CGI, depending on who you ask, stands for Computer Generated Imagery. This could include any kind of image created on a computer such as a Photoshop collage but usually means images that have been created using 3D software.
The result can be photorealistic, hyperrealistic, cartoon or anything you want. I tend to produce photoreal work, because I like photography. Here’s an example image created using 3D CGI.
3D rendering is a very computationally intensive task for a computer and even with the fastest multi-processor workstations creating 3D rendered images of exceptional quality can still take time.
And here’s a screen grab of the 3D scene, showing a shaded view of the 3D wool geometry. Notice the fine wool ‘fuzz’ here is just a preview, the final effect is only generated during the rendering process where the full-resolution image is calculated.
This low-res preview created by the 3D fur generating plugin helps to keep the scene manageable while working on it yet provides valuable feedback for the fur such as its length, direction and placement which helps when editing the fur’s many parameters. Even the underlying wool geometry that makes up the hands is a lower resolution than the geometry that is finally rendered. This all aids efficiency while we work hard making the image look how we want it to. This kind of ‘once-removed’ way of working is common in CGI because keeping things running quickly and efficiently is so important. You give up a certain amount of quality while working in exhcange for speed and efficiency.