If you are someone who loves watching movies like Toy Story, How To Train Your Dragon, Star Wars, Avengers, Spider Man, Avatar, Lord Of The Rings or any such movies which are based on animation and have lots of unbelievable visual elements, you must have encountered with a specific word, CGI, all the time.
CGI, the abbreviation of Computer Generated Imagery, is the application of computer graphics to use the computer generated graphics and animation mostly for motion pictures, television commercials, videos, printed media and video games.
In simple words, CGI is anything that is created digitally with the help of computers. CGI doesn’t always belong to films or entertainment purpose, but it is also applied to scientific research, modern architecture, interactive simulations, medical, engineering etc, though it is most commonly used and known for creating graphics and visual effects for motion pictures.
The tutorial based on the Angry Birds game by Moises Perez is a great example of CGI.
CGI animation is the process to use the various software to create animation, 2D or 3D, and visual effects shots for the films.
3D models and objects are created and animated using industry standard tools like Maya, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, After Effects, Toon Boom and Blender. To know about the full process of CGI animation in detail, check out an in-depth tutorial series for Animation for Beginners by Pilar Newton.
The Use of CGI
CGI is mostly used in motion pictures in the form of VFX. When CGI elements, 2D or 3D, are mixed with lived action footage, is called VFX or Visual Effects. You must have enjoyed watching the dinosaurs in the film Jurassic World. Those dinosaurs were created using the computers and then merged with the live action scene.
Following is the still from Jurassic World movie. The actor is just acting as if there is something in front of him.
This is the final composition with the CGI dinosaurs merged in the live action footage.
CGI is used tremendously in Motion Graphics. Motion Graphics is mostly seen in television. All types of channels like news channels, entertainment channels, music channels, infotainment channels etc use motion graphics.
Channel ID, Logo Animation, Openers, Titles, Lower Thirds, and so forth are made using After Effects, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max like CG software. You can find more than 24,000 motion graphics elements with the customized project files in Video Hive .
The Evolution of CGI
Perhaps you have seen King Kong (1933) where the scenes of King Kong, himself, were shot using stop motion technique. Comparing it with the Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), you will see a huge difference. In the newer version of the film, there is no use of stop motion. CGI was used to bring the Kong and dinosaurs to life.
This way CGI Kong and dinosaurs look a lot more convincing and actually move a bit more solidly than the plasticine models used in the older version of King Kong. This is only CGI which made things better and better with the time and now we can't make difference between the real and virtual.
Whether you talk about the Autobots and Decepticons in Michael Bay's Transformers or the most extravagant and gorgeous visual treat of James Cameron's Avatar, say thanks to CGI which made all this possible.
CGI has not only enhanced the visual experience but also reduced the risk factors during shoots. Check out the stunning video tutorial based on the Harry Potter's magic wand visual effects and think how CGI used in this tutorial has reduced the risk factor if this effect would be shot with the real fire and sparks.
Making Procedure of CGI Elements
The procedure to make a CGI element starts with the pre-production. First of all, the sketch of the model is drawn. To know about the drawing process in detail, check out the Digital Figure Drawing: Beyond The Basics course by Kirk Nelson.
When the drawing is finalized, it is then modelled in 3d using 3d modelling software. After that, it is rigged and animated. Check out Game Character Creation Series: Kila for the in-depth 3d modeling, texturing and rigging by the author Antony Ward. In the post production phase, it is composited with a live action footage.
The Impact of CGI
While most visual effects in movies before 1990s were used to made either by stop motion technique or actors in prosthetic suits, it wasn’t until Jurassic Park (1993) that a movie used CGI on such a large scale.
This film is considered to have first ever realistic CGI characters. Toy Story (1995) is considered the first full-length animated movie. Today CGI has become an inseparable element of film making. Whether it is Spielberg’s Avatar , Michael Bay’s Transformers series or the challenge to make a young Arnold in Terminator : Genisys, CGI is being used extensively in almost every film for producing high quality visual effects.
Not only films but television commercials are also using CGI to produce high quality shots and realistic images. Whether it is an ad for shampoo or a mobile phone, CGI is there. Watch an extensive tutorial series based on Commercial Production Series: Razer Blade Gaming Laptop to get the idea how CGI works in commercials.
The Future of CGI
Today it is difficult to imagine a film without the CGI animation. CGI has removed the bar between the real and virtual. CGI was the only hope after the unfortunate death of Paul Walker during the making of Fast and Furious 7. The unfinished scene of the late Paul Walker were recreated using the photo realistic CGI.
The similar approach has been taken for the final instalment of Hunger Games movie to bring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman back to life. Read an epic and step-by-step tutorial on how to create a photo realistic digital painting of Man Of Steel by Sheridan Johns.
With the advent of technology and tools and easy accessibility to the free and open source programs like Blender and GIMP, have allowed individual artists and small production houses to produce CGI contents without the use of real camera, lights and actors, costly and expensive sets, or props.
Using CGI has also minimized the risk factors during shoots. CGI has become an inseparable part, especially for the motion pictures and it will stay here for long. As a matter of fact, CGI is the future.