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Early graphics

The term prehistoric art refers generally to the paintings, engravings, and sculptures created from about 35,000 to 12,000 years ago during the last Ice Age in Eurasia. The term is also often applied to the art of the succeeding Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures in this area, as well as to the rock art produced by various nonliterate cultures from later periods.

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The earliest stone tools date from more than 2 million years ago, but prehistoric art is a relatively recent development; it first appeared during the Upper PALEOLITHIC PERIOD, the last division of the Old Stone Age. It is associated with the remains of CRO-MAGNON MAN (Homo sapiens sapiens), who appeared in Europe about 35,000 years ago, having gradually replaced the NEANDERTALERS. It does not follow that no art existed among the Neandertalers; their burial sites, some of which may date from as far back as 100,000 years ago, suggest a preoccupation with life after death and possibly with animal cults. The evidence also suggests that body ornament may have been used, but so far no direct evidence of Neandertal art has been found. Various attempts at portraying animals and symbols, however, must have been made before the Cro-Magnon people executed their remarkably elaborate works of art.

The Paleolithic surroundings of 35,000 years ago were harsh, like those of semiglacial Siberia today. Great herds of bison and reindeer roamed through the plains of central and western Europe. Extinct species like the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros flourished and were successfully hunted; their bones have been found in the caves where the hunters lived. The general impression is of small, nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers, moving with their prey, living in open-air encampments during the summer and taking winter quarters wherever caves or rockshelters were available.

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The next big advance in computer graphics was to come from another MIT student, Ivan Sutherland. In 1961 Sutherland created another computer drawing program called Sketchpad. Using a light pen, Sketchpad allowed you to draw simple shapes on the computer screen, save them and even recall them later. The light pen itself had a small photoelectric cell in its tip. This cell emitted an electronic pulse whenever it was placed in front of a computer screen and the screen's electron gun fired directly at it. By simply timing the electronic pulse with the current location of the electron gun, it was easy to pinpoint exactly where the pen was on the screen at any given moment. Once that was determined, the computer could then draw a cursor at that location.

Sutherland seemed to find the perfect solution for many of the graphics problems he faced. Even today, many standards of computer graphics interfaces got their start with this early Sketchpad program. One example of this is in drawing constraints. If you want to draw a square for example, you don't have to worry about drawing four lines perfectly to form the edges of the box. You can simply specify that you want to draw a box, and then specify the location and size of the box. The software will then construct a perfect box for you, with the right dimensions and at the right location. Another example is that Sutherland's software modeled objects -- not just a picture of objects. In other words, with a model of a car, you could change the size of the tires without affecting the rest of the car. You could stretch the body of the car without deforming the tires.

These early computer graphics were Vector graphics, composed of thin lines whereas modern day graphics are Raster based using pixels. The difference between vector graphics and raster graphics can be illustrated with a shipwrecked sailor. He creates an SOS sign in the sand by arranging rocks in the shape of the letters "SOS." He also has some brightly colored rope, with which he makes a second "SOS" sign by arranging the rope in the shapes of the letters. The rock SOS sign is similar to raster graphics. Every pixel has to be individually accounted for. The rope SOS sign is equivalent to vector graphics. The computer simply sets the starting point and ending point for the line and perhaps bend it a little between the two end points. The disadvantages to vector files are that they cannot represent continuous tone images and they are limited in the number of colors available. Raster formats on the other hand work well for continuous tone images and can reproduce as many colors as needed.

Also in 1961 another student at MIT, Steve Russell, created the first video game, Spacewar. Written for the DEC PDP-1, Spacewar was an instant success and copies started flowing to other PDP-1 owners and eventually even DEC got a copy. The engineers at DEC used it as a diagnostic program on every new PDP-1 before shipping it. The sales force picked up on this quickly enough and when installing new units, would run the world's first video game for their new customers.

E. E. Zajac, a scientist at Bell Telephone Laboratory (BTL), created a film called "Simulation of a two-giro gravity attitude control system" in 1963. In this computer generated film, Zajac showed how the attitude of a satellite could be altered as it orbits the Earth. He created the animation on an IBM 7090 mainframe computer. Also at BTL, Ken Knowlton, Frank Sindon and Michael Noll started working in the computer graphics field. Sindon created a film called Force, Mass and Motion illustrating Newton's laws of motion in operation. Around the same time, other scientists were creating computer graphics to illustrate their research. At Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, Nelson Max created the films, "Flow of a Viscous Fluid" and "Propagation of Shock Waves in a Solid Form." Boeing Aircraft created a film called "Vibration of an Aircraft."

It wasn't long before major corporations started taking an interest in computer graphics. TRW, Lockheed-Georgia, General Electric and Sperry Rand are among the many companies that were getting started in computer graphics by the mid 1960's. IBM was quick to respond to this interest by releasing the IBM 2250 graphics terminal, the first commercially available graphics computer.

Ralph Baer, a supervising engineer at Sanders Associates, came up with a home video game in 1966 that was later licensed to Magnavox and called the Odyssey. While very simplistic, and requiring fairly inexpensive electronic parts, it allowed the player to move points of light around on a screen. It was the first consumer computer graphics product.

Also in 1966, Sutherland at MIT invented the first computer controlled head-mounted display (HMD). Called the Sword of Damocles because of the hardware required for support, it displayed two separate wireframe images, one for each eye. This allowed the viewer to see the computer scene in stereoscopic 3D. After receiving his Ph.D. from MIT, Sutherland became Director of Information Processing at ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), and later became a professor at Harvard.

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Dave Evans was director of engineering at Bendix Corporation's computer division from 1953 to 1962. After which he worked for the next five years as a visiting professor at Berkeley. There he continued his interest in computers and how they interfaced with people. In 1968 the University of Utah recruited Evans to form a computer science program, and computer graphics quickly became his primary interest. This new department would become the world's primary research center for computer graphics.

In 1967 Sutherland was recruited by Evans to join the computer science program at the University of Utah. There he perfected his HMD. Twenty years later, NASA would re-discover his techniques in their virtual reality research. At Utah, Sutherland and Evans were highly sought after consultants by large companies but they were frustrated at the lack of graphics hardware available at the time so they started formulating a plan to start their own company.

A student by the name of Ed Catmull got started at the University of Utah in 1970 and signed up for Sutherland's computer graphics class. Catmull had just come from The Boeing Company and had been working on his degree in physics. Growing up on Disney, Catmull loved animation yet quickly discovered that he didn't have the talent for drawing. Now Catmull (along with many others) saw computers as the natural progression of animation and they wanted to be part of the revolution. The first animation that Catmull saw was his own. He created an animation of his hand opening and closing. It became one of his goals to produce a feature length motion picture using computer graphics. In the same class, Fred Parkes created an animation of his wife's face. Because of Evan's and Sutherland's presence, UU was gaining quite a reputation as the place to be for computer graphics research so Catmull went there to learn 3D animation.

As the UU computer graphics laboratory was attracting people from all over, John Warnock was one of those early pioneers; he would later found Adobe Systems and create a revolution in the publishing world with his PostScript page description language. Tom Stockham led the image processing group at UU which worked closely with the computer graphics lab. Jim Clark was also there; he would later found Silicon Graphics, Inc.

The first major advance in 3D computer graphics was created at UU by these early pioneers, the hidden-surface algorithm. In order to draw a representation of a 3D object on the screen, the computer must determine which surfaces are "behind" the object from the viewer's perspective, and thus should be "hidden" when the computer creates (or renders) the image.

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The 1970s saw the introduction of computer graphics in the world of television. Computer Image Corporation (CIC) developed complex hardware and software systems such as ANIMAC, SCANIMATE and CAESAR. All of these systems worked by scanning in existing artwork, then manipulating it, making it squash, stretch, spin, fly around the screen, etc. . . Bell Telephone and CBS Sports were among the many who made use of the new computer graphics.

While flat shading can make an object look as if it's solid, the sharp edges of the polygons can detract from the realism of the image. While you can create smaller polygons (which also means more polygons), this increases the complexity of the scene, which in turn slows down the performance of the computer rendering the scene. To solve this, a Henri Gouraud in 1971 presented a method for creating the appearance of a curved surface by interpolating the color across the polygons. This method of shading a 3D object has since come to be known as Gouraud shading. One of the most impressive aspects of Gouraud shading is that it hardly takes any more computations than Flat shading, yet provides a dramatic increase in rendering quality. One thing that Gouraud shading can't fix is the visible edge of the object. The original flat polygons making up the torus are still visible along the edges of the object.

One of the most important advancements to computer graphics appeared on the scene in 1971, the microprocessor. Using Integrated Circuit technology developed in 1959, the electronics of a computer processor were miniaturized down to a single chip, the microprocessor, sometimes called a CPU (Central Processing Unit). One of the first desktop microcomputers designed for personal use was the Altair 8800 from Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS). Coming through mail-order in kit form, the Altair (named after a planet in the popular Star Trek series) retailed for around $400. Later personal computers would advance to the point where film-quality computer graphics could be created on them.

In that same year, Nolan Kay Bushnell along with a friend formed Atari. He would go on to create an arcade video game called Pong in 1972 and start an industry that continues even today to be one of the largest users of computer graphics technology.

In the 1970's a number of animation houses were formed. In Culver City, California, Information International Incorporated (better known as Triple I) formed a motion picture computer graphics department. In San Rafael, California, George Lucas formed Lucasfilm. In Los Angeles, Robert Abel & Associates and Digital Effects were formed. In Elmsford, New York, MAGI was formed. In London, England, Systems Simulation Ltd. was formed. Of all these companies, almost none of them would still be in business ten years later. At Abel & Associates, Robert Abel hired Richard Edlund to help with computer motion control of cameras. Edlund would later get recruited to Lucasfilm to work on Star Wars, and eventually to establish Boss Film Studios creating special effects for movies and motion pictures and winning four Academy Awards.

In 1970 Gary Demos was a senior at Caltech when we saw the work of John Whitney Sr. This immediately developed an interest in him for computer graphics. This interest was further developed when he saw work done at Evans & Sutherland, along with the animation that was coming out of the University of Utah. So in 1972 Demos went to work for E&S. At that time they used Digital PDP-11 computers along with the custom built hardware that E&S was becoming famous for. These systems included the Picture System that featured a graphics tablet and color frame buffer (originally designed by UU).

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It was at E&S that Demos met John Whitney Jr., the son of the original graphics pioneer. E&S started to work on some joint projects with Triple I. Founded in 1962, Triple I was in the business of creating digital scanners and other image processing equipment. Between E&S and Triple I there was a Picture Design Group. After working on a few joint projects between E&S and Triple I, Demos and Whitney left E&S to join Triple I and form the Motion Picture Products group in late 1974. At Triple I, they used PDP-10s and a Foonley Machine (which was a custom PDP-10). They developed another frame buffer that used 1000 lines; they also built custom film recorders and scanners along with custom graphics processors, image accelerators and the software to run it. This development led to the first use of computer graphics for motion pictures in 1973 when Whitney and Demos worked on the motion picture "Westworld". They used a technique called pixellization which is a computerized mosaic created by breaking up a picture into large color blocks. This is done by dividing up the picture into square areas, and then averaging the colors into one color within that area.

In 1973 the Association of Computing Machinery's (ACM) Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH) held its first conference. Solely devoted to computer graphics, the convention attracted about 1,200 people and was held in a small auditorium. Since the 1960's the University of Utah had been the focal point for research on 3D computer graphics and algorithms. For the research, the classes set up various 3D models such as a VW Beetle, a human face, and the most popular, a teapot. It was in 1975 that a M. Newell developed the Utah teapot, and throughout the history of 3D computer graphics it has served as a benchmark, and today it's almost an icon for 3D computer graphics. The original teapot that Newell based his computer model on can be seen at the Boston Computer Museum displayed next to a computer rendering of it.

Ed Catmull received his Ph. D. in computer science in 1974 and his thesis covered Texture Mapping, Z-Buffer and rendering curved surfaces. Texture mapping brought computer graphics to a new level of realism. Catmull had come up with the idea of texture mapping while sitting in his car in a parking lot at UU and talking to another student, Lance Williams, about creating a 3D castle. Most objects in real life have very rich and detailed surfaces, such as the stones of a castle wall, the material on a sofa, the wallpaper on a wall, the wood veneer on a kitchen table. Catmull realized that if you could apply patterns and textures to real-life objects, you could do the same for their computer counterparts. Texture mapping is the method of taking a flat 2D image of what an object's surface looks like, and then applying that flat image to a 3D computer generated object. Much in the same way that you would hang wallpaper on a blank wall.

The z-buffer aided the process of hidden surface removal by using zels which are similar to pixels but instead of recording the luminance of a specific point in an image, they record the depth of that point. The letter "z" reflecting the depth (as does Y for vertical position and X for horizontal position). The z-buffer was then an area of memory devoted to holding the depth data for every pixel in an image. Today high-performance graphics workstations have a z-buffer built-in.

While Gouraud shading was a great improvement over Flat shading, it still had a few problems as to its realism. If you look closely at the Gouraud shaded torus you will notice slight variations in the shading that reveal the underlying polygons. These variations can also cause reflections to appear incorrectly or even disappear altogether in certain circumstances.

This was corrected however by Phong Bui-Toung, a programmer at the UU (of course). Bui-Toung arrived at UU in 1971 and in 1974 he developed a new shading method that came to be known as Phong shading. After UU, Bui-Toung went on to Stanford as a professor, and early in 1975 he died of cancer. His shading method accurately interpolates the colors over a polygonal surface giving accurate reflective highlights and shading. The drawback to this is that Phong shading can be up to 100 times slower than Gouraud shading. Because of this, even today, when animators are creating small, flat 3D objects that are not central to the animation, they will use Gouraud shading on them instead of Phong. As with Gouraud shading, Phong shading cannot smooth over the outer edges of 3D objects.

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A major breakthrough in simulating realism began in 1975 when the French mathematician, Dr. Benoit Mandelbrot published a paper called "A Theory of Fractal Sets." After some 20 years of research he published his findings and named them Fractal Geometry. To understand what a fractal is, consider that a straight line is a one-dimensional object, while a plane is a two-dimensional object. However, if the line curves around in such a way as to cover the entire surface of the plane, then it is no longer one dimensional, yet not quite two dimensional. Mandelbrot described it as a fractional dimension, between one and two.

To understand how this helps computer graphics, imagine creating a random mountain terrain. You may start with a flat plane, then tell the computer to divide the plane into four equal parts. Next the new center point is offset vertically some random amount. Following that, one of the new smaller squares is chosen, subdivided, with its center slightly off-set randomly. The process continues recursively until some limit is reached and all the squares are off-set.

Mandelbrot followed up his paper with a book entitled "The Fractal Geometry of Nature." This showed how his fractal principles could be applied to computer imagery to create realistic simulations of natural phenomena such as mountains, coastlines, wood grain, etc.

After graduating in 1974 from UU, Ed Catmull went to a company called Applicon. It didn't last very long however, because in November of that same year he was made an offer he couldn't refuse. Alexander Schure, founder of New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), had gone to the UU to see their computer graphics lab. Schure had a great interest in animation and had already established a traditional animation facility at NYIT. After seeing the setup at UU, he asked Evans what equipment he needed to create computer graphics. He told his people to "get me one of everything they have." The timing happened to be just right because UU was running out of funding at the time. Schure made Ed Catmull Director of NYIT's new Computer Graphics Lab. Then other talented people in the computer graphics field such as Malcolm Blanchard, Garland Stern and Lance Williams left UU and went to NYIT. Thus the leading center for computer graphics research soon switched from UU to NYIT.

One talented recruit was Alvy Ray Smith. As a young student at New Mexico State University in 1964, he had used a computer to create a picture of an equiangular spiral for a Nimbus Weather satellite. Despite this early success, Smith didn't take an immediate interest in computer graphics. He moved on to Stanford University, got his Ph.D., then promptly took his first teaching job at New York University. Smith recalls, "My chairman, Herb Freeman, was very interested in computer graphics, some of his students had made important advances in the field. He knew I was an artist and yet he couldn't spark any interest on my part, I would tell him 'If you ever get color I'll get interested.' Then one day I met Dr. Richard Shoup, and he told me about Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). He was planning on going to PARC to create a program that emulated painting on a computer the way an artist would naturally paint on a canvas."

Shoup had become interested in computer graphics while he was at Carnegie Mellon University. He then became a resident scientist at PARC and began working on a program he called "SuperPaint." It used one of the first color frame buffers ever built. At the same time Ken Knowlton at Bell Labs was creating his own paint program.

Smith on the other hand, wasn't thinking much about paint programs. In the meantime, he had broken his leg in a skiing accident and re-thought the path his life was taking. He decided to move back to California to teach at Berkeley in 1973. "I was basically a hippie, but one day I decided to visit my old friend, Shoup in Palo Alto. He wanted to show me his progress on the painting program, and I told him that I only had about an hour, and then I would need to get back to Berkeley. I was only visiting him as a friend, and yet when I saw what he had done with his paint program, I wound up staying for 12 hours! I knew from that moment on that computer graphics was what I wanted to do with my life." Smith managed to get himself hired by Xerox in 1974 and worked with Shoup in writing SuperPaint.

A few years later in 1975 in nearby San Jose, Alan Baum, a workmate of Steve Wozniak at Hewlett Packard, invited Wozniak to a meeting of the local Homebrew Computer Club. Homebrew, started by Fred Moore and Gorden French, was a club of amateur computer enthusiasts, and it soon was a hotbed of ideas about building your own personal computers. From the Altair 8800 to TV typewriters, the club discussed and built virtually anything that resembled a computer. It was a friend at the Homebrew club that first gave Wozniak a box full of electronic parts and it wasn't long before Wozniak was showing off his own personal computer/toy at the Homebrew meetings. A close friend of Wozniak, Steve Jobs, worked at Atari and help Wozniak develop his computer into the very first Apple computer. They built the units in a garage and sold them for $666.66.

In the same year William Gates III at the age of 19 dropped out of Harvard and along with his friend Paul Allen, founded a company called Microsoft. They wrote a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800 and put it on the market. Some five years later in 1980, when IBM was looking for an operating system to use with their new personal computer, they approached Microsoft and Gates remembered an operating system for Intel 8080 microprocessors written by Seattle Computer Products (SCP) called 86-DOS. Taking a gamble, Gates bought 86-DOS from SCP for $50,000, rewrote it, named it DOS and licensed it (smartly retaining ownership) to IBM as the operating system for their first personal computer. Today Microsoft dominates the personal computer software industry with gross annual sales of almost 4 billion dollars, and now it has moved into the field of 3D computer graphics.

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Meanwhile back at PARC, Xerox had decided to focus solely on black and white computer graphics, dropping everything that was in color. So Alvy Ray Smith called Ed Catmull at NYIT and went out east with David DiFrancesco to meet with Catmull. Everyone hit it off, so Smith made the move from Xerox over to NYIT; this was about two months after Catmull had gotten there. The first thing Smith did was write a full color (24-bit) paint program, the first of its kind.

Later others joined NYIT's computer graphics lab including Tom Duff, Paul Heckbert, Pat Hanrahan, Dick Lundin, Ned Greene, Jim Blinn, Rebecca Allen, Bill Maher, Jim Clark, Thaddeus Beier, Malcom Blanchard and many others. In all, the computer graphics lab of NYIT would eventually be home to more than 60 employees. These individuals would continue to lead the field of computer graphics some twenty years later. The first computer graphics application NYIT focused on was 2D animation and creating tools to assist traditional animators. One of the tools that Catmull built was "Tween," a tool that interpolated in-between frames from one line drawing to another. They also developed a scan-and-paint system for scanning and then painting pencil-drawn artwork. This would later evolve into Disney's CAPS (Computer Animation Production System).

Next the NYIT group branched into 3D computer graphics. Lance Williams wrote a story for a movie called "The Works," sold the idea to Schure, and this movie became NYIT's major project for over two years. A lot of time and resources were spent in creating 3D models and rendering test animations. "NYIT in itself was a significant event in the history of computer graphics" explains Alvy Ray Smith. "Here we had this wealthy man, having plenty of money and getting us whatever we needed, we didn't have a budget, we had no goals, we just stretched the envelope. It was such an incredible opportunity, every day someone was creating something new. None of us slept, it was common to work 22 hour days. Everything you saw was something new. We blasted computer graphics into the world. It was like exploring a new continent."

However, the problem was that none of the people in the Computer Graphics Lab understood the scope of making a motion picture. "We were just a bunch of engineers in a little converted stable on Long Island, and we didn't know the first thing about making movies" said Beier (now technical director for Pacific Data Images). Gradually over a period of time, people became discouraged and left for other places. Smith continues, "It just wasn't happening. We all thought we would take part in making a movie. But at the time it would have been impossible with the speed of the computers." Alex Schure made an animated movie called "Tubby the Tuba" using conventional animation techniques, and it turned out to be very disappointing. "We realized then that he really didn't have what it takes to make a movie," explains Smith. Catmull agrees, "It was awful, it was terrible, half the audience fell asleep at the screening. We walked out of the screening room thinking 'Thank God we didn't have anything to do with it, that computers were not used for anything in that movie!'" The time was ripe for George Lucas.

Lucas, with the success of Star Wars under his belt, was interested in using computer graphics on his next movie, "The Empire Strikes Back". So he contacted Triple I, who in turn produced a sequence that showed five X-Wing fighters flying in formation. However disagreements over financial aspects caused Lucas to drop it and go back to hand-made models.

The experience however showed that photorealistic computer imagery was a possibility, so Lucas decided to assemble his own Computer Graphics department within his special effects company, Lucasfilm. Lucas sent out a person to find the brightest minds in the world of Computer Graphics. He found NYIT. Initially the individual went to Carnegie Mellon University and talked to a professor who referred him to one of his students, Ralph Guggenheim, who referred him to Catmull at NYIT. After a few discussions, Catmull flew out to the west coast and met with Lucas and accepted his offer.

Initially only five from NYIT went with Catmull including Alvy Ray Smith, David DiFrancesco, Tom Duff and Ralph Guggenheim. Later however, others would take up the opportunity. Slowly the computer graphics lab started to fall apart and ceased to be the center of computer graphics research. The focus had shifted to Lucasfilm and a new graphics department at Cornell University. Over the next 15 years, Lucasfilm would be nominated for over 20 Academy Awards, winning 12 Oscars, five Technical Achievement Awards and two Emmys.

Looking back at NYIT, Catmull reflects "Alex Schure funded five years of great research work, and he deserves credit for that. We published a lot of papers, and were very open about our research, allowing people to come on tours and see our work. However now there are a lot of lawsuits going on, mainly because we didn't patent very much. People then subsequently acquired patents on that work and now we are called in frequently to show that we had done the work prior to other people."

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Catmull continues, "We really had a major group of talented people in the lab, and the whole purpose was to do research and development for animation. We were actually quite stable for a long time, that first five years until I left. However, the primary issue was to make a feature film, and to do that you have to gather a lot of different kinds of skills; Artistic, Editorial, etc.. Unfortunately, the managers of the school did not understand this. They appreciated the technical capabilities. So as a group we where well taken care of, but we all recognized that in order to produce a feature film we had to have another kind of person there, movie people, and basically those people weren't brought into the school. We were doing the R & D but we just could not achieve our goals there. So when Lucas came along, and proved that he did have those kind of capabilities and said I want additional development in this area (of computer graphics), we jumped at it."

Thus in 1979 George Lucas formed the new computer graphics division of Lucasfilm to create computer imagery for motion pictures. Catmull became vice president and during the next six years, this new group would assemble one of the most talented teams of artists and programmers in the computer graphics industry. The advent of Lucasfilm's computer graphics department is viewed by many as another major milestone in the history of computer graphics. Here the researchers had access to funds, but at the same time they were working under a serious movie maker with real, definite goals.

The ACM in 1976 allowed for the first time, exhibitors in the annual SIGGRAPH conference. This turned up 10 companies who exhibited their products. By 1993 this would grow to 275 companies with over 30,000 attendees.

Systems Simulation Ltd. (SSL) of London created an interesting computer graphics sequence for the movie "Alien" in 1976. The scene called for a computer-assisted landing sequence where the terrain was viewed as a 3D wireframe. Initially a polystyrene landscape was going to be digitized to create the terrain. However, the terrain needed to be very rugged & complex and would have made a huge database if digitized. Alan Sutcliffe of SSL decided to write a program to generate the mountains at random. The result was a very convincing mountain terrain displayed in wireframe with the hidden lines removed. This was typical of early efforts at using computer generated imagery (CGI) in motion pictures, using it to simulate advanced computers in Sci-Fi movies.

Meanwhile the Triple I team was busy in 1976 working on "Westworld's" sequel, "Futureworld." In this film, robot Samurai warriors needed to materialize into a vacuum chamber. To accomplish this, Triple I digitized still photographs of the warriors and then used some image processing techniques to manipulate the digitized images and make the warriors materialize over the background. Triple I developed some custom film scanners and recorders for working on films in high resolutions, up to 2,500 lines.

Also in that same year at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California (before going to NYIT), James Blinn developed a new technique similar to Texture Mapping. However, instead of simply mapping the colors from a 2D image onto a 3D object, the colors were used to make the surface appear as if it had a dent or a bulge. To do this, a monochrome image is used where the white areas of the image will appear as bulges and the black areas of the image will appear as dents. Any shades of gray are treated as smaller bumps or bulges depending on how dark or how light the shade of gray is. This form of mapping is called Bump Mapping.

Bump maps can add a new level of realism to 3D graphics by simulating a rough surface. When both a texture map and a bump map are applied at the same time, the result can be very convincing. Without bump maps, a 3D object can look very flat and un-interesting.

Busy Blinn also published a paper in that same year on creating surfaces that reflect their surroundings. This is accomplished by rendering six different views from the location of the object (top, bottom, front, back, left and right). Those views are then applied to the outside of the object in a way similar to standard texture mapping. The result is that an object appears to reflect its surroundings. This type of mapping is called environment mapping.

In December of 1977, a new magazine debuted called Computer Graphics World. Back then the major stories involving computer graphics revolved around 2D drafting, remote sensing, IC design, military simulation, medical imaging and business graphics. Today, some 17 years later, CGW continues to be the primary medium for computer graphics related news and reviews. Computer graphics hardware was still prohibitively expensive at this time. The National Institute of Health paid 65,000 dollars for their first frame buffer back in 1977. It had a resolution of 512x512 with 8 bits of color depth. Today a video adapter with the same capabilities can be purchased for under 100 dollars.

During the late 1970's Don Greenberg at Cornell University created a computer graphics lab that produced new methods of simulating realistic surfaces. Rob Cook at Cornell realized that the lighting model everyone had been using best approximated plastic. Cook wanted to create a new lighting model that allowed computers to simulate objects like polished metal. This new model takes into account the energy of the light source rather than the light's intensity or brightness.

As the second decade of computer graphics drew to a close the industry was showing tremendous growth. In 1979, IBM released its 3279 color terminal and within 9 months over 10,000 orders had been placed for it. By 1980, the entire value of all the computer graphics systems, hardware, and services would reach a billion dollars.

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During the early 1980's SIGGRAPH was starting to really take off. Catmull explains, "SIGGRAPH was a very good organization. It was fortuitous to have the right people doing the right things at the right time. It became one of the very best organizations where there is a lot of sharing and a lot of openness. Over the years it generated a tremendous amount of excitement and it was a way of getting a whole group of people to work together and share information, and it is still that way today."

At the 1980 SIGGRAPH conference a stunning film entitled "Vol Libre" was shown. It was a computer generated high-speed flight through rugged fractal mountains. A programmer by the name of Loren Carpenter from The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington had studied the research of Mandelbrot and then modified it to simulate realistic fractal mountains.

Carpenter had been working in the Boeing Computer Services department since 1966 and was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. Starting around 1972 he started using the University's engineering library to follow the technical papers being published about computer graphics. He eventually worked his way into a group at Boeing that was working on a computer aided drawing system. This finally got him access to computer graphics equipment. Working there with other employees, he developed various rendering algorithms and published papers on them.

In the late 70s Carpenter was creating 3D rendered models of aircraft designs and he wanted some scenery to go with his airplanes. So he read Mandelbrot's book and was immediately disappointed when he found that the formulas were not practical for what he had in mind. Around this time "Star Wars" had been released and being a big fan of the imagination Carpenter dreamed of creating some type of alien landscape. This drove him to actually do it; by 1979 he had an idea about how to create fractal terrain in animation.

While on a business trip to Ohio State in 1979, Carpenter ran into a person who knew quite a few people in the computer graphics field including individuals like Ed Catmull. He explained how Catmull had just been hired by George Lucas to set up a lab at Lucasfilm. Carpenter was immediately interested but didn't want to send in his resume yet, because he was still working on his fractal mountain movie. "At the time they were getting enough resumes to kill a horse" explains Carpenter.

Carpenter continues, "I wanted to demonstrate that these (fractal) pictures would not only look good, but would animate well too. After solving the technical difficulties, I made the movie, wrote a paper to describe it and made a bunch of still images. I happened to be on the A/V crew of SIGGRAPH 1980, so one of my pictures ended up on an A/V T-shirt. I had this campaign to become as visible as possible because I wanted to work at Lucasfilm and when I showed my film, the people from Lucasfilm were there in the audience. Afterward they spoke to me and said, 'You're in, we want you.'" Later, in 1981 Carpenter wrote the first renderer for Lucasfilm, called REYES (Renders Everything You Ever Saw). REYES would eventually turn into the Renderman rendering engine and today, Carpenter is still with Pixar.

Turner Whitted published a paper in 1980 about a new rendering method for simulating highly reflective surfaces. Known today as Ray Tracing, it makes the computer trace every ray of light, starting from the viewer's perspective back into the 3D scene to the objects. If an object happens to be reflective, the computer follows that ray of light as it bounces off the object until it hits something else. This process continues until the ray of light hits an opaque non-reflective surface or it goes shooting off away from the scene. As you can imagine, ray tracing is extremely computational intensive. So much so that some 3D animation programmers (such as the Yost Group who created 3D Studio) refuse to put ray tracing into their software. On the other hand, the realism that can be achieved with ray tracing is spectacular.

Around 1980 two individuals, Steven Lisberger, a traditional animator, and Donald Kushner, a lawyer-turned-movie distributor decided to do a film about a fantasy world inside a video game. After putting together a presentation, Lisberger and Kushner sought backing from the major film companies around Los Angeles. To their surprise, it was Tom Wilhite, a new production chief at Disney, that took them up on the idea. After many other presentations to Disney executives, they were given the 'OK' from Disney to proceed.

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The movie, called "Tron," was to be a fantasy about a man's journey inside of a computer. It called for nearly 30 minutes of film quality computer graphics, and was a daunting task for computer graphics studios at the time. The solution lay in splitting up various sequences and farming them out to different computer graphics studios. The two major studios were Triple I and MAGI (Mathematical Applications Group Inc.). Also involved were NYIT, Digital Effects of New York and Robert Abel & Associates.

The computer generated imagery for "Tron" was very good but unfortunately the movie as a whole was very bad. Disney had sunk about $20 million into the picture and it bombed at the box office. This, if anything, had a negative influence on Hollywood toward computer graphics. Triple I had created computer graphics for other movies such as Looker in 1980, but after "Tron," they sold off their computer graphics operation. Demos and Whitney left to form a new computer graphics company called Digital Productions in 1981.

Digital Productions had just got started then they landed their first major film contract. It was to create the special effects for a Sci-Fi movie called "The Last Starfighter." In Starfighter, however, everyone made sure that the story was somewhat good before generating any computer graphics. Digital Productions invested in a Cray X-MP supercomputer to help process the computer graphics frames. The effects themselves were very impressive and photorealistic but the movie cost $14 million to make and only grossed about $21 million - enough to classify as a "B" grade movie by Hollywood standards - it still didn't make Hollywood sit up and take notice of computer graphics.

Carl Rosendahl launched a computer graphics studio in Sunnyvale, California in 1980 called Pacific Data Images (PDI). Rosendahl had just graduated from Stanford University with a degree in electrical engineering and for him, computer graphics was the perfect solution for his career interest, television production and computers. A year later Richard Chuang, one of the partners, wrote some anti-aliasing rendering code, and the resulting images allowed PDI's client base to increase. While other computer graphics studios were focusing on film, PDI focused solely on television network ID's, such as the openings for movie-of-the-week programs. This allowed them to carve a niche for themselves. Chris Woods set up a computer graphics department in 1981 at R/Greenberg Associates in New York. In August of 1981 IBM introduced their first personal computer, the IBM PC. The IBM PC, while not the most technologically advanced personal computer, seemed to break PCs into the business community in a serious way. It used the Intel 16-bit 8088 microprocessor and offered ten times the memory of other personal computer systems. From then on, personal computers became serious tools that business needed. With this new attitude toward PCs came tremendous sales as PCs spread across the country into practically every business.

Another major milestone in the 1980's for computer graphics was the founding of Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) by Jim Clark in 1982. SGI focused its resources on creating the highest performance graphics computers available. These systems offered built-in 3D graphics capabilities, high speed RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Chip) processors and symmetrical (multiple processor) architectures. The following year in 1983, SGI rolled out its first system, the IRIS 1000 graphics terminal.

In 1982, Lucasfilm signed up with Atari for a first-of-its-kind venture between a film studio and video game company. They planned to create a home video game based on the hit movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark." They also made plans to develop arcade games and computer software together. Some of Lucasfilm's games included PHM Pegasus, Koronis Rift, Labyrinth, Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus and Strike Fleet. They also developed a networked game called Habitat that is still very popular in Japan. Today the LucasArts division of Lucasfilm creates the video games and is a strong user of 3D computer graphics.

In 1982, John Walker and Dan Drake along with eleven other programmers established Autodesk Inc. They released AutoCAD version 1 for S-100 and Z-80 based computers at COMDEX (Computer Dealers Exposition) that year. Autodesk shipped AutoCAD for the IBM PC and Victor 9000 personal computers the following year. Starting from 1983, their yearly sales would rise from 15,000 dollars to 353.2 million dollars in 1993 as they helped move computer graphics to the world of personal computers.

At Lucasfilm, special effects for film were handled by The Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) division, yet early on they didn't want much to do with computer graphics. Catmull explains, "They considered what we were doing as too low of a resolution for film. They felt it didn't have the quality, and they weren't really believers in it. There wasn't an antagonistic relationship between us, we got along well, it was just that they didn't see computer graphics as being up to their standards. However, as we developed the technology we did do a couple pieces such as the Death Star projection for 'Return of the Jedi.' It was only a single special effect yet it came out looking great." For "Return of Jedi" in 1983, Lucasfilm created a wireframe "hologram" of the Death Star under construction protected by a force field for one scene.

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The computer graphics division of Lucasfilm was next offered a special effects shot for the movie "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn." There was an effect that could have been done either traditionally or with CGI. The original screenplay called for the actors to go into a room containing a coffin shaped case in which could be seen a lifeless rock. The "Genesis" machine would then shoot this rock and make it look green and lifelike. ILM, however, didn't think of that as very impressive, so they went to the computer graphics division and asked if they could generate the effect of the rock turning life-like. Then Alvy Ray Smith came back and said, "Instead of having this rock in front of this glass box why don't we do what's meant to be a computer simulation and a program showing how it works for the whole planet." Thus Smith came up with the original idea and ILM decided to go for it. And so they generated a one minute long sequence. It was largely successful because it was meant to be a computer generated image in the movie, so it didn't need to have the final touches of realism added to it. The effect was rendered on Carpenter's new rendering engine, REYES. It turned out to be a very, very successful piece. As Smith would later say, "I call it 'the effect that never dies' It appeared in three successive Star Trek movies, Reebok and other commercials, the Sci-Fi channel, you see it everywhere." Following the "Genesis" effect, Lucasfilm used computer graphics for the movie "Young Sherlock Holmes" in 1985. In this movie, a stained glass window comes to life to terrorize a priest.

Tom Brigham, a programmer and animator at NYIT, astounded the audience at the 1982 SIGGRAPH conference. Tom Brigham had created a video sequence showing a woman distort and transform herself into the shape of a lynx. Thus was born a new technique called "Morphing". It was destined to become a required tool for anyone producing computer graphics or special effects in the film or television industry. However, despite its impressive response by viewers at the conference, no one seemed to pay the technique much attention until a number of years later in 1987 when LucasFilm used the technique for the movie "Willow" in which a sorceress was transformed through a series of animals into her final shape as a human.

Scott Fischer, Brenda Laurel, Jaron Lanier along with Thomas Zimmerman worked at the Atari Research Center (ARC) during the early eighties. Jaron Lanier, working for Atari as a programmer in 1983, developed the DataGlove. A glove for your hand wired with switches to detect and transmit to the computer any movements you make. The computer interprets the data and allows you to manipulate objects in 3D space within a computer simulation. He left later that year and teamed up with Jean-Jacques Grimaud; together they founded a company 2 years later in 1985 called VPL Research, which would develop and market some of the first commercial virtual reality products. Zimmerman, an MIT graduate who had developed the "Air Guitar" software and a DataGlove that allowed you to play a virtual guitar, also joined VPL Research. Zimmerman left in 1989 while Lanier stayed with VPL Research until November of 1992.

AT&T formed the Electronic Photography and Imaging Center (EPIC) in 1984 to create PC-based videographic products. In the following year they released the TARGA video adapter for personal computers. This allowed PC users for the first time to display and work with 32-bit color images on the screen. EPIC also published the TGA Targa file format for storing these true color images.

Early animation companies such as Triple-I, Digital Productions, Lucasfilm, etc. had to write their own software for creating computer graphics, however this began to change in 1984. In Santa Barbara, California a new company was formed called Wavefront. Wavefront produced the very first commercially available 3D animation system to run on off-the-shelf hardware. Prior to Wavefront, all computer graphics studios had to write their own programs for generating 3D animation. Wavefront started a revolution that would shape the future of all computer graphics studios. Also in that same year, Thomson Digital Image (TDI) was founded by three engineers working for Thomson CSF, a large defense contractor. TDI released its 3D animation software in 1986.

Up until this point, all of the image synthesis methods in use were based on incidental light, where a light source was shining directly on a surface. However, most of the light we see in the real world is diffused or light reflected from surfaces. In your home, you may have halogen lamps that shine incidental light on the ceiling, but then the ceiling reflects diffuse light to the rest of the room. If you were going to create a 3D computer version of the room, you might place a light source in the lamp shining up on the ceiling. However, the rest of the room would appear dark, because the software is based on direct light, incidental light and it would not reflect off the ceiling to the rest of the room. To solve this problem, a new rendering method was needed and in 1984 Cindy Goral, Don Greenberg and others at Cornell University published a paper called, "Modeling the Interaction of Light Between Diffuse Surfaces." The paper described a new method called Radiosity that uses the same formulas that simulate the way heat is dispersed throughout a room to determine how light reflects between surfaces. By determining the exchange of radiant energy between 3D surfaces very realistic results are possible.

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In January of 1984, Apple Computer released the first Macintosh computer. It was the first personal computer to use a graphical interface. The Mac was based on the Motorola microprocessor and used a single floppy drive, 128K of memory, a 9" high resolution screen and a mouse. It would become the largest non IBM-compatible personal computer series ever introduced.

Around 1985, multimedia started to make its big entrance. The International Standards Organization (ISO) created the first standard for Compact Discs with Read Only Memory (CD-ROM). This new standard was called High Sierra, after the area near Lake Tahoe, where ISO created the standard. This standard later changed into the ISO 9660 standard. Today multimedia is a major marketplace for personal computer 3D animation. In that same year, Commodore launched the new Amiga personal computer line. The Amiga offers many advanced features, including a hardware level compatibility with the IBM personal computer line. The Amiga uses Motorola's 68000 microprocessor and has its own proprietary operating system. The base unit's retail price is $1,295.

Daniel Langlois in Montreal, Canada founded a company called Softimage in 1986. Then in early 1987 he hired some engineers to help create his vision for a commercial 3D computer graphics program. The Softimage software was released at the 1988 SIGGRAPH show and it became the animation standard in Europe with over 1,000 installations world-wide by 1993.

During this time, Jim Henson of Muppets fame approached Brad DeGraf at Digital Productions with the idea of creating a digital puppet. Henson had brought with him a Waldo unit that he had previously used to control one of his puppets remotely. The device had gotten its name from NASA engineers years earlier. They in turn had taken the name from a 1940's Sci-Fi book written by Robert A. Heinlein about a disabled scientist who built a robot to amplify his limited abilities. The scientist's name was Waldo. Thus when NASA (and later Henson) built their own version of the unit, they dubbed it Waldo.

The programmers at Digital Productions managed to hook up the Waldo and create animation with it, but that animation was never used for a commercial project. Still, the idea of Motion Capture was born. Today motion capture continues to be a major player in creating computer graphics. As for Digital Productions, at the time things were going great. They had purchased a Cray X-MP supercomputer because it was the fastest computer that money could buy. They were interfacing film recording and scanning equipment and they had about 75 to 100 employees. They had just finished their fist big movie project, "The Last Starfighter" and they did some special effects scenes for the movie 2010 (the swirling surface of Jupiter). They also worked on "Labyrinth" in 1986. Things were going very well for Digital Productions, perhaps things went too well.

In 1986 the two largest computer graphics houses in the United States were bought out by Omnibus Computer Graphics Inc. in hostile takeovers, Digital Productions (in June) and Robert Abel & Associates Inc. (in October). The reason this is significant, is that both companies had invested heavily in high-end supercomputers like the Cray X-MP (which cost about $13 million each). This had put the focus on buying the fastest number cruncher money could buy and then creating your own custom software.

As soon as Omnibus took control of Digital Productions the two co-founders of Digital, John Whitney and Gary Demos, sued the majority owner of Omnibus, Santa Clara-based Ramtek, for a portion of the sale proceeds. Omnibus subsequently locked both of them out of their offices at Digital Productions in July of 1986. In September Omnibus obtained a temporary restraining order against Whitney and Demos alleging that Whitney and Demos founded a competing firm, Whitney Demos Productions, and had hired at least three employees away from Omnibus and were using software and other information that belonged to Omnibus. The restraining order required Whitney and Demos to return certain property temporarily to Omnibus.

In October, Omnibus acquired Robert Abel & Associates Inc. for $8.5 million. However, by March of 1987, Omnibus started defaulting on the $30 million it had borrowed from several major Canadian creditors. Most of the debts were the result of acquiring Digital Productions and Robert Abel & Associates the previous year. In May, Omnibus officially closed down and laid off all its employees.

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According to Gary Demos, "Abel & Associates was sunk just the same as us. At the time, we were the two largest effects studios, and that crash fragmented the entire industry. It changed the whole character of the development of computer graphics." Talented people from both studios found their way into other animation studios. Jim Rigel went to Boss Films, Art Durenski went to a studio in Japan, some went to PDI, some went to Philips Interactive Media (then known as American Interactive Media), others went to Rhythm & Hues, Metrolight, and Lucasfilm. Whitney and Demos created Demos Productions in 1986. It lasted for two years, then they split up and formed their own companies in 1988. Whitney formed US Animation Labs, while Demos formed DemoGraphics.

In the personal computer field, computer graphics software was booming. Crystal Graphics introduced TOPAS, one of the first high-quality 3D animation programs for personal computers, in 1986. Over the years, Crystal Graphics would continue to be a major contender in the PC based 3D animation field. The following year, Electric Image was founded and released a 3D animation package for both SGI machines and Apple Macintosh computers. In Mountain View, California, a new 3D software company was founded under the name Octree Software Inc.. They later changed their name to Caligari Corporation and now offer 3D animation programs for both the Amiga and PC platforms.

Also in 1986 computer graphics found a new venue, the courtroom. Known as Forensic Animation, these computer graphics are more geared to technical accuracy than to visual aesthetics. Forensic Technologies Inc. started using computer graphics to help jurors visualize court cases. Still creating Forensic animation today, they have been in the business longer than any other company. Now they use SGI workstations from RS-4000's up through Crimson Reality Engines. For their 3D software they exclusively use Wavefront but have a few interfaces to CAD modeling packages. For 2D animation they use a program called Matador by Parallax.

In that same year, Disney made its first use of computer graphics in the film "The Great Mouse Detective." In this first Disney attempt at merging computer graphics and hand draw cel animation, they only used the computer for some of the mechanical devices such as gears and clockworks. A Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) department was formed and went on to work on such films as "Oliver and Company," "The Little Mermaid," "Rescuers Down Under," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin." With the highly successful results of "Aladdin" and "Beauty and the Beast," Disney has increased the animators in the CGI department from only 2 to over 14.

About this time at Lucasfilm, things were getting a little complicated. The computer graphics division wanted to move toward doing a feature length computer animated film. Meanwhile ILM was getting interested in the potential of computer graphics effects. Catmull explains, "Lucas felt this company was getting a little too wide and he wanted to narrow the focus into what he was doing as a filmmaker. Our goals weren't really quite consistent with his." So the computer graphics division asked if they could spin off as a separate company and Lucas agreed to do that.

It took a year about a year of trying to make that happen. Catmull continues, "One of the last things I did was hire two people to come in and start a CGI group for ILM because they still wanted CGI special effects capabilities. So I went out to a number of people but mainly focused on Doug Kay and George Joblove. They turned us down the first time. We talked to them and interviewed them and they called up and said 'We decided not to come up, because we have our own company.' So I put down the phone and thought 'damn I have to keep on looking.' Then that night I called back again, and said 'Doug, you're crazy! This is the opportunity of a lifetime! Something went wrong in the interview. Come back up here and let's do this thing again.' He said 'OK!' so I brought him up again, we went through it all again, and this time they accepted."

The computer graphics division of ILM split off to become Pixar in 1986. Part of the deal was that Lucasfilm would get continued access to Pixar's rendering technology. It took about a year to separate Pixar from Lucasfilm and in the process, Steve Jobs became a majority stockholder. Ed Catmull became president and Alvy Ray Smith became vice-president. Pixar continued to develop their renderer, putting a lot of resources into it and eventually turning it into Renderman.

Created in 1988, Renderman is a standard for describing 3D scenes. Pat Hanrahan of Pixar organized most of the technical details behind Renderman and gave it its name. Since then Hanrahan has moved to Princeton University where he is currently Associate Professor of Computer Science.

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The Renderman standard describes everything the computer needs to know before rendering your 3D scene such as the objects, light sources, cameras, atmospheric effects, and so on. Once a scene is converted to a Renderman file, it can be rendered on a variety of systems, from Macs to PCs to Silicon Graphics Workstations. This opened up many possibilities for 3D computer graphics software developers. Now all the developer had to do was give the modeling system the capability of producing Renderman compatible scene descriptions. Once it did this, then the developer could bundle a Renderman rendering engine with the package, and not worry about writing their own renderer. When the initial specification was announced, over 19 firms endorsed it including Apollo, Autodesk, Sun Microsystems, NeXT, MIPS, Prime, and Walt Disney.

An integral part of Renderman is the use of 'shaders' or small pieces of programming code for describing surfaces, lighting effects and atmospheric effects. Surface shaders are small programs that algorithmically generate textures based on mathematical formulas. These algorithmic textures are sometimes called procedural textures or spatial textures. Not only is the texture generated by the computer, but it is also generated in 3D space. Whereas most texture mapping techniques map the texture to the outside 'skin' of the object, procedural textures run completely through the object in 3D. So if you were using a fractal based procedural texture of wood grain on a cube, and you cut out a section of the cube, you would see the wood grain running through the cube.

The interesting part however was that Kay and Joblove (along with the other CGI specialist at ILM) became so efficient and the CGI grew and grew until today the CGI group is ILM. Its not a major department, it is...ILM. This is viewed by some as one of the most stunning developments in computer graphics history. One of the reasons the CGI department became so important is that it succeeded in what it intended to do. They set goals, budgets and they met them. Meanwhile, back at Pixar in December of 1988, Steve Jobs stepped down from his post of Chairman of Pixar, and Ed Catmull took his place. Charles Kolstad, the company's VP of manufacturing and engineering, became the new president.

Paul Sidlo had worked as Creative Director for Cranston/Csuri Productions from 1982 until 1987 when he left to form his own computer graphics studio, ReZ.n8 (pronounced resonate). Since then, ReZ.n8 has continued to be a leader in producing high quality computer graphics attracting such clients as ABC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, NBC along with most of the major film studios.

Jeff Kleiser had been a computer animator at Omnibus were he directed animation for the Disney feature film "Flight of the Navigator." Before Omnibus Kleiser had founded Digital Effects and worked on projects such as "Tron" and "Flash Gordon." As things started to fall apart at Omnibus he did some research into motion capture. Then when Omnibus closed, he joined up with Diana Walczak and formed a new company in 1987, Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company. Their new firm's specialty was human figure animation. In 1988 they produced a 3-1/2 minute music video with a computer generated character named Dozo. They used motion control to input all of her movements.

Brad DeGraf, also from Omnibus, joined forces with Michael Wahrman to form DeGraf/Wahrman Production company. At the SIGGRAPH conference of 1988, the showed, "Mike the Talking Head" which was an interactive 3D computer animated head. Using special controls, they were able to make it interact with the conference participants. Later DeGraf would leave Wahrman and go to work for Colossal Pictures in San Francisco.

The Pixar Animation Group made history on March 29, 1989 by winning an Oscar at the Academy Awards for their animated short film, "Tin Toy." The film was created completely with 3D computer graphics using Pixar's Renderman. John Lasseter directed the film with William Reeves providing technical direction.

At the 1989 SIGGRAPH in Boston, Autodesk unveiled a new PC based animation package called Autodesk Animator. As a full featured 2D animation and painting package, Animator was Autodesk's first step into the multimedia tools realm. The software-only animation playback capabilities achieved very impressive speeds and became a standard for playing animation on PCs.

In 1989 an underwater adventure movie was released called "The Abyss." This movie had a direct impact on the field of CGI for motion pictures. James Cameron, director and screenwriter for Abyss, had a specific idea in mind for a special effect. He wanted a water creature like a fat snake to emerge from a pool of water, extend itself and explore an underwater oil-rig and then to interact with live characters. He felt it couldn't be done with traditional special effects tools and so he put the effect up for bid and both Pixar and ILM bid on it. ILM won the bid and used Pixar's software to create it. Catmull explains, "We really wanted to do this water creature for the Abyss, but ILM got the bid, and they did a great job on it."

Cameron viewed this effect as a test piece and that if it didn't work out then he could have done without it. But it did work, and it worked so well and had enough of an impact, that it convinced him that CGI could create a major character in his next film which would be "Terminator 2."

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In May of 1990, Microsoft shipped Windows 3.0. It followed a GUI structure similar to the Apple Macintosh, and laid the foundation for a future growth in multimedia. While in 1990 only two of the nation's top ten programs ran under Windows, this rose to nine out of ten just a year later in 1991.

Later that year, in October, Alias Research signed a 2.3 million dollar contract with ILM. The deal called for Alias to supply 3D, state of the art computer graphics systems to ILM for future video production. While ILM in turn would test these new systems and provide feedback.

NewTek, a company founded in 1985, released the Video Toaster in October of 1990. The Video Toaster is a video production card for Amiga personal computers that retails for $1,595. The card comes with 3D animation, and 24-bit paint software and offers video capabilities such as a 24-bit frame buffer, switching, digital video effects, and character generation. The practical video editing uses of the Video Toaster made it very popular, and today it is used on broadcast television shows such as Sea Quest and Babylon 5 for 3D computer graphics.

Also in 1990, AutoDesk shipped their first 3D Computer animation product, 3D Studio. Created for AutoDesk by Gary Yost (The Yost Group), 3D Studio has risen over the past four years to the lead position in PC based 3D computer animation software.

Disney and Pixar announced in 1991 an agreement to create the first computer animated full length feature film, called "Toy Story," within two to three years. This project came as a fulfillment to those early NYIT'ers who had the dream of producing a feature length film. Pixar's animation group, with the success of their popular Listerine, Lifesavers and Tropicana commercials, had the confidence that they could pull off the project on time and on budget.

"Terminator 2" (T2) was released in 1991 and set a new standard for CGI special effects. The evil T-1000 robot in T2 was alternated between the actor Robert Patrick and a 3D computer animated version of Patrick. Not only were the graphics photorealistic, but the most impressive thing was that the effects were produced on time and under budget.

The same year another major film was released in which CGI played a large role, "Beauty and the Beast." After previously having one success after another with computer graphics, Disney pulled out all the stops and used computer graphics throughout the movie. In terms of the beauty, color and design Disney did things that they could not possibly have done without computers. Many scenes contained 3D animated objects, yet they were flat shaded with bright colors so as to blend in with the hand-drawn characters. The crowning sequence was a ballroom dance in a photorealistic ballroom complete with a 3D crystal chandelier and 158 individual light sources to simulate candles.

The effect of these two movies in 1991 on Hollywood was remarkable. Catmull explains, "So what happened was in 1991 'Beauty and the Beast' came out, 'Terminator 2' came out and Disney announced that they had entered into a relationship with us to do a feature length film computer animated film for them. Beauty and T2 where phenomenal financial successes and all of a sudden everybody noticed. That was the turning point, for all the ground work that other people had been doing yet hadn't been noticed before. It all turned around in 1991, it was the year when the whole entertainment industry said 'Oh my God!' and it took them by storm. Then they all started forming their groups and their alliances and so forth."

Early in 1991, Steve Jobs gave the ax to all application development at Pixar. Fearing that the selling of application software would discourage other third party software developers from writing software for Job's NeXT computer he halted all application development at Pixar. He gave the employees 30 days to try and spin off a separate company to focus on application software. This of course did not prove to be enough time, so the president of Pixar, Chuck Kolstad, along with about 30 employees (almost half of Pixar's workers) were laid off. Ed Catmull moved back into the position of president. Pixar lost a lot of talent including Alvy Ray Smith who went on to start a new company called Altamira (funded by Autodesk) and created a PC version of his IceMan image editing software he created at Pixar. This product is now commercially available on the market under the name, Altamira Composer.

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A Technical Award was given to six developers from Walt Disney's Feature Animation Department and three developers from Pixar for their work on CAPS. CAPS is a 2D animation system owned by Disney that simplifies and automates much of the complex post-production aspects of creating full length cartoon animations.

In 1993, Wavefront acquired Thomson Digital Image (TDI) which increased Wavefront's market share in the high-end computer graphics market. Wavefront immediately begin integrating products from TDI into their own line of computer graphics software.

Early in 1993, IBM, James Cameron (writer/director/producer), Stan Winston (special effects expert) and Scott Ross (visual effects executive from ILM) joined forces to create a new visual effects and digital production studio called Digital Domain. Located in the Los Angeles area, Digital Domain hopes to give ILM a run for its money. Not to be out done, ILM followed with their own announcement in April to form a joint "media lab" with Silicon Graphics Inc. called JEDI (Joint Environment for Digital Imaging). ILM will get the latest and greatest SGI hardware and SGI will get to use ILM as a testing facility.

PDI opened their Digital Opticals Group in Hollywood to create special effects for motion pictures such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "Batman Returns," and "The Babe." Now, PDI has become one of the leaders in digital cleanup work such as wire removal, for motion pictures. Often wires are used for special effects like people flying or jumping through the air. Sometimes scratches occur on irreplaceable film footage. For "Terminator 2," PDI used image processing to erase the wires that guided Arnold Schwarzenegger and his motorcycle over a perilous jump. PDI uses software to automatically copy pixels from the background and paste them over the pixels that represent the wires.

Another edit for T2 involved a semi truck crashing through a wall and down into a storm ditch. The original shot was made at the wrong angle. So the director wanted the footage flipped left to right, to keep the continuity consistent with surrounding shots. Normally this would not be a problem, yet in this instance a street sign was in the picture, and even the driver could be seen through the windshield of the truck. So these elements prevented the normal flip that any studio could have performed. To solve these problems, PDI first flipped the footage. Then they cut the sign from the unflipped footage and pasted over top of the flipped sign. Then they copied and pasted the driver from the left side of the truck to the right side. The finished sequence looked flawless.

PDI performed many other sleights of hand for the movie "Babe," a documentary about baseball legend Babe Ruth. A number of challenges faced the producers, one of which was that the main actor, John Goodman is right handed, while Babe Ruth was left handed. As you can imagine, this really threw off many scenes where John had to pitch the ball. To resolve this problem, PDI used digital image processing.

To create the effect of a pitch, John Goodman simply mimed it, without using a ball. Then they filmed a left handed pitcher throwing the ball from the same position. Then the baseball from the second shot was composited onto the first shot. However, the actor playing the catcher had to fake it along with John Goodman and the result was he didn't catch the ball at the same time it arrived. To solve this problem, they split the scene down the middle and merged the catcher from the second shot into the first shot. This resulted in a flawless left-handed fastball. "Cleanup" special effects like this have become a mainstay for computer graphics studios in the 80's and 90's.

Nintendo announced an agreement with Silicon Graphics, Inc. (the leader in computer graphics technology) to produce a 64-bit 3D Nintendo platform for home use. Their first product, Ultra64 will be an arcade game to be released in 1994, while a home version will follow in late 1995. The home system's target price will be $250.

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In the early 1990's Steven Spielberg was working on a film version of the latest Michael Crichton best seller, "Jurassic Park." Since the movie was basically about dinosaurs chasing (and eating) people, the special effects presented quite a challenge. Originally, Spielberg was going to take the traditional route, hiring Stan Winston to create full scale models/robots of the dinosaurs, and hiring Phil Tippett to create stop-motion animation of the dinosaurs running and movements where their legs would leave the ground.

Tippett is perhaps the foremost expert on stop-motion and inventor of go-motion photography. Go-motion is a method of adding motion blur to stop-motion characters by using computer to move the character slightly while it is being filmed. This new go-motion technique eliminates most of the jerkiness normally associated with stop-motion. As an example, the original King Kong movie simply used stop-motion and was very jerky. ET on the other hand used Tippett's go-motion technique for the flying bicycle scene and the result was very smooth motion. Tippett went to work on Jurassic Park and created a test walk-cycle for a running dinosaur. It came out OK, although not spectacular.

At the same time, however, animators at ILM began experimenting. There was a stampeding herd of Gallimimus dinosaurs in a scene that Spielberg had decided to cut from the movie because it would have been impossible to create an entire herd of go-motion dinosaurs running at the same time. Eric Armstrong, an animator at ILM, however, experimented by creating the skeleton of the dinosaur and then animating a walk cycle. Then after copying that walk cycle and making 10 other dinosaurs running in the same scene, it looked so good that everyone at ILM was stunned. They showed it to Spielberg and he couldn't believe it. So Spielberg put the scene back into the movie.

Next they tackled the Tyrannosaurs Rex. Steve Williams created a walk-cycle and output the animation directly to film. The results were fantastic and the full motion dinosaur shots were switched from Tippett's studio to the computer graphics department at ILM.

This was obviously a tremendous blow to the stop-motion animators. Tippett was later quoted in ON Production and Post-Production magazine as saying, "We were reticent about the computer-graphic animators' ability to create believable creatures, but we thought it might work for long shots like the stampede sequence." However as it progressed to the point where the CGI dinosaurs looked better than the go-motion dinosaurs, it was a different story, he continues, "When it was demonstrated that on a photographic and kinetic level that this technology could work, I felt like my world had disintegrated. I am a practitioner of a traditional craft and I take it very seriously. It looked like the end."

However, Tippett's skills were very much needed by the computer animators. In order to create realistic movement for the dinosaurs, Tippett along with the ILM crew developed the Dinosaur Input Device (DID). The DID is an articulate dinosaur model with motion sensors attached to its limbs. As the traditional stop-motion animators moved the model, the movement was sent to the computer and recorded. This animation was then touched up and refined by the ILM animators until it was perfect. Eventually 15 shots were done with the DID and 35 shots were done using traditional computer graphics methods.

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The animators at ILM worked closely with Stan Winston, using his dinosaur designs so the CGI dinosaurs would match the large full-scale models Winston was creating. Alias Power Animator was used to model the dinosaurs, and the animation was created using Softimage software. The dinosaur skins were created using hand-painted texture maps along with custom Renderman surface shaders. The final scene which is a show-down between the T-Rex and the Velociraptors was added at the last minute by Spielberg since he could see that ILM's graphics would produce a realistic sequence. The results were spectacular and earned ILM another Special Effects Oscar in March of 1994.

In February 1994, Microsoft Corporation acquired Softimage for 130 million dollars. Microsoft's initial use of TDI technology will be internal, to enhance their multimedia CD-ROM products and interactive TV programs. Microsoft also plans to port the Softimage software over to its Windows NT operating system. This may be the first move in starting a trend for the shifting of high-end graphics software from workstations to personal computers.

The summer of 1994 featured blockbusters full of computer graphics. Some effects however, were so photorealistic that the computer's role was undetectable. For example in the movie "Forrest Gump," artists at ILM used digital compositing, overlaying different video sequences on top of each other, to give the illusion that the actor Tom Hanks was in the same scene as some famous American politicians like John F. Kennedy. They also used standard image editing techniques to "cut" the legs off of an actor who played the part of a wounded soldier who lost his legs in war. They simply had him wear knee-high blue tube socks. Then after the film was scanned into the computer, the artists used Parallax software to copy portions of the background over the blue tube socks in every frame. The result is that Tom Hanks picks the actor up off a bed and it looks as if the actor really has no legs.

Another major project for ILM was the movie, "The Mask." In this movie, the computer graphics artist at ILM had full creative freedom in producing wild and extravagant personalities for the character of the Mask. In one case, they digitally removed his head and replaced it with the head of a computer generated wolf. In another scene, they animated a massive cartoon style gun that the Mask pulls on a couple of criminals. This gun has multiple barrels, swinging chains of machine gun bullets, even a guided missile with a radar locks on the criminals. All of it was created photorealistically using 3D graphics and then composited onto the live action shot.

Considering the quality and realism that we see in computer graphics today, it's hard to imagine that the field didn't even exist just 30 years ago. Yet even today the SIGGRAPH, the conference and exposition, continues to excite the computer graphics community with new graphics techniques. And while companies have come and gone over the years, the people haven't. Most of the early pioneers are still active in the industry and just as enthusiastic about the technology as they were when they first started. Many of these pioneers that were discussed can be readily reached on the Internet. This access is similar to being an artist and being able to pick up the phone and call Monet, Michelangelo, Renoir, or Rembrandt.

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