CGI – How It Happened

The Opinionation of CGI

It all nearly didn’t happen.  Back in the early days of computer animation (the 70s and then the 80s) people where afraid of computers, perhaps they had seen too many George Lucas films and where worried that if they relied too heavily on computers Artificial Intelligence would be invented and used to steal the souls of the general public.

People are scared, about just about everything, but mainly things that involve change. Computers haven’t existed since the dawn of time, because if they had we may have more of a choice between Microfail and Steve Jobs.  Whats this, no mention of Linux you say? Perhaps when Linux releases drivers for my machine that A Work and B come on a disc so I don’t have to spend my life trawling through the only thing worse than Chris de Burgh, forums, then I will use it.

Similar in nature to the paranoia about camera’s stealing a part of your soul, advances in technology are not bad.  This is proven by the mindless masses choosing Avatar as “the best film ever”!

Having said that, if one day machines do take over the world, in the gritty realistic sense, not in the good versus evil James Cameron way, I guess then you would have me apologise for my opinionated views about people who are still too afraid to have an email account.  If this happens, then I guess I’ll be dead, and I won’t care, because I wont exist any more, there is after all, no Nerd Heaven, besides, I’m not sure I would want to exist eternally with the fairies.

The History of CGI

CGI started to be used in film in the 1970’s, albeit very minutely.  Several big films such as Star Wars, The Black Hole, Superman – The Movie and Alien used minute amounts of computer generated graphics, mostly being wire frame 10 second clips of not much.  This screenshot is from the original Alien film, in which the pilot is guided by computers during the landing sequence.


During the 1980’s CGI really started to become impressive, the leap from 70’s to 80’s, wire frame to full CGI characters is incredible.  In 1982 Star Trek used a scene for part of its film, the Wrath of Kahn, which was a fully animated landscape, as well as the beginning of the Particle systems still used in 3D.  It was called the Genesis Effect. Here is a quick video about the making of not only the Genesis effect, but the other computer generated part of The Wrath of Kahn, the retina identification sequence.

1982 must have been a good year, as the other major film that came out of that year using complex CGI was Tron.  The makers of Tron used approximately 15 minutes worth of CGI throughout the film, including some early facial animation and the famous Light Cycle scene.

The relatively new Tron Legacy, also uses Light Cycle animation, however with a much more realistic approach.  This trailer shows how much animation has progressed since the original.

In 1986, John Lasseter animated Pixar’s first film with Luxo Junior.  The film was rendered using Renderman, which is still used today, as well as being the first CGI film to render and use shadows.

The 80’s ended with The Abyss, made in 1989, which used the first realistic 3D rendered water, in a scene that really showed just how much could be done with the 3D industry.

The early 90’s really exploded with the use of CGI in films at that point, Total recall was shot in 1990 and featured the first motion capture for film, Die Hard 2 used the first digitally edited Matte painting, Terminator 2 featured the first realistic human movements of a CGI character and then in 1995, Toy Story, the first full feature film made entirely from CGI was released, proving that films made entirely from 3D would be huge.

Ever since the success of Toy Story, full feature-length animated films have been hugely popular in cinema, leading to a massive amount of releases based solely around the 3D industry.

Ever since then, the 3D industry has been blooming, create films that use more and more 3D until the point where we get films with almost no story, filled to the brim with Hollywood trash actors, who are entirely supported by the incredibly beautiful renderings of computers.

And finally, everyone’s favourite film, the likes of which very nearly didn’t exist because of the lack on enthusiasm for CGI, Avatar, made over 2 billion dollars in the first month of its release.  This alone should be proof that CGI is here to stay…Now if only people would ignore those damn 3D glasses…

About opinionatedalex

Less opinionated than one might think.
This entry was posted in Digital Media in Practice and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to CGI – How It Happened

  1. Pingback: Maya Week 1+2 | Jdower's Blog

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