A Look at CGI and Motion Capture for Poker Scenes in Movies

The combination of a thrilling movie plot, a mysterious character, and risky gambling element has always been a huge hit with movie-goers. There is something about watching individuals around a table playing a casino game that can evoke a number of emotions. Will they be lucky and win? Will they lose everything on a gamble that was far too risky to make? Will the odds favor the brave?

With those questions in mind, it is easy to see how emotionally invested audiences can become when seeing it on the big screen. Hence, it is no surprise that many filmmakers and directors look to incorporate the games into their plots.


It used to be as simple as having actors portray the emotions of the game and play it as if they were genuinely involved. Still, things have since evolved to new levels, especially with the advancements experienced across technology. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and Motion Capture technologies have come to the forefront of the movie industry and have propelled new creations to extraordinary heights.

How has CGI and Motion Capture Tech Helped Poker Scenes Improve?

As alluded to, poker is one of the top casino games that help to create emotion and form connections with viewers. Those watching become invested in the game being played and are gripped with each hand dealt. The classic game also provides so much more than just the gameplay itself. The best directors will make sure the actors really show the emotions that can be experienced when playing. They need to portray how every decision matters. Through facial expressions, body language, as well as lighting, music, and even camera angles, actors in collaboration with the filmmakers can help allude to what the characters are thinking and feeling, tactics and mind games that might be taking place, and what is coming next.

Motion Capture technology can help bring these emotions to life, especially for actors who do not have first-hand experience playing in tense poker situations. For example, cameras and special sensors that are used to capture any movements and facial expressions can later be analyzed on a computer and translated into 3D models.

These can then be used to animate game sequences and make them as realistic as the director wants them to be. “Casino Royale” was one instance where this technology was used, as Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond was given the treatment to ensure a realistic poker game was being played against Mads Mikkelsen’s character Le Chiffre.

It should not come as a shock to see that technology has played a role in creating a realistic poker game, as the internet has allowed players to experience realistic and authentic experiences themselves. Special cameras and tracking software is used to ensure fairness and a genuine session. At the same time, CGI can also be experienced by those who play in live tournaments, as they will be able to see different images and backgrounds.

CGI has also been used for poker games that are played in the movies. Filmmakers used to use cameras to capture the cards being dealt, but technology has made this process a lot easier and less time-consuming to get right. Directors are now able to use CGI to create any scenario that they want with the cards that are dealt, while they can also have the freedom to do anything they want with them, too. The technology has also allowed audiences to see the thought process behind the decisions that are being made. For instance, in the film “Rounders,” Matt Damon’s character was shown to be working out his strategy, allowing viewers to understand what he wanted to do.

CGI’s use has also allowed for more adventurous gameplay setups regarding the tables that are used, while also offering more intricate playing scenarios. Rather than being limited to a real poker table’s layout, filmmakers can create unique designs and styles, making every game unique. This can help to add to the excitement that can be experienced when being watched.

Tech’s revolutionary ways

It is no secret that technology has revolutionized the film industry in various ways, especially with the invention and development of CGI and Motion Capture. However, it is incredible to see how poker games have benefited when part of a movie plotline. With games already seemingly realistic and authentic, it will be interesting to see where we go next, especially as technology shows no signs of slowing down.

Written by Austin Crane

Austin is the principle web director for Untamed Science and Stone Age Man. He is also the web-director of the series for the High School biology, Middle Grades Science and Elementary Science content. When Austin isn't making amazing content for the web, he's out on his mountain bike or in a canoe.

You can follow Austin Crane