What is CGI Animation?

Techspirited Staff Oct 8, 2018
Animations have revolutionized in the long run. CGI animation technology was initially used for creating 2D images, developing to 3D computer graphics in films and televisions.
We have all laughed at the antics of 'donkey' in the movie Shrek, and loved the character of 'Woody' in the Pixar movie Toy Story. However, not many of us know the behind-the-curtains story of these animation movies, namely, the computer generated imagery.
The use of computer generated imagery, or CGI animation in movies, television, and commercial media has met with increasing success over the forty years of its development and usage. We take you through the definition and basic outline of the process of CGI animation.

Definition and Process of CGI Animation

A subset of the broad field of animation, CGI or computer-generated imagery, can be defined as the use of computers for creating moving images (animation). CGI finds applications in art, printed media, films, video games, commercials, etc. To create a CGI animation, 3D animation software tools like Maya, 3Ds Max or Blender.
The first step, called the script phase is where the script of the scene to be animated is created. In this script all the details including the background scene, character details, character poses, dialogs etc. are defined. This is to help the animators get an idea of what needs to be created so that they can plan out the procedure.
The second step, known as storyboard phase, involves creation of rough 2D drawings of the different scenes using the script. These drawings are used to help establish the different camera angles and also to get a rough idea of the environment and character positioning. Typically the animator creates a rough impression of each animated character in this step.
The third step, that is, the layout creation is where the creation of the actual graphics begins. Animators make use of the rough 2D drawings created in the previous step to design basic models of the characters and environment in each scene.
Usually the creation of detailed features such as hair color or lighting effect is omitted in this step. The positioning of each character and the camera angle in each scene, are the main points of focus in this step. The main idea here is to find out how each scene will turn out in the animations.
With the fourth step, the animation phase begins. The basic graphics generated previously are used for creating the different poses and movements. Everything from limb movements to the opening and closing of the character's mouth, according to the their dialog, is created in this step.
To add movement, a frame is created and then slightly altered to make the next one. This process is carried out repeatedly and a number of frames are made, each representing a small advancement in the desired movement of the object.
When all these frames are sequentially arranged and played at a high enough frame rate (typically 24 fps), a complete motion is obtained. This is how the process of animation is carried out. Note that the complex animations such as hair movement, and the lighting effects are left out in this step.
Once the basic animation is created and finalized, the CGI creation process moves to the fifth and final step called the final revision. In it, all the complex details such as hair, lighting, textures etc., are added to the animation and it is finalized.

Impact of CGI Animation

Cheaper than most of the other animation methods, like construction of miniatures or the use of actors or other contributors to the project, CGI animation is increasingly being used for producing high quality visual effects and realistic images.
The easy accessibility to the CGI software tools in the recent years, has enabled individual artists and small production units, to come up with content without the use of actors, expensive set pieces, or props.
While 2D CGI was first used in 1973, in the movie Westworld, it has been increasingly used over the years, in popular movies like The Jurassic Park and the Star Wars series. It was in the year 1995, that the first fully computer-generated feature film, Toy Story was released.

The Future of CGI Animation

Technological change is an inevitable part of modern life, and therein lies the uncertainty of the future of CGI animation. Although people have increasingly taken to the animated bugs, monsters and animals, it is the creation of a photo-realistic animation of humans, that still remains out of reach of present-day CGI animators.
It is the goal for most animators to be able to replicate the complex human emotions and movements in 3D animation.
However, creating a completely life-like human model, where there is no distinguishing between a particular movie sequence that is computer-generated and one that is created using real actors in front of movie cameras, seems as of yet an unachievable dream.
However, with the rapid development in computer technology, which has significantly reduced their rendering time, and has made computer generated images more realistic, CGI animation definitely seems to be the key that will one day open up a treasure of animation possibilities and visual wonders.