What is CGI Animation: Tech, History, & Apps

Published: October 11, 2023

Imagine a world where anything can come to life through the magic of computers. That’s precisely what CGI animation is all about! CGI stands for Computer-Generated Imagery, and it’s a technique used to create unique animated sequences using powerful computer software.

In the entertainment industry, CGI animation has revolutionized the way movies, TV shows, and video games are made. With CGI, filmmakers and artists can bring imaginary creatures, breathtaking landscapes, and jaw-dropping special effects to the big screen. 

Suppose you want to truly understand what is CGI animation; think of your favorite superhero movie or animated film. In that case, chances are, CGI played a crucial role in making it look so realistic and captivating, and that is the true essence of CGI technology.

The demand for CGI animation is skyrocketing. People love to be transported to new worlds and experience adventures through stunning visuals. As a result, there is a growing need for skilled CGI animators who can bring these digital worlds to life. 


CGI animators are experts in using specialized software to create lifelike characters, dynamic movements, and mesmerizing environments. If you’re interested in becoming a CGI animator, there are fantastic courses available to help you master the art. 

By enrolling in the best CGI animation courses, you can kickstart your journey toward a thrilling career in the world of computer-generated animation.

So, get ready to explore the limitless possibilities of CGI animation and unleash your creativity in the digital realm!

What is CGI Animation Technology?

So what is CGI? CGI Animation Technology, short for Computer-Generated Imagery Animation, is a groundbreaking technique that brings the world of animation to life using the power of computers. It is a technology that has revolutionized the way animated films, TV shows, and video games are created.

At its core, CGI animation involves the use of computer-generated imagery, where artists and animators create virtual models, characters, and environments using specialized software. These digital assets are meticulously designed and manipulated, allowing for stunning visual effects and lifelike animations.

Computer-generated imagery offers a vast array of creative possibilities. It enables animators to craft intricate details, realistic physics, and breathtaking environments that transport viewers into extraordinary worlds. 

To understand CGI animation fully, it’s important to grasp the concept of animation itself. Therefore we recommend that you understand the types of animation and then delve into the best animation course side by side.

What is the History of CGI Animation?


We cannot truly understand what CGI means unless we look at its evolution. The history of CGI animation is a fascinating journey that has transformed the world of filmmaking and animation. Here are some key highlights:

  • First CGI Movies: In the 1970s, pioneering computer scientists and animators began experimenting with CGI techniques. The first notable CGI movie was “Westworld” in 1973, followed by “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1977, which showcased groundbreaking visual effects.
  • Development and Evolution: CGI animation advanced rapidly throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Films like “Toy Story” (1995) and “Jurassic Park” (1993) pushed the boundaries of what was possible with computer-generated visuals, captivating audiences worldwide.
  • Key Milestones: “The Abyss” (1989) marked a breakthrough in using CGI for creating realistic water effects. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) introduced a fully CGI-rendered character, the T-1000. “The Matrix” (1999) showcased groundbreaking visual effects and virtual environments.
  • Notable Films: CGI animation became a prominent tool in filmmaking, with notable films, including “Avatar” (2009), “Frozen” (2013), and “The Avengers” (2012), raising the bar for visual spectacle and storytelling.

The history of CGI animation, along with the first CGI movies and the journey, is a testament to artists’ constant innovation and creativity, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in the world of visual effects and animation.

How Does CGI Animation Work?

The second most asked question in the world of CGI knowledge, after what is CGI animation, is how does it actually work? CGI animation involves a captivating process that brings computer-generated worlds and characters to life. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how it works:

  1. Modeling
  2. Texturing
  3. Rigging
  4. Rendering
  1. Modeling: Artists use specialized software like Autodesk Maya, Blender, or 3ds Max to create 3D models. They shape these digital models by manipulating vertices, edges, and faces, similar to sculpting with virtual clay.
  2. Texturing: Textures are added to the models using software such as Substance Painter or Adobe Photoshop. Artists apply colors, patterns, and details to give objects realistic surfaces, like wood, metal, or skin.
  3. Rigging: Artists use software like Autodesk Maya or Maxon Cinema 4D to create a virtual skeleton, or rig, for characters. They define how the joints and limbs move and set up controls for facial expressions, allowing animators to make characters move and emote realistically.
  4. Rendering: This is the final step where software such as Autodesk Arnold, Chaos Group’s V-Ray, or Pixar’s RenderMan comes into play. The computer calculates how the virtual scene and characters should look with lighting, shadows, and special effects. The software generates the final images or frames, creating the illusion of motion.

Specialized software and robust hardware work together in the production pipeline, enabling artists to create and render complex CGI animations efficiently and with stunning visual results.

If you’re interested in learning more about CGI animation or exploring the world of visual design, consider checking out visual design courses to unleash your creativity in this exciting field.

2 Main Types of CGI Animation


Now that we have understood what computer-generated imagery is, let us look at the main types of CGI animation to help us further define CGI.

  1. 2D CGI Animation
  2. 3D CGI Animation

1. 2D CGI Animation

2D CGI animation combines the artistic style of traditional 2D animation with the convenience of computer-generated imagery. 

It is used in both traditional hand-drawn and digital formats. The advantages include enhanced efficiency, flexibility, and adding visual effects. Examples include films like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and TV shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

2. 3D CGI Animation

3D CGI animation is widely used in the film, television, and gaming industries to create immersive and visually stunning experiences. 

Advancements in technology have greatly contributed to the ability to generate realistic 3D visuals, including lifelike characters, detailed environments, and spectacular special effects. 

The realistic nature of 3D CGI animation has revolutionized storytelling, enabling filmmakers and game developers to transport audiences to extraordinary digital worlds.

What is the Main Difference Between CGI and Traditional Animation?

Let us now look at the main differences between CGI and traditional animation. A head-on-head comparison will help us further understand why CGI animation is relevant to the animation industry.

CGI AnimationTraditional Animation
Creation ProcessComputer-generated using softwareHand-drawn or frame-by-frame
Visual EffectsOffers realistic and stylized visuals through 3D modeling and rendering capabilitiesRelies on hand-drawn illustrations for visual representation
FlexibilityAllows for easy modifications and adjustments to the animation using digital toolsRequires redrawing frames for any changes or adjustments
Cost-EffectivenessInitial setup costs for software and hardware can be high, but subsequent productions can be more cost-effective.Requires skilled artists, extensive labor, and physical materials, which can be costly
Animation StylesSuitable for both realistic and stylized animations, with the ability to create complex 3D scenes and special effectsOffers a wide range of artistic styles and techniques, including traditional hand-drawn, stop motion, and more
Workflow EfficiencyStreamlines the production process with digital tools, making it efficient and time-savingIt can be a labor-intensive process, requiring significant time and effort for each frame.
Examples“Toy Story,” “Frozen,” “Avengers: Infinity War”“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “The Lion King,” and “Spirited Away”

CGI animation offers unique benefits such as realistic visuals, flexibility in making changes, and potential cost-effectiveness for subsequent productions

Traditional animation, on the other hand, embraces diverse artistic styles and techniques but may require more time and resources for each frame. Both approaches have contributed to the rich and vibrant world of animation, each with its own distinct qualities and charm.

Examples and Use Cases of CGI Animation


Let’s look at some examples and use cases of CGI animation across various mediums:


  • Films: “Avatar,” “The Avengers” series, “Jurassic Park,” “Toy Story,” “Frozen,” “The Lion King” (2019), “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Finding Nemo.”
  • TV Shows: “Game of Thrones,” “Stranger Things,” “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Rick and Morty,” “The Mandalorian.”
  • Video Games: “Fortnite,” “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “Final Fantasy” series, “Assassin’s Creed” series, “Grand Theft Auto V.”

Specific Use Cases

  • Character Animation: Bringing lifelike movements and expressions to digital characters.
  • Visual Effects: Creating realistic environments, explosions, creatures, and other visual elements.
  • Architectural Visualization: Presenting architectural designs in a realistic and immersive manner.

Statistics on CGI Animation Impact

The global CGI market size was valued at $3.18 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $13.44 billion by 2028 (Emergen Research).

CGI animation has significantly contributed to the box office success of films, with many of the top-grossing movies relying heavily on CGI effects. The use of CGI animation has revolutionized the gaming industry, enhancing the visual quality and immersive experiences for players.

These examples and statistical data showcase the widespread adoption and impact of CGI animation across the entertainment industry, making it an integral part of modern filmmaking, TV production, and gaming experiences.

What is CGI Animation - FAQs

What Does CGI Stand For in Animation?

CGI stands for Computer-Generated Imagery, which uses computer graphics to create animated visuals and special effects.

How Is CGI Different From Traditional Animation?

CGI animation involves creating digital models and environments using software, while traditional animation relies on hand-drawn or stop-motion techniques.

Can CGI Animation Be Used in Live-Action Films?

Yes, CGI animation is commonly used in live-action films to create visual effects and realistic creatures and enhance scenes that would be challenging or dangerous to film in reality.


As inference, CGI animation, which stands for Computer-Generated Imagery Animation, has transformed the entertainment industry. It utilizes advanced technology to create virtual worlds, characters, and mind-boggling visual effects. 

So, in the real crux, what is CGI animation? It’s the art of bringing imagination to life through the power of computers. From jaw-dropping movie scenes to mesmerizing video game graphics, CGI animation has revolutionized storytelling and captivated audiences worldwide. 

As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more immersive and awe-inspiring experiences in the realm of CGI animation. So, next time you marvel at the incredible visuals on screen, remember that the wizardry of CGI animation makes it all possible!