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CGI artist Cheng Wei Liao creates outstanding NYC skyline in 'Isn't It Romantic'
Cheng Wei Liao has spent his life enchanted by the limitless opportunities presented by the movies. As a child in Taiwan, he dreamed of a day where he could put his own touch on a film, but he found little support in a country where the medium is strictly a form of entertainment rather than a viable career option.

He decided to pursue his studies in computer science, despite lacking a passion for it. However, his life all changed when he first saw Iron Man. It was a film that showed just what was possible with the help of visual effects, and Liao knew in that moment that he could combine his knowledge in computers and his passion for filmmaking to pursue a career in CGI. Now, over 10 years later, he is an industry-leading CGI artist, living his childhood dream.

Millions around the world have seen Liao's outstanding work, even if they don't know it. He has worked on countless music videos, including the viral hits "Look What You Made Me Do" and "…Ready for It?" by Taylor Swift, and "In My Blood" by Shawn Mendes. On the big screen, he has put his masterful touch on films like the Oscar Winner A Star is Born and, more recently, the hit Isn't It Romantic.

Starring comedic powerhouse Rebel Wilson, Isn't It Romantic follows New York City architect Natalie, who works hard to get noticed at her job but is more likely to be asked to deliver coffee and bagels than to design the city's next skyscraper. And if things weren't bad enough, Natalie, a lifelong cynic when it comes to love, has an encounter with a mugger that renders her unconscious, waking to discover that her life has suddenly become her worst nightmare, a romantic comedy, and she is the leading lady. The film has an all-star cast, which includes Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, and Priyanka Chopra.

"The whole story is funny, and Rebel Wilson's acting is the perfect fit for this film. I like how the director tried a different way to describe a romance. Also, there are a lot of color choices on the costumes, environments, and lighting to make this film beautiful and delightful. The most important thing is, this film is a perfect example of how CGI works seem invisible and natural in a film. There are a lot of scenes made up from CGI works, but at the same time the audience wouldn't be able to tell. That is the goal we want to reach, and I believe we did it," said Liao.

Working with Ingenuity Studios, Liao was chosen as CG lead on the film because of his outstanding ability to excel at multiple tasks, such as 3D tracking, modeling, shading, and lighting for a CG environment. As the CG lead for this project, he assisted in setting up standard files for most of the CG elements, including the digital cameras, CG models, and lighting rig for other artists to work on. On top of that, he also helped the junior artists work on the shots, and overcome any technical issues they encountered.

Liao's largest task, however, was creating a fantasy New York City in a sequence of shots. The entire shot would be visual effects, including famous buildings like the Empire State and the Chrysler Building. On top of the buildings, he and his team had to rebuild the entire street with all the other props, such as the traffic lights, trash cans, trees, etc. The amount of work was substantial, as was the pressure to make sure it was executed perfectly to ensure the audience felt truly transported to The Big Apple, but Liao was thrilled to be taking on such a task.

"The fun part of this project is mainly the art style the director chose. Because of the story, the elements of this film and the lighting, it felt like living in a fantasy world. In order to approach the expectation of the director, I used more saturated colors and more aggressive design on some CG props, which was pretty rare for me and therefore very distinctive among all my experiences. It benefited me from gaining a lot practice of color selection and combination. This is why I enjoyed working on this project so thoroughly," said Liao.

Isn't It Romantic was released in theatres around the world in February of 2019, receiving rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It grossed over $20 million in its first weekend at the box office and continued its success for weeks after its release. Liao is extremely proud of what he achieved.

"I was satisfied when I saw that the final images came out nicely. I feel the hard work we put into the CGI NYC was worth it and it works well with the cinematography. The film expresses a lot of joy and interesting romance to audiences and the visual impact brought out those feelings even more which makes me feel a real sense of accomplishment," he said.

Be sure to check out Isn't It Romantic to get many good laughs and to appreciate Liao's CGI work.

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