Main Areas of Computer Graphics

Computer graphics is a broad discipline at the interface of aesthetics and technologies. It combines the knowledge from mathematics, informatics, physics, graphic design, marketing, media, etc. Computer graphics provides a new kind of artistic experience which is nowadays the only one of its kind.

The exact year in which one can talk about computer graphics in its today’s meaning is unknown since also the opinions of experts differ in many cases. In general, it can be said that computer graphics has its historical roots in the 1950s.

Boeing Project

In 1960, the term computer graphics was used by an American graphic designer William Fetter for the first time. This art director brought breakthrough ideas to more areas. He was the first one to create a 3D figure and a new concept of perspective drawing. Fetter’s ideas were implemented as mathematical formulae that were afterwards entered into a computer by programmers.

Led by William Fetter, the research project Boeing started in 1960. Fetter enjoyed the initial success thanks to creating the pilot. It was the first human figure created using computer graphics. William described the whole creation process in detail in Print magazine. In this magazine, he pointed out the necessity of having a team of qualified programmers in a Boeing-like project.

Boeing, William Fetter, human figure

The main aim of Computer Graphics Group was to create a figure of a pilot that can be used as animation in various films. The work on the Boeing project began in 1964. Two years later, Fetter was already introducing the pilot figure on numerous forums and conferences.

Soviet Cat

A revolutionary program Sketchpad is also developing in 1960s. Thanks to this program, it was possible to draw simple images, save them afterwards and then open them again. It was the first program to use GUI (Graphical User Interface).

Ivan Sutherland, Sketchpad

In 1968, Soviet scientists made the first mathematical model of motion display. Using mathematical algorithms and image displays, the first computer animation – a moving cat – was created. 

On the other side of the barricade, Edwin Catmull devoted his time to animations. The researcher from the University of Utah was fascinated by 3D objects. His dream was to make an animated film what eventually came true under the Pixar lamp. The name of this man can never be forgotten, since he was at the birth of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects software programs.

An important milestone in graphics was the invention of Bézier curve. It was patented by Pierre Bézier, a French mathematician and engineer. The author used this curve to draw 3D models of car bodies. In this way, Pierre Bézier provided the basis for vector graphics.

a curve composed of direction handles and anchor points

The Wild ‘80s

A very important change occurs in the 1980s. Computers are not only in the hands of scientists and academicians anymore, but also in the hands of lay people. In 1985, a Microsoft program MS Paint appeared on the market. The software with raster graphics became very popular mainly for its simplicity. Another software working with raster graphics – Adobe Photoshop – does not come on the scene until 1990.

The 1980s is an era of videogames and cinematography. In entertainment industry, keying started to be used (blue screen, green screen, chroma key, colour keying). Thanks to this technique, filmmakers could put the film plot to any setting without leaving the studio.

Videogames and CGI Films Spread like a Virus

In 1990s, the imaginary baton is taken by 3D modeling. 3D programs are affordable for home computers as well. SGI programs gradually started to gather dust and their place was occupied by systems based on the GPU principle.

In this period, rendering and photorealistic displaying of objects are becoming popular among users. The 3D technology is getting its attention mainly in computer games.

Since the millennium, computer graphics has achieved a considerable growth. Videogames and CGI films have spread like a virus. Computer graphics has gradually found its place in every industry whether it was in media, information technology, marketing, etc.

Main Areas of Using Computer Graphics

  • Geometric Modeling
  • Image Processing
  • CAD/CAM Systems
  • GIS
  • Data Visualization
  • Rendering
  • Web
  • Animation
  • GUI
  • Gaming & VFX
  • Virtual Reality

Geometric Modeling
Geometric modeling mainly regards the creation of graphic models and objects in the computer. The features of geometric modeling are used for example in architecture in the process of making buildings. Geometric modeling is also popular among nature lovers. Using this technique, it is possible to make 2D images and 3D objects. From the perspective of geometric shapes, three types of models are developed – a wireframe model, a surface model and a solid model.

Image Processing
Image processing is a technique working with 2D images. The term “image processing” includes photographs, or more precisely, videos and their formats. Other branches also belong to this area. When processing images, we can come across e.g. processing of colors or edge detection. At the beginning of this journey there was a camera later joined by a video camera. Together they form a team that complements each other and progresses to a higher image quality.

CAD/CAM Systems
With the help of these systems, you can manufacture work pieces for mechanical engineering production. It regards the use of computer graphics in the so-called computer–aided design/manufacturing. The CAM system is mainly used in civil engineering and architecture where you can make e.g. the missing components or parts with the help of computers. However, it is necessary to have a computer-controlled CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machine. It is their considerable advantage that they can solve complex and difficult assignments. An integrating part of CAD/CAM systems is a product model and an internal database of the system. Modern systems consist of a set of modules thanks to which it is possible to build the whole system according to needs of the user.

Geographic information system gathers and analyzes data relevant to a particular location, area. The technology of geographic information systems is applicable in various spheres, e.g. cartography, building of new places, historical maps or marketing.

Data Visualization
Data visualization is a form of visual communication by means of which we can often interpret complicated data and analyses effectively and intelligibly. The term infographic has been established for data visualization.

Rendering covers the creation of visual outputs which mirror, or more precisely, simulate the real world. Based on data visualization, an object is created in the computer. If the image is processed well, it cannot be distinguished from a real photography. The visualizations created by means of rendering find their application in creation of film effects, architecture, gaming, or in simulation of physical phenomena and projects working with virtual reality.

The creation of a website includes many components. It consists of graphic design, search engine optimization and also includes, last but not least, user experience representing the standard. The web must adapt to the main message of the website and not vice versa. We are living in times of social media. Therefore, the compatibility of the web with social media, where the communication chain serving the user as well as the web operator develops, is important.

We can come across the first attempts of animation in prehistoric caves already. In many preserved cave fresco paintings we can see figures with slightly raised arms or feet walking one after another. Our ancestors were fascinated by moving images. Computer graphics brought this idea to perfection. Today, animation is being used mainly in entertainment industry, either in the films for children or in games.

Also in graphics, responsibility is put first. This definitely applies to a programmer working with GUI (Graphical User Interface). GUI allows manipulation of the device using various interactive image elements. The work with this system requires deep knowledge from the following fields: communication, psychology and design.

Gaming & VFX
Bread and circuses – a saying coming from the times of Roman emperors perfectly describes the present human thinking as well. Today’s modification of a widely known quote could sound “Popcorn and joystick”. Nowadays, gaming and VFX represent the peak of computer graphics. In the largest studios, graphically perfect games and films are being created in which the visual quality keeps on increasing.

Virtual reality
In today’s world, there is nothing similar to virtual reality. It enhances the gaming experience of gamers’, but is also used in serious areas such as development.

Computer graphics has considerably influenced not only business and entertainment industry, but also our everyday life. It offers a new view on the world and is an aesthetic and technologic phenomenon constantly crossing the horizon of new possibilities.

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