argues that the workflow inside The Flash’s production is really effective as the writers and producers give them enough heads-up regarding VFX heavy scenes. The team then had a lot more time to create the perfect giant-ape-monster which turned out to be astonishing. Seeing this level of realism and detail in a TV show had a lot of us wondering what could be next.


The CW has made a marked commitment to these kinds of shows.

As written previously, the CW Network had its big breakthrough around 2012 to 2015 with the introduction of several shows, like Arrow, catering more towards the 18–24 demographic. However the shift really happened during the 2014–2015 premiere with three critically acclaimed shows: The Flash, iZombie and Jane the Virgin. The following year premiered similarly acclaimed shows: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the third installment in the Arrowverse DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend both won a Golden Globe Award.

As the CW Network’s fall premiere is well underway we cannot wait to see how these shows will once again push the boundaries of CGI on TV and amaze us all. Lookout for the Arrowverse which will surely showcase the most CGI as it is now made of 4 shows, Supergirl being the latest addition to the roster.

Arrow airs on Wednesday at 8|7c, The Flash on Tuesday at 8|7c, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on Thursday at 8|7c and Supergirl on Monday at 8|7c.

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