Have you ever wondered why the animated movies of today look so different from those made back in the 20th century? It’s mainly because the technology and animation techniques used in the past were traditional. Almost all of the big blockbuster animated movies and mainstream cartoons now use CGI animation.
So, what is CGI animation? CGI animation is a process wherein animated images are produced by computers. Computer-generated imagery or CGI is just that. But what role does CGI animation have in making movies? There are many applications of CGI in movies, not just in cartoons but also in live-action films.
Quick History on CGI Movies
Before diving into what is CGI animation’s role in the movies of today, here’s a quick look at how it actually shaped the movie industry. You might actually be surprised to find out how it was used in the past and how it connects to the movie industry of today.
CGI in Feature Films
You might be expecting the first use of CGI animation is in a cartoon movie but actually, it was in a sci-fi film in the 70s, Westworld. Of course, before this, there were already experiments with the use of CGI in other projects long before the best laptop for animation was even available. However, Westworld was the first feature film in entertainment history to use it.
At first, CGI animation would be used for removing backgrounds or improving landscapes, but as the film industry developed, it was then used for making actual characters. From 90s Casper the friendly ghost to movie blockbuster Avatar, these characters were made with CGI.
CGI Animated Cartoons
Back in the day, cartoons were painstakingly drawn one frame at a time. Every movement, from walking and talking, all had to be drawn by artists. But with CGI, the industry of making cartoons was changed.
When a cartoon character looks flat, it’s 2D. But just because it is 2D, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is not CGI. The first important move in the cartoon industry was moving from pen and paper to computer software. Soon, there are computer software that are used for more than just drawing characters but also making them move through pivot points and more.
When a cartoon has depth, it’s 3D. Before 3D CGI animation came about, the way to have 3D animation without the use of a computer is through stop motion. Usually made out of clay, these characters or objects have a 3D space, they are fuller and not flat. The very first full-length animated film made with 3D CGI animation is Toy Story, which was made in 1996.
CGI Animation Uses in Movies
Today, it’s pretty hard to find a movie, especially mainstream ones, that don’t make use of CGI. It can be very subtle, you might not even notice it, but CGI animation has a huge role in the movie industry.
CGI animation is usually used for things that cannot be made, that can’t, or don’t exist. It can further cement the term “movie magic.” Here are just some ways CGI animation is used in movies:
Bringing Characters to Life
Aside from cartoon characters, CGI animation is huge for creating titular characters, funny sidekicks, extras, and more. Although characters in sci-fi movies can be created by hand, it’s a whole other story to make them move. For example, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or the alien characters of the Star Wars franchise.
Not only does CGI animation cut costs when making movies but it can actually improve the overall story or what a movie can offer. Some movies require crowds and this can be a real hassle to do, from being able to round up actors and actually require them to do what they need to do. Not to mention having to pay for dozens, hundreds, or thousands. With technology, crowds can be added with CGI.
Creating Virtual Worlds
Doing props and sets for movies that are literally out of this world can take a lot of time and funds. However, the creative genius or vision of a director can be “drawn” with the use of CGI. Just imagine if you have a film that occurs underwater, it will take forever, can be a logistics nightmare, or is downright unfeasible to shoot as is. With CGI, it can become possible.
CGI is more than just about adding effects or putting in something new. It can actually remove things that need to be hidden. For example, if there are objects or characters that need to appear floating, when this is shot, there are usually wires. With the help of CGI, the wires are removed and can give the perfect illusion of floating or being in space.
There might also be some movies that need to replace a certain body part or even a face of a character. Maybe an actor is not comfortable with certain scenes, this can be solved with the help of a body double and CGI.
What is CGI animation again? Computer-generated imagery is effects or images that are made with the use of computer software. It is used in a wide range of applications and industries, such as medicine, architecture, engineering, gaming, and more.
CGI animation, however, has a very unique use in the entertainment industry. In movies and TV shows, CGI animation is the “magic.” It creates what needs to be created, want can’t be made by hand or with materials at hand. It cuts costs, it saves time and money, but more importantly, it offers possibilities of things that you might only exist in your imagination.