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How do movies depict hyper-realistic dinosaurs?

For most of us, our perception of how dinosaurs looked comes from movies. When it comes to dinosaurs and films, Jurassic Park is the first thing to come to mind. The franchise popularized this ancient creature. However, since then, there have been a plethora of movies, both animated and live-action, that portray dinosaurs in a different light. On the one hand, we have Jurassic Park movies that most of the time demonize the creature. On the other hand, we have 2-D animated films, such as Fantasia and The Land Before Time. 

Apart from this, books also provide valuable information regarding various species of dinosaurs. If you find a discrepancy between dinosaurs in movies and reality, do not be surprised. Movies tend to portray dinosaurs in a way that fulfills their storyline. For instance, in Jurassic World, we see the dinosaurs as scary creatures running after humans. Sometimes, movies tend to misrepresent the behavior of the animal, such as the sounds they made. Such a portrayal makes for an excellent story but does no justice to the creatures in real life.

However, it is not to say that movies do not portray dinosaurs realistically. As technology improves, the depiction of these animals in films has also improved. From primitive techniques, such as stop motion, to more complex methods, such as CGI, moviegoers have the chance to grasp how dinosaurs were in real life.

Here are a few techniques, used over time, to depict dinosaurs in movies:


Stop motion was a common technique for special effects before the 1990s. King Kong (1933) was the first time dinosaurs were seen on film. It is not the only reason that the film was popular for. At the time, the movie was a masterpiece for using special effects. Since film and animation weren’t as advanced as today, filmmakers used stop motion to create scenes. They used miniatures of the T-rex dinosaur and King Kong. The movements of the dinosaur and the gorilla were replicated by the miniatures. 

These scenes were then blended with real people through a technique called compositing. It is what did the trick. Stop motion is a technique that is used today as well in animated films. However, we don’t perceive them as stop motion because of the increase in frame speed.

2-D animated movies

Before Pixar and Disney took to 3-D movies using CGI, 2-D animated films used techniques similar to stop motion. A single shot in 2-D movies has several drawings. 

2-D animation also makes use of computer simulation. The artists draw out the keyframes, referring to the drawings. A computer then animates the movements between these keyframes. A single shot contains about twenty drawings. The drawings for 2-D animations by hand, which are scanned into a computer. Artists start with the basic structure of a creature or character. They fill in the details and go over the drawing with a pencil or pen. The production team adds additional details using a computer.


Computer-generated Imagery, more commonly known as CGI, is a technique used for animations. Many movies involving special effects use CGI to create out-of-this-world scenes. Jurassic Park was among the first movies to use CGI with live-action. 

An article by Business Insider explains what CGI is in simple terms. The article explains that CGI is similar to stop motion. However, instead of hand drawings, CGI makes use of drawings on a computer. 

To create the CGI images in Jurassic Park, the visual effects team began with various hand drawings of the dinosaurs. These drawings helped in making a prosthetic model. With the help of a laser, the 3-D prosthetic model was fed into the computer. The dinosaur was reconstructed with software.

After completing the basic structure of the animal, it is animated. Various movements of the animal are simulated. Details are then added, such as the skin and color. The low-resolution “wireframes” are then converted to high resolution. At the time, computing power was not as advanced as it is today. Hence, it required a longer time to bring the dinosaurs to real life. The animated dinosaur is adjusted into the scene. This process is called compositing.  

There is no doubt that Jurassic Park set the bar for visual effects when it came out. Because of advanced computing power and availability of various software, CGI looks different from what it was in the 90s. CGI has improved tremendously. It is even present in films we would not think to require it. Apart from animating different creatures, CGI can help bring history back to life. It can also help in creating jaw-dropping backdrops. There is no limit to what it can do to create effects that amaze moviegoers.

Costumes and Animatronics

Dinosaur costumes have been used in movies and TV to depict dinosaurs. The dinosaur costumes are not your average inflatable costumes used to represent dinosaurs. These are sophisticated pieces that use technology to allow the animal to move and make noise. With an experienced operator, one can expect to experience the real behavior of a dinosaur.

You may find dinosaur costumes at theme parks and other places., realistic dinosaurs costumes, offer depictions of dinosaurs using animatronic technology. Animatronics refers to using electronics to create 3-D movements in a costume. Many films use this technology. Jurassic World is reported to have more dinosaur animatronics than the movies before it. The movie will blend animatronics with CGI.

Costumes, however, have few limitations. They don’t allow a range of motion, making it difficult to shoot scenes in movies. Moreover, skilled operators are required to operate the dinosaur costume. Hence, they must be aware and know how to replicate the behavior of the dinosaurs. CGI is the preferred technique for animating and filming dinosaurs. However, filmmakers are now using techniques that involve animatronics with CGI.


Filmmaking has improved significantly over the last decade. CGI has especially changed the landscape. However, it should not prevent us from appreciating the techniques and methods used by old filmmakers to bring characters to life. These techniques show the ingenuity of filmmakers and show that anything can be done.

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