CGI Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

In this guide, you’ll learn about the meaning of the abbreviation CGI, where the term comes from, how to use it, synonyms, examples, and more.

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Watching a movie is always an enjoyable pastime. You can watch your favorite films with friends, family, at home, out with someone, alone, or with a crowd from your fandom. 

One term you’ll hear a lot when people discuss movies is CGI. But what does CGI mean, and how does it contribute to the movies we all love?

What Is the Definition of CGI?

CGI stands for an abbreviation of the phrase computer-generated imagery. Computer-generated imagery is a digital art form used to create elements in video games, television, and film. 

Below are a few examples of this acronym used in context:

  • The CGI in this film is so realistic.
  • I could tell they used CGI because of the waves.

The best way to truly appreciate CGI is by looking back at the rich history of its use in media. Let’s explore the origins of computer-generated imagery.

What Is the Origin of CGI?

The first film to ever use CGI was the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo. Another notable early use of CGI was in the 1973 film Westworld. You may recognize the name of that film because it is now a popular HBO series.

It was George Lucas and the movie Star Wars (1977) that ultimately hooked us all to the magic of CGI. That sci-fi classic is full of early computer-generated imagery. In science fiction films like Star Wars, CGI helped eliminate the headache of physically creating a fantastical or improbable scene. 

Another movie that made CGI history was 1984’s The Last Starfighter. This film became the first movie to use CGI to create “real-life” starships and battle scenes.

CGI Today

Since its early days, the world of computer graphics has grown into a billion-dollar industry. The CGI industry has a market size of $156 billion in just 2020 for Global Animation and VFX. In addition, there are now many different methods for creating CGI. These techniques include:

  • Creating complex fractals using algorithms
  • Producing vector shapes using 2D pixel-based imaging editors
  • Generating a variety of images from simple, rudimentary shapes to make complex forms. These forms of CGI can even simulate how light reacts on a surface, including a moving surface, using 3D graphics software.

CGI In-Depth

The term CGI is typically used when talking about a video game, film, or television show. Sometimes, people refer to CGI as either convincing or noticeably unrealistic. For example, you might hear comments about how realistic the graphics in a video game are. On the other hand, you might also hear complaints about unconvincing and noticeably outdated CGI.

Examples of CGI in Films

CGI has given us some incredible movies in the almost 50 years since it was first shown to audiences. Some of the most famous movies with prominent CGI elements include:

  • Jurassic Park
  • Terminator II
  • The Star Wars franchise
  • The Matrix
  • Tron
  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Lord of the Rings series

CGI in Animated Films

Without CGI, the animated film industry of today couldn’t exist. One of the most famous CGI companies is Pixar. Today, they are known as the entity Disney-Pixar. When audiences see their signature animated lamp jumping across the screen, they sit back and prepare for an unforgettable movie.

Pixar used CGI to create classics like:

  • Toy Story
  • Up
  • Cars
  • Finding Nemo

CGI Keeps Evolving

The use of CGI has expanded into numerous industries since its earliest use. Today, you’ll find computer-generated imagery in everything from movies and video games to material for marketing, real estate, and engineering.

Working in the CGI Industry

For people considering going into computer graphics, there are plenty of potential careers to consider. Here are a few examples of key positions in the CGI industry.

  • Artists and illustrators are needed for the art department to create storyboards, visuals, artwork, and photorealistic images of how a finished shot will look. 
  • Concept artists are needed to create mockups and rudimentary models in the pre-visualization (pre-viz) department. 
  • In the asset department, artists create virtual assets when real-world objects either don’t exist or would be too costly to acquire. 
  • New software is created in the research and development (RnD) department to help improve the time it takes artists to complete tasks. They also help address technical challenges.
  • Animation is completed in the animation department. An animator is a person who brings life to computer-generated images.
  • An additional part of the animation process is motion tracking. A specialized artist creates a virtual camera to capture movement in the live-action footage.
  • FX artists are responsible for creating animations and testing them in a simulation. They strive to craft realistic images like light reflecting on water, the flicker of flames in a fire, the movements of hair or cloth, or the real-life behavior of an explosion.
  • Illumination artists work with digital lighting and reflections. They determine how light would naturally behave.

It’s incredible to think how many people and how much work goes into projects like 30-second commercials, video games, and three-hour motion pictures. CGI is a fast-developing field with a growing need for talented individuals.

Are There Synonyms for CGI?

Synonyms are words or phrases that express the same meaning as another word. Here are a few synonyms for computer-generated imagery (CGI):

  • 3D Imagery
  • Three-dimensional imagery
  • Photorealistic
  • Live-action

What Are the Antonyms for CGI?

Antonyms express the opposite meaning of a word. Here are a few antonyms for computer-generated imagery (CGI):

  • Classical animation
  • Hand-drawn animation
  • Traditional animation
  • Cel animation

Examples of CGI in a Sentence

Below are a few sentences that include CGI.

  • CGI really made that movie better.
  • He wants to learn how to create CGI.
  • CGI animation is one of my favorite animation styles.
  • I like CGI, but I also have an appreciation for hand-drawn animation.


Now you know what CGI is, what it stands for, and how to use it in a sentence. Happy writing!


  1. Cgi Definition & Meaning | 
  2. What is CGI? – Everything You Need to Know | NFI 
  3. COMPUTER-GENERATED IMAGERY | Cambridge English Dictionary