Google data tells me that most people today have no idea what CGI is. Every month, more than 8,000 people in the US seek an answer to this question. It wouldn’t hurt to go back to the basics and understand how CGI Backgrounds works and how it developed so more people will appreciate this relatively young art form.
CGI stands for Computer Generated Imagery
CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) is, at its core, the creation of visual content using computer software. In the film, television, and gaming industries, computers graphics are primarily used to create characters, scenes, and special effects. Besides advertising, architecture, engineering, and virtual reality, technology is also used in art.
Nowadays, CGI is widely used because it is often more cost-effective than using elaborate miniatures, hiring extras for crowd scenes, or when it’s simply not possible or safe to use real people.
Different methods are used to create CGI. Algorithms can be used to create complex fractal patterns. Images can be vectorized using 2D pixel editors. A 3D graphics program can create everything from simple primitive shapes to complex forms based on flat triangles and quadrangles. It is even possible to generate particle effects with 3D software by simulating how light reacts with surfaces.
With computer-generated imagery layered into digital film footage using a technique called compositing, CGI becomes truly exciting. Green screen is becoming more popular among people as it is often referred to as a technique.
The History of Computer Graphics
The timeline of CGI in film and television is available for those who want a chronological overview. I have compiled a list of milestones that contributed to the evolution of the CGI industry for the rest of you.
CGI dates back to the 1950’s, when mechanical computers were used to create patterns on animation cels that were incorporated into feature films. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo was the first to use CGI.
While Alfred presented the world with some 2D tricks, it wasn’t until Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke introduced 3D computer graphics in 1972 with their short film A Computer Animated Hand. Edwin drew 350 triangles and polygons in ink on his hand, then digitized and animated the data using a 3D animation program that he wrote.
Hollywood helped CGI take yet another leap forward a few years later. The first 2D CGI scene in Westworld featured “Gunslinger” vision – an interpretation of how robots see. Westworld inspired a sequel.
By rendering a 3D head with the same techniques Edwin Catmull had described, Futureworld pushed the boundaries of CGI even further. Incredibly, the studio executives used Edwin’s original hand animation in the film. Around a decade later, the Oscars recognized this work with a Scientific & Engineering Academy Award.