In 1991, James Cameron created a liquid metal shapeshifter through a combination of live-action photography and computer-generated imagery. However, in 1993, director Steven Spielberg threw down the gauntlet. Ever since Spielberg’s Jurassic Park showed us dinosaurs with weight and texture, CGI has become a necessary filmmaking tool in constructing most contemporary action/adventure television shows.
With CGI fast evolving, more and more superhero properties are now brought to life on paltry TV show budgets. Then there are pedigree dramas, such as Game of Thrones and Westworld, that, through top-shelf CGI, are able to bridge the gap between blockbusters and weekly episodes, allowing for a marriage of densely plotted stories that engage the mind and incredible thrills that dazzle the eye.
However, as far as special effects have come, there is yet to be someone who is able to manipulate the most valuable resource: time. Time to properly render effects work can be all the difference between a beautiful scene and a laughable one. If one notices some spotty CGI in a television show, it’s usually due to a lack of time than lack of talent. With certain weekly TV shows having to pump out effects-heavy episodes on a weekly basis for months on end, time is definitely not on their side.
With all that said, here are the 15 CGI Mistakes Left In TV Shows That Fans Completely Missed.
15 A Bizarre Shot of Jessica Jones in The Defenders
The Defenders was billed as the small screen answer to Marvel’s Avengers, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist uniting to defeat a common enemy that threatens New York City. It was a good idea on paper and the cast had decent chemistry. However, an ill-defined enemy and a wheel-spinning plot quashed the potential of The Defenders. It took the unique strengths of the individual shows and diluted it until it was just colourful mush. Jessica Jones said it best when she complained, “Jesus, am I the only one who doesn’t know karate?”
The CGI slackened in the later episodes too, with one particularly egregious shot of Daredevil, Jessica, and Luke about to enter an elevator.
For reasons unknown, it appears as if Jessica was copied from a different scene with different lighting and pasted into this one.
14 The Dothraki Charge in Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones season 7, while 3 episodes shorter than a normal season, was absolutely packed with epic, crowd-pleasing moments and scenes. Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”, showed us a particularly fiery event fans had been waiting years for - Daenerys riding her dragon Drogon and leading a mighty Dothraki charge in Westeros against the Lannisters. Despite the considerable build-up, this didn’t disappoint in the least.
In fact, it was so thrilling and exciting that most fans will miss a minor mistake. Drogon emerges from the back of a charge with a mighty roar, and speeds past the Dothraki in virtually no time. While a terrific demonstration of the dragon’s shock and awe, the next shot depicted Drogon slightly behind the line, creating a minor continuity error with regards to the dragon’s placement in the scene.
13 5. The Deer In The Walking Dead
Ah, the CGI deer in The Walking Dead. They are perhaps the worst special effect in recent TV history. Seemingly wandering in from the set of a cheap Bambi movie, the CGI deer completely distracted from what was otherwise shaping up to be a neat diversion from all the doom and gloom of season 7. It’s a standard filler episode, where a crew of two go out to forage for food and equipment. It's not much to write home about, other than Rick and Michone’s love story.
Then we witness the scene of Rick finding a deer about to be eaten by a group of hungry walkers. He faces a choice: give the deer a chance to escape or quickly put it out of its misery. However, it’s not much of a tense scene when it’s obvious that walkers can’t subside on a cluster of pixels.
12 Asajj Ventress’ Missing Skirt in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Initially criticized for its first batch of mediocre episodes and its Thunderbird-esque aesthetics, Star Wars: The Clone Wars evolved so rapidly within its five-year run that it became one of the most acclaimed and mature Star Wars properties in its decades-long history. The Clone Wars didn’t just focus on well-known characters like Obi-Wan and Anakin. It also gave equal depth and consideration to lesser known too. One such character was a Dark Side warrior known as Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku’s apprentice, who made her first appearance in the micro series from 2003.
Like in the micro series, Ventress’ skirt carried over to the CGI series.
However, because they quickly figured it would be too difficult to animate during the fast-paced action scenes, the skirt was quickly removed later in the episode, creating a continuity error.
11 The CGI Gunfire in Arrow
Using CGI gunfire makes a world of sense and saves a heap of headaches for all involved in the production side of things, which include spending considerably more money for safety hazards and insurance. Fr the most part, the CGI is integrated so quickly and seamlessly that viewers don’t take note of it. This when CGI is usually at its best – when it’s enhancing a scene and viewers don’t realize it.
However, eagle-eyed viewers may notice a CGI gunfire error in Arrow’s season 1 episode, “The Odyssey”. Eddie Fyers and his team open fire on Ollie and Deathstroke, but once you realize that the gunfire isn’t being reflected on any of the nearby windows or surfaces, it becomes only too obvious that it was something integrated into the scene way after the fact.
10 The Sunken Island in Lost
The final season of Lost introduced yet another juicy mystery for the fans who had not yet jumped ship: the flash sideways. Moving backward and forward in time, as if the show was piecing together the various motivations and mysteries right along with us, was the key structural element that hooked viewers in the beginning.
By season 6, there was literally nowhere to go but sideways. The first sideways scene played exactly as the first scene in the series, only with one startling difference: the island was sunken and destroyed. Such a mind-bending reveal deserved better than the treatment it got: a CGI camera weightlessly flying through the wreckage of leftover PS2 graphics. Because the lighting was so dark and the scene went by so fast, many viewers didn’t take note of it.
9 Livia Soprano in The Sopranos
The scary figure in the early years of The Sopranos wasn’t a mobster or criminal, but New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano’s mother, Livia. Narcissistic and manipulative, Livia would deftly facilitate crimes and resentment with ease. Nancy Marchand, the actress who portrayed Livia, passed away during the production of the show’s third season.
This lead to drastically altering plans for future storylines. It quite likely changed the fundamental trajectory of The Sopranos, as Livia wasn’t just a cantankerous crone - she was Tony’s foil, the reason he was in psychotherapy. While Livia didn’t pass away on-screen, she was given one more scene with Tony Soprano after the actress had passed. Re-watching the scene today, it’s clear the rudimentary CGI and re-used audio doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Her neck even appears to obey different laws of physics.
8 MJ’s passing in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series
The release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002 led to a resurgence in popularity for the wall-crawling wonder. Quick to capitalize on this, MTV produced a CGI Spider-Man series called Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Although the CG animation allowed for fluid action scenes, there were certainly limitations. For instance, every female character has short or tied-up hair, and New York is severely underpopulated, even for a cartoon show from 2003.
However, in the episode “Mind Games”, there is a dramatic moment when the formidable hunter Kraven knifes MJ and a gory sound-effect tells of a fatal wound. However, the way it’s animated, it appears as if Kraven’s knife only very lightly taps the side of her neck. The disconnect means that the moment loses nearly all impact. Even a quick cutaway from the actual act would’ve dramatically improved the scene.
7 The Demonic Mayor in Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer excelled at snappy dialogue, standalone episodes that served an overarching plotline, and developing its complex characters over a number of years. However, even die-hard fans can agree that the special effects were always phony and tough to buy. Arguably, the low-rent look was an established aesthetic of the show. However, sometimes when CGI was used instead of practical effects, it looked straight out a PlayStation 1 game.
For example, when the evil Mayor Wilkins ascended to his pure demon form at the end of season 3, an ambitious bit of CGI Buffy had never attempted.
It’s easy to point to the lack of texture, weight, and gravity concerning the demonic mayor, but observe how an inexplicable source of light (considering the scene takes place at night time) bathes the Mayor just before his transformation. That light is that bare seam meant to meld the real and the CGI.
6 A Wildling Hacking and Slashing At Thin Air in Game of Thrones
In the penultimate season of the epic fantasy drama Game of Thrones, Jon Snow lead a band of fan-favorite characters into the far frosty lands of the army of the White Walkers. It’s surely one of the most CGI-heavy episodes of television ever produced, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The spectacle was indeed something to behold, and as epic and thrilling as anything you’d see on the big screen.
However, there is one CGI error that got past the visual effects team – and most fans. When the crew find themselves surrounded at all sides by the army of the White Walkers, and the camera tracks them as they fight for their lives, notice the unnamed Wildling next to Beric Dondarrion hacking and slashing at thin air. Presumably, a Wight was meant to be inserted into that thin air.
5 The Weird Background in The Walking Dead
The zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead has never been a particularly dynamic series. The story formula is an endless rinse and repeat of the group of survivors finding new ground, some villainous d-bags and/or zombies burn that new ground to cinders either literally or metaphorically, the group searches for new ground.
Season 7 tried to spice up the formula by introducing several societies at once. One of these societies was odd in the context of a show where the apocalypse was recent: a gang of greasy primitives living in a junkyard. The Walking Dead visibly strained at having to depict even a simple junkyard. The brief shot of Rick against an obvious green screen while a mysterious black dot floats in the “background” is a low point in a season full of them.
4 The Submarine in Lost
Say what you will about its convoluted mythology and turgid middle season, but Lost surely had consistently high production values. Even by today’s standards, the Smoke Monster CGI holds up. Even when Lost couldn’t clearly depict a huge event due to a lack of time and budget, there were clever little ways the show would communicate the impact of the event without showing it in detail.
This is how we witness the surprising scene of Oceanic Flight 815 splitting apart mid-flight, but we witness it through the eyes of the Others, who were several miles away from the disaster. This makes the mistake of the submarine all the more baffling in season 5. For some reason, the choice was made to shoot a close up of the submarine diving. We could see the utter lack of texture and weight in all its embarrassing glory.
3 Oliver’s Unusually Straight Arrows in Arrow
Season 5 of Arrow took the show back to basics after the ridiculous magical shenanigans of season 3 and 4. Working to get back to the grounded take on Oliver Queen and his crusade in Star City that made the first couple of seasons such a hit, season 5 successfully breathed new life into a fading show. However, just because the world felt a little more real in season 5, that doesn’t mean CGI was completely eschewed in favour of practical stunts.
With Arrow being a CW superhero show, we can expect the CGI to get a little wonky.
Take the mid-season finale, for example, in which Ollie draws his bow and shoots a few arrows, as he does. The CGI arrows are almost mathematically straight and precise, when in reality, arrows tend to bend and twist their way toward a target.
2 The Spider Demon Dimension in Angel
Say what you will about season 4 of Angel, but one thing that makes it shine is its outstanding practical effects and CGI. A rain of fire over LA, an unstoppable hulking beast, and other apocalyptic events were beautifully rendered, making for an ambitious season of television, to say nothing of its narrative risks (which didn’t always pay off, if we remember evil Cordelia).
So, it’s somewhat surprising that when Angel enters another dimension to obtain a vital clue, it’s the worst visual effect in all of Angel. It’s not meant to elicit laughter either, it’s not a parody of a '50s sci-fi movie – rather, it seems to have been lifted straight from one. David Boreanaz standing around confusedly in this pre-viz looking CGI void indicates that the budget was blown on this season 10 episodes ago.
1 Spider-Man: The New Animated Series Constantly Re-used Web Swinging Animation
There was a lot that set Spider-Man: The New Animated Series apart from other cartoon adaptations of the web slinger. Firstly, it was - and is - darker than other Spider-Man cartoons, as it emphasizes adult themes and emotions. Secondly, the main friendship between MJ, Harry Osborn and Peter Parker, though it never had a chance to develop fully, had the cadence of a back-and-forth banter that favoured realism over melodrama. It was an underrated quality that the show possessed.
However, in one way, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series was indeed similar to every other Spider-Man TV show, in that the animators would often re-use Spider-Man’s web swinging animation to save money and time. Although this wasn’t as egregiously used as it was in Spider-Man (1994), it was still a distraction in what was otherwise a well animated show.
Any CGI errors in other popular TV shows that you've noticed? Let us know in the comments!