Know your CGI lingo

Animation Glossary Word Cloud
Get yourself up to speed with the lingo of the world of digital animation and computer graphics with this useful glossary of terms.

NMIT recently introduced a new suite of Animation and Computer Generated Imagery programmes which use acronyms like “AR” and "VRAY" and words like “mapping” and “rendering”.

For those who have yet to delve into the animation industry, this list of specialist definitions is here to help shed some light on the subject.

3D modelling

The process of developing a representation of an object in three dimensions via specialised software. The outcome is a 3D model which is represented on screen, or even 3D printed.

Augmented reality (AR)

Superimposing a computer-generated image onto a user’s view of the real world, creating a composite, or augmented, view of the digital image and reality.

Champagne Roll

Usually at 100 film rolls, or sometimes 100 hard-drive downloads on a digital shoot, into a shoot, the cast and crew get a celebratory glass of champagne

Computer generated imagery (CGI)

The use of computer graphics in movies, printed, and electronic media.


The final process of combining real footage with digital elements to create the finished shot.

Craft service

The catering unit. Typically serves apple crumble and chips with everything. A film with “clean” catering, like many Zack Snyder efforts, generally ditches the chocolate bars and has lots of dried fruit and nuts on offer instead.

Displacement mapping

Computer graphics technique used to cause the geometric position of points over a textured surface to be displaced.


A technique where actors perform in front of a stark, monochromatic background, usually bright green or blue. This is then replaced with a background image, often with CGI. Also known as “bluescreen” or “chromakeying”.

High dynamic range imagery (HDRI)

A technique used when creating images to reproduce a higher range of luminosity, aiming to create images similar to what is experienced with the human eye.

Image resolution

The amount of detail that a digital image holds - often considered equivalent to pixel count in digital imaging.

Key frame

The start or end point of a transition in a timeline.

Match moving

Inserting 3D models into live-action footage with correct position, scale, and motion.


Polygons are classified according to the number of sides they have. A polygon with n sides is called an n-gon.

Normal mapping

In 3D computer graphics, normal mapping is used for faking the lighting of bumps and dents to add details without using more polygons.

NURBS or Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines

Mathematical representations of 3D geometry used for organic shapes in computer generated imagery.

Physically Based Rendering (PBR)

A conceptual framework for creating realistic materials by using shading and lighting conditions based on reality.


Object consisting of vertices (points/corners) edges (lines) and faces.

Polygon modelling

A method for representing 3D geometry. See Polygon.


Process of building output files from computer animations when the software builds the final viewable result ready for export.


In its simplest form, 3D rigging is the process of creating a skeleton for a 3D model so it can move.


Animation technique of adding or removing images to film frame by frame.


A term used in the film industry to describe the first renders before final compositing.


Using illustrations or images displayed in sequence to visualise and plan a motion picture or animation.


A small explosive device that simulates a bullet hit or very small explosion. 


Surface characteristics of a 3D model. Can be quads-based (four sided faces) or triangle-based (three sided faces).

U-Dimension or UDIM

UDIM is a way of creating a single linear number that identifies each integer block in UV space.

UV mapping

UV mapping projects a texture map onto a 3D object. The letters ‘U’ and ‘V’ denote the axes of the 2D texture.


Visual effects (special visual effects)

Virtual Reality (VR)

Creating and interactive, computer-based user experience that takes place in a virtual environment. Predominantly using visual and audio, but an also incorporate other sensory feedback like touch and smell.


A Computer Generated Imagery rendering software application.


Minimal visual presentation of a 3D object without texture or shading.


To add imperfection to geometry to break the perfect symmetry and "straightness" of 3D. Wonkifying something gives it personality. It can be as subtle as slightly rotating/scaling a couple of edge loops to break the rigidity of a silhouette.

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