In the beginning, computer graphics was only a geometric shape, calculated by the computer and seen on a monitor.
This wizard of technology gave drive to film and other entertaining industries to learn and make use of it.
The evolution of computer graphic has taken three decades to bring onto the big screen. The illusion of a dinosaur acting lively in Jurassic Park, was a milestone in the computer graphic film industry. If there were no visionary examples, contributions from people today might not have the interest to fulfill this imaginagy fantasy.
It all began in 1962, a Ph.D. student of MIT, Ivan Sutherland, created a program called Sketchpad which allowed him to draw lines and light directly on a cathode ray tube( CTR). The result was a simple and primitive geometric figure. This gave way to an entirely new vision of how computers could be used. Thus, the science of computer graphic was lunched.
In 1964, Sutherland cooperated with Dr. David Evan at University of Utah to set up the first academic computer graphic department in the world. Their gold was trying to mix hard science and creative arts with computer. Their research came out of the University of Utah in the 60s and early 70s. These roots exits in nearly every aspect of today’s computer graphic industry; from desktop publishing to virtual reality.
In 1973, Dr., Alexander Schure hired Edwin Catmull, a Ph.D. of University of Utah, to head the NYIT computer graphic lab. He then equipped the lab with the best graphics hardware, scientists, and artists, totalling $2 million dollars, in initial costs. The staff, many also came from the University of Utah, were to develop both 2D and 3D computer graphic software, with the goal to produce a full-length, computer-animated feature film.
As NYIT’s inspiration develpoed, the first wave of commercial computer graphics studio began to appear. Filmmaker George Lucas, after the success of his movie Star War, hired Catmull from NYIT to start his Lucasfilm development Division, in which he began researching how to applying computer rendered images in his film..
At the same time, the other studios began creating flying logos and broadcast graphics for various corporations and commercial ventures. It was the dream of these initial computer graphic studios to make movies with their computers, virtually all them were working for television. It was and still easier and far more profitable to create graphics for TV commercials than for film. Simply because film needed higher resolution than video, which meant it needed more powerful computers to calculate the image rendering.. The hardware was still too expensive and too weak to undertake such task for full-length film. The movie industry didnot prolifically employ computer graphic until the late 80s when the silicon valley developed the technology .
Nevertheless, computer graphic artists got to perfect their technique and polish their professional expertise at the TV level. Since than, the computer generated images began to influence viewer imagination via TV’s broadcasting. A glowing and shiny CIS logo created by computer flying on the screen with arousing music spurred more high quality and high-end technology. This is the first profitable niche that computer graphic companies could find for commercial use after a decade of developing.
The grand debut of computer graphic in film came in 1976 Future World, casting Peter Fonda. In this film, only Fonda’s computer generated hand and head showed on the background. Film industry would not invest any money to those technologies which can not benefit the plot of their film.
The actual wake-up call to the entertainment industry was not to come until 1982, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn was released. That movie contained a prodigious sixty seconds of the most exciting full-color computer graphics yet seen.
In the short sequence, called the Genesis Effect, a lifeless planet was hit by a missile which coused incineration and flames across entire surface of the sphere as the camera zooming in tight. It presented a verisimilitude in an image that can not be shot easily otherwise.
Comparing with today’s movie wizard, this one minute piece may seem a small accomplishment. However, this remarkable scene, created by Lucasfilm’s Computer Division, represents many firsts. It required the development of several new computer graphic tools. Including one for creating convincing computer fire and another to produce complex and realistic mountains as well as shorelines from surface equations.
In addition, this sequence was the first time computer graphics was used as the central attention, instead of being used merely as a prop to support other action. No one in the entertainment industry has seen anything like it. And it unleashed a flood of queries from Hollywood directors seeking to find out both how it was done and whether and entire film could be created in this fashion.
In the fall of 1982, TRON was released as Disney’s triumphant return to feature film production. The film contains over 15 minutes of fully computer-animated shots plus 25 minutes in which computer animation composites.
The quantity of its computer imagery dwarfed the sum of all computer graphic imagery developed for film up to that time. Its production required the collaboration of four of the top computer graphic studios of the times, MAGI, Triple-I, Robert Abel & Associates, and Digital Effects.
Although the graphics were extremely well executed, TRON was proved as a flop because of its poorly designed script. At that time, computer technology was still new development. There was not enough myth about cyber world. The dialogues contained too much professional terms which audience could not realize easily. The technology was over sold either which made attentive fatigue to the moviegoer. Technology did not save this film from failure but intead implanted new aspiration to many creative artists.
Computer graphic in the film industrywent farther in the 80’s. Everyone knew what it took and had invested heavily in very expensive high-speed computers for film-quality computer graphic. When Digital Production, formed by computer programmer Gary Demmos and producer John Whitney, announced their new purchase of a $10.5 million Cray X-MP supercomputer, Lorimar production immediately hired them to begin work on the special effect for the Last Straighter. A Sci-Fi movie due to release in 1984. They created over twenty minutes of the most detailed and complex computer-generated space-based scenes yet shown. In fact, they had created thirty-minute footage for the film, ten minutes was cut off at the final editing process. This was the first time that expensive digital imagery had been drop out on the floor of cutting room. Unfortunately, this film also suffered from a weak story line as TRON.
Almost a the same time, the computer itself was facing a technologic evolution. The mini computer, at cheaper price but with strong power, came into the market. TV network began to buy computers for their own production. Those studios that had invested a lot of money in the hardware could no longer cover gigantic debt due to without extra capital. Those independent studios that could not upgrade to newer and cheaper computers and some were out of business by 1987. This was the time to reform computer graphics in the film industry.
Injured twice by TRON and The last Starfighter, and frightened by the financial failure of virtually entire industry, Hollywood removed computer graphics as a sale point for a film for several years. Although some films continued to utilize computer graphic animation for creating special effect, this technology was no longer emphasized during the promotion campaign. Such as a stained-glass man for Lucasfilm The Young Sherlock Holmes, was the first animated living creature anyone ever attempted to created for a feature film. At this moment behind the scenes, there were filmmakers attempted to find the right place to utilize computer graphic for their films.
It was a breakthrough for computer graphic technology to make a watery creature for James Cameron’s 1989 film, The Abyss. For this film, the group at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created the first completely computer-generated, entirely organic looking and thoroughly believable creature to be realistically mixed with live action. In this amazing effect, ILM overcame two very difficult problems: producing a soft-edged, bulgy, and irregularly shaped object, and convincingly combining the object with a live-action sequence.
Just as the 1982 Genesis sequence served as the wake-up call for early film computer graphics, this sequence for The Abyss was the announcement that computer graphics had finally came into the mature stage to serve the entertainment industry. Since than, a massive outpouring of computer-generated film graphics, from 2D to 3D, have participated in the production process. Digital technology spread rapidly around this industry and became an important tool to make a big-scale movie.
Since than, digital image from computers has come into a right position for film. A lot of film which indulged the use of it stepped into the block-buster movie of that year, such as Total Recall, Toys, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Babe, In the Line of Fire, Death Becomes Her, and of course, Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park is not the first film with computer graphics convincingly intermingled with live action, but it has high volumes of computer graphics so that the barrier between the world of computer-generated fantasy and reality is broken down. In fact the success of Jurassic Park is not totally the contribution of real-looking digital animation, but also the director who can efficiently control the thematic rhythm of the movie. There is only seven-minute footage about dinosaur which in made by computer graphic. The others were virtually relying on traditional mechanic model and special effect team to simulate the gigantic creatures.
Computer hold the power to make films with splendid scenes, or emphasized some metaphors to create prosodic pattern. It also can bring some imaginary creature alive in the film or fulfill some fantasies that may never be seen in real life. However, story-telling still is the most element for a film. Computer graphic is not every thing for the film production. Film for film sake, it would only make monotony to overuse computer technologies.
For example, a great prosodic device in the film Forrest Gump is the feather gliding down the sense at opening and than floating away at the end, a computer- generated effect which is a cognition to point out the theme of this film. This is a genius creation combining arts with computer technology for a film.
Toy Story is another example of digital imagery fit in movie genre. Its plot is a kind of satire. When people aren’t around toys, toys are alive. But you already know that. It is always the toy’s greatest fear that they will be replaced by newer toys, and now it is happening. Woody, a traditional pull-string cowboy doll whose position as top toy in Andy’s life is threatened by the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, the great figure with his push-button laser and digital voice and wrist communicator. Buzz not only gets Woody’s attention, he is welcomed by Woody’s friend, his dog Slinky, the irascible Mr. Potato Head, Rex, the timid dinosaur, the know-it-all piggy bank Hamm, and his sweetheart Bo Peep. Woody plots to get rid of Buzz who thinks he is really a fearless space ranger landed on an alien planet, not a toy. The rivalry between Woody and Buzz keeps the film sparkling in believable ways.. When Woody starts feeling competitive with this new plastic sibling (and when Andy’s cowboy bedspread subtly switches to an astronaut motif), it’s easy to sympathize about his worries. The plan backfire, and Buzz and Andy find themselves not only separated but in the hands of the viscous Sid, a sadistic neighborhood kid, and his dog, Scud. Who torture toys for fun.
Perhaps no scene of the movie says more about the evolution of computer animation since those early TRON days, especially at the climax, a frantic six-block chase scene through a virtual neighborhood.
As they race through this virtual neighborhood, Buzz and Woody, digitally controlled at 700 points each, move more realistically than they would if they had been rendered with traditional animation techniques. Even more important, they move the audience with complex facial expressions that evoke a full range of emotions. More than any other scene in the movie, the chase sequence – which took four tregabytes (the equivalent of 957,855 floppy disks or 167 CD-ROMS) to realize, represents the cutting edge of computer animation technology.
Toy Story is a technological feat not only because, at 77 minutes, it is the first completely synthetic feature-length cartoon, because of its three-dimensional look and feel. In traditional animation, the characters and backgrounds are flat, but here they are volumetric – that is, they exist as computer-generated three-dimensional objects that animators are free to explore from an almost infinite variety of angles and attitudes. The Pixar technology has, in effect, made high-tech cartoons-in-the-round possible.
But beyond satisfying the urge of computer wizards to demonstrate a new technology, why tell a story with computer animation? What can it offer an audience that hand-drawn animation cannot?
Filmmakers have long adapted new technologies – or in many cases invented them – to enhance their imagination.
By combining CG technology and classical storytelling, Toy Story could be defined as a milestone to feature film. It brings the computer-generated figures alive not by a realistic but an emotional way. The figures move the audience by extending their full personality and luxury facial expression. Those are important element to create an attractive story line of hero’s venture.
At the time TRON was produced, many in the infant computer-graphics and special-effects industries anticipated that a full-length movie would be created with the new technologies by the late 1980’s. But despite a persistent cult following, TRON as well as other films that incorporated myriad computer special effects likeThe Last Starfighter, did poorly at the box office, and Hollywood remained skittish. Even so, the quest to perfect computer animation continued. In 1984, Lasseter, director of Toy Story, joined George Lucas’s Lucasfilm Computer Division, which spun off into Pixar two years later, with Steve Jobs, a cofounder of Apple Computer, as chief executive. In a series of shorts produced in the late 1980’s, culminating with Lasseter’s Tin Toy which won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, computer-animated characters were riding bicycles, juggling, smiling, frowning and crying.
They keep going and going. With the prospects for a full-length film on hold, computer animators focused their attentions on TV commercials, where the creation of flying logos, scary mouthwash and dancing Gummi Life Savers allowed them to increase the sophistication and complexity of computer-generated images exponentially.
They need more complex images to make things look more real and reality is very complex. Furthermore, motion and emotion took even longer than the subtleties of reality. Animation has a very different dynamic than reality because they do not obey the laws of physics, which of course is part of their appeal to public. So as camera moves, rotating around a character it tilts and creates a perspective difficult to otherwise achieve.
The tendency of digital image is trying to catch the real movement of a character for the computer-generated figure at the real time. That means, record the motion of a real performer by the computer and import to an imaginary figure. This attempting in fact has be applied in the movie Terminator 2 to capture real movements of actor Robert Patrick who plays T1000.
Will digital actors total replace real ones in the movies someday? It might not happen in the near future, but it could come true after more powerful computer has been development.
In Japan, the second higgest computer-developing county in the world, withhold the concept of their own. In a project call DK-96, a group of computer engineers and graphic designers created a Victual Idol for the Japanese model agency, HoriPro. The model is a 17-year-old girl with attractive looking, whose name is Kyoko Date (1). She is the 100% virtual star. She is a singer. The agency gives her full personality, such as her favorite things and part-time job in a fast-food restaurant. She also speaks some foreign languages. She is hard-worker. Indeed, she can work 24 hours a day. She never complains and is never angry. These points are really the advantages to promote a digital stars in films. Just think, the 007 series would never change the leading actor.
As reports said, Kyoko Date will release her first CD when the computer graphics are finished. After that, pick your own scandal in news paper.
Computers have changed the environment of the world and it also has changed the illusion in film. The elements of a successful film may not, but computers would keep playing a dominant device after Hollywood has gone digital. And the old ways are dying just as sound had done to its industry, sixty years ago.