Misconceptions of CGI and 3D Animation

When the term “CGI” is used, it’s mostly associated with the newer releases of animated films and visual effect shots in movies, usually in comparison to traditional hand-drawn animation, or the use of practical effects. 

People tend to think that CGI, or Computer-Generated Imagery is replacing the original means of film production solely because it’s easier. However, that’s not the case with most movies. While it can be less difficult on the set, that doesn’t mean it’s less time consuming or requires less skill. Nor does it mean the end result should be any less impressive. 

Despite what the name could lead you to believe, CGI is far from “generated.” It takes many people specialized in several different fields to produce a result. Firstly, there’s the 3D modelers, these are the people that create assets, scenes, and characters from scratch. Then it moves on to the rigging process; this can be best understood by picturing it as giving the models a movable skeleton, so they can be controlled. After that, the animators come in (this is the field that I specialize in), and we take the completed character rig and bring it to life through motion, each scene must go through numerous drafts through the director before it’s final. Rendering takes place shortly after, this is where the computer does most of the work, it calculates all the light bounces, materials, and how they interact with each other visually. Finally, there’s compositing, this is what is essentially applying a special filter to the image, to make colors pop more, or to make a certain effect stand out. 

That’s the main process for creating a 3D animation simplified. On occasions, there’ll be additional positions, such as placing these digital effects onto real-life footage or designing specific materials for close-up shots. In a case where something is needed, that is too complex or specific, something entirely new will have to be created. An amazing example is Interstellar, released by Paramount Pictures in 2014. They needed a shot of a black hole, and instead of starting with an artist’s concept, they went to a physicist, and they got the math of how light would react with a black hole. After that, Paramount hired people to build an entire render engine, specifically to handle that math and create an image out of it. 

In conclusion, CGI artists still have to be creative and innovative with their work, they still have to overcome obstacles. In the end, they’re the ones doing the work, not the computer like many people have been led to believe.  

Work Cited : Rodgers, Adam, 2014, Wrinkles in Spacetime The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar, wired.com, 11/10/19 

Author: Samuel S

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