Special effects have come a long way since the first CGI movie. After computer-generated imagery started replacing puppets, make-up, and other special effects tricks, the technology improved rapidly to create stunning cinematic experiences. Explore the full history of CGI, including some of the most memorable movies that utilized the technology, today.
What Is CGI?
cgi stands for computer generated imagery. uses computer software to create still or animated images. it is typically used to create three-dimensional representations as special effects in movies and television shows, although it can also be used to create two-dimensional images.
Instead of relying on traditional photography, CGI takes images created entirely with computer software. This innovative technology can be used to create entire images or can be used to modify existing photos.
important moments in cgi history
From the earliest days of mechanical computer generated imagery to the latest jaw-dropping movies, CGI has come a long way. these are some of the most important moments in cgi history.
first use of cgi in a movie
The first use of CGI on film is possibly Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” spiral sequence. this special effect from 1958 did not use traditional cgi, but instead was achieved with a specially designed mechanical computer. John Whitney was hired to create the shot. he used a WWII flak aimed at computers and cells on a rotating platform.
An early, more commonly accepted use of cgi was in “westworld”. This great movie, released in 1973, stars Yul Brynner as an android in a futuristic Wild West theme park.
first fully cgi character
The first character in a movie to be created entirely from computer-generated imagery was the gentleman in the stained glass windows in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes. the knight took about six months to create, even though he was only present for about 30 seconds of the film. this character, however, only played a minor role in an otherwise entirely live-action film.
Another contender for the title of the first fully CG character is Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” In 1999, Jar Jar Binks was created using CGI motion capture. he is also recognized as the first supporting character created with cgi.
first cgi function
In 1972 a short film called “a computer animated hand” was created. Fred Parke and Edwin Catmull created this short film using computer animation. it is considered the first three-dimensional computer graphics feature. it was made using a hand model and drawing small polygons and triangles on the hand.
first cgi feature film
“Toy Story” was the first feature-length film to be produced using entirely computer-generated imagery. The groundbreaking 1995 movie was the first Pixar film and broke the record for CGI movies by a full 80 minutes. The pioneering technology and design of this film inspired an entire industry of feature films.
great innovations in the history of cgi
since the first cgi movies, there have been several unique ways to include this technology in major motion pictures. here are some memorable innovations in the history of cgi:
- anti-aging actors: “the irishman” took actors robert de niro, al pacino and joe pesci and made them look younger as part of this group of three and a half . iconic half-hour netflix movie.
- bullet-time: “the matrix” was not only the first movie to use bullet-time, it coined the phrase. it took 120 still cameras to capture this iconic scene from this film.
- Digital Fur Technology: The “cats” may not have impressed critics or many fans, but they used a unique cgi innovation. the film added whiskers, fur and cat ears to the actors as a motion capture technique.
- 3d motion capture: “the lord of the rings” showed what was capable of 3d motion capture. the character of gollum was created by taking the facial features of actor andy serkis using motion capture and then using cgi.
- battle scene cgi: it is acknowledged that “starship troopers” had the first full-scale cgi battle scene, where insectoid aliens battle a live-action military force.
most popular cgi movies
Some of the most popular cgi movies didn’t use revolutionary techniques or claim any “first” titles. however, they remain important milestones in the history of computer-generated imagery. here are some blockbuster movies that feature memorable cgi moments:
- “Jurassic Park”: While this classic 1993 film also used animatronics and other special effects, the innovative CGI created unforgettable scenes of dinosaurs roaming the park. “Jurassic Park” is a prime example of CGI that has aged well.
- “Star Wars”: There were many key CGI moments throughout the “Star Wars” series. . First, 1977’s “Star Wars” featured a masterful mix of CGI, puppetry, and animatronics. “star wars: episode i – the phantom menace” also featured the first cgi supporting character.
- “titanic”: thanks to linux and the talented team behind this 1997 classic , “titanic” was able to stage scenes on 1/20 scale models for realistic shots that even won over critics.
- “avatar”: This impressive addition to the story of cgi included live actors and motion-capture technology. With a whopping budget of $425 million, “Avatar” also ranks as the most expensive film ever produced.
- “gravity”: with approximately 80% of images generated by computer, “gravity is packed with stunning effects and innovative scenes showcasing the latest computer technology.
- “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”: The iconic villain T-1000 was created using CGI and a wide range of other special effects. industrial light and magic used everything from mercury and a hair dryer to a stuntman in foil to blend almost perfectly with realistic cgi moments.
- “avengers: endgame ”: At $357,115,007 for its opening weekend alone, “Avengers: Endgame” currently holds the title for the biggest opening weekend at the domestic box office. the incredibly realistic cgi used quantum suits to speed up the process. this is just one of the most modern examples of how technology has come a long way since “westworld”.