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What is CGI Animation?

written by: Avionne Akanbi•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 12/9/2010

We have all been either mesmerized or frightened by 3D CGI animation. With the success of films like Avatar, Toy Story, and Pixar's Shrek, many people are accustomed to CGI animation. If you are either an animation buff or an emerging animator, you are undoubtedly familiar with CGI animation.

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    The Traditional Way of Animating

    We all remember traditional animation, which was done with hand drawn art. A group of animators illustrated and colored the images on celluloid. The celluloid was transparent sheets, where the hand drawings were transferred. Each of these "cells", as they were called, were then photographed individually with a super 8 or Oxford camera. Whew ! Lots of work? Well with time, technology has allowed animators to use CGI or Computer Generated Imagery to replace the "painful" time consuming work of the past.

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    Is CGI the New Animation Trend?

    CGI ANIM 2 What is CGI animation exactly? It is simply a technique that uses software to mimic the animation tools of the past. CGI animation has different segments that include two dimensional, three dimensional and web animation. Computer Generated Imagery involves creating multiple frames of a drawing and assigning keyframes, with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Don't get me wrong of course, the work is not as simple as it sounds. The animator still has to create the animated character or scene, either traditionally by hand drawing one image, or creating it from scratch with the computer. The main difference is instead of thousands of drawings, you can now use a handful which are duplicated with your software program. You can then manipulate the images to form the animation.

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    Web CGI Animation

    CGI ANIM 4 This animation is often used within websites and various online webinars or presentations. The most popular type of web animation is an animated gif. This is done with a series of images that are saved as gif files and then play as one file, in a web browser. The image, for example could be a sad to happy face. Each image is different stages of the face changing. A software such as Macromedia Flash is used to import all of the images and output the finished animated gif file. Another popular CGI animation, that is used online is animated avatars. These are usually either a scene or a character that uses a couple of frames, as well, to create a simple movement. Both the animated gif and animated avatar, are very light in file size specifically for the web. You can also do a number of other useful things with CGI scripts.

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    Three Dimensional Animation

    CGI ANIM 3 This is the most popular form of CGI animation that we are familiar with. Maya, Lightwave and 3D Studio Max, are the industry standard tools that are used to create character models, environments and textures. The technique to create an animated character begins with a model. Unlike 2D, the animator must now lift the image off the the paper, and begin to see it in a three dimensional space. A human model may be initially formed in clay, with all the details of texture and form. Then this model is duplicated by the animator with the 3D software tools.

    CGI animation is definitely here to stay. If you are an emerging animator, you definitely want to incorporate CGI animation, especially 3D into your tutorial plans for the next couple of years.

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    Image Credits