You know, we got quite a few complaints about our alien city from Millennium Crisis (which is available at most Best Buy stores but right not is not available yet in Manhattan -- you have to go to Jersey or Staten Island to get it) and my response was "Well, I thought it looked as good as the city in the title sequence of Battlestar Galactica" to which I'd get a "yeah, I guess it does."
And that brings me to 1. Today's Theory and 2. Why Today's Theory is wrong.
Fake cities always look fake because real cities look fake. Real cityscapes look painted because of the occlusion of the atmosphere between you and the city. Looking at Manhattan from Brooklyn is a classic example of how... the city... looks fake. They look like a matte painting.
And not necessarily a good matte painting.
And the weirder the buildings -- the faker it looks.
When I was in High School my dad took me down to Florida during my Spring Break to a jobsite -- the building of Epcot Center at Disney World. It was pretty amazing to look at -- all those huge and crazy buildings all going up at once. And from a distance, they looked fake.
So: real buildings look fake, of course fake buildings look fake.
Why Today's Theory is Wrong:
Ian, who made our robot for us, disproves my theory. The image above is from his latest feature.
The image not only comes off as totally photo-real, but it also looks real. Which are two different things.
The lighting and the texture are perfect. Perhaps the real and photographed foreground helps the image be more real? Perhaps the matched atmospheric occlusion (yes, I've started talking that way) between the background of the photographed image matches the composite?
I have no idea.
But it just looks right. And therefore my theory is wrong. (Furthermore, CGI in the daytime is the hardest though. Because you can see everything.)
One day we're going to throw enough money at Ian and get him on visual effects on a Pandora Machine picture...