What is CGI? Defining the Term

by Katelynn Mitchell
Read time: 3 min
Posted 22 March 2021

CGI takes a huge part of most movies in modern film industry. Films like Avatar, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and the remake of Disney's Beauty and the Beast are one of the best examples of the lifelike CGI.

Let's start with the exact definition.


avatar-cgi-2021 RUMOR: Avatar 2 Is That Much Closer To Becoming Reality" by BagoGames is licensed under CC BY 2.0

CGI(short for computer-generated imagery) is the use of computer graphics to augment or create images in art and media. What does CGI stand for? CGI stands for the computer generated imagery. These can be 2D or 3D animations, objects, or renderings in a film, television program, video game, or simulation. CGI can be used in films ranging from science fiction epics to quiet intimate dramas. How the CGI is used varies, from animating entire locations to subtle work on props or environments. In recent years, CGI has been the go-to visual effect for most major movies, whether its use is subtle or obvious. 

How it's made

Pirates-of-the-carribean-davy-jones Bill Nighy transformed into Davy Jones for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Disney

Huge part of CGI is VFX work. CGI most commonly refers to the 3D models of people, animals, buildings, explosions, transport and many other things put into a live-action scenario, such as Iron Man crashing through two floors of his penthouse, or a typical explosion caused by a car crash. And the beauty of it is that CGI effects are possible with any budget.
CGI is used extensively used these days because: 
1. It is often cheaper to create a 3D model compared to the physical one.
2. It is not safe or humanly possible to create.

The History of CGI

The creation of CGI goes as far back as 1950s, when various movie companies were experimenting and slowly developing the world of computer animation. 
The first movie which used CGI was Vertigo (1958) filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. As years were passing by and computers evolved, CGI took a huge step forward in 1973 by creating digital viewpoints in the movie Westworld.

Evolving of CGI

How Pixar's Animation Has Evolved / Insider
The rules of good CGI in film industry in the '80s were dictated by movies like TRON(1982), The Last Starfighter(1984) and The Abyss(1989).
AS '90s rolled in and computers became more advanced, it allowed CGI creators to start making what seemed impossible at the time. Movies like Terminator II; Judgment Day(1991), Toy Story(1995) and The Matrix(1999) are great examples of what CGI was capable of at the time. Toy Story became known as the first movie done completely with CGI.
As for the 21st century, there were too many good CGI movies to keep track of. CGI is now used in every movie - even ones you don't think have them. And some movies like the ones from Marvel or Transformers have up to 90% of its scenes done with CGI.


CGI is the must-have feature of any Hollywood movies nowadays. When well done, it will only improve the film and make the picture more engaging and pleasing to the eye. Whether you love it or hate it, the technique has been evolving for over 60 years and it will only grow more from here.

Preview picture Neytiri, left,(voice of Zoe Saldana) and Jake(Sam Worthington in 2009's Avatar.


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