Computer Graphics in the Film Industry – History, Current Trends and Future

Hotchpotch 20 May 2013
Computer Graphics in the Film Industry – History, Current Trends and Future

Recent computer advancements have redefined various aspects of making movies, commercials, games, etc. Capabilities of computer technology have allowed the discovery of endless innovation possibilities. These days computer generated effects have acquired center stage in everything from a basic advertisement, to games, big budget films to television. This wasn’t the case before the emergence of computer graphics.

Before computer graphics made inroads in the entertainment industry, the world of entertainment was a duller place. The emergence of computer and its understanding has made the interpretation of data easier. It has had a severe impact on many types of media and has transformed animation, gaming industry and movies. Prior to becoming a vital element of entertainment, it underwent a transformation by leaps and bounds.

A brief history of computer graphics

The beginning of computer graphics can be traced back to the 1960’s. There were quite a few steps taken in the direction of using graphics for developing game. In 1961, Ivan Sutherland a student of MIT created computer drawing program known as Sketchpad. This could solve some of the basic graphic problems of that period. It allowed the creation of simple shapes on the computer screen, save them and view them later. In 1961, Steve Russell created the first video game ‘Space wars’. In 1963, E. E. Zajac, the scientist at Bell telephony laboratory made a film ‘Simulation of a two-giro gravity audio control system’ using graphics.

As the capabilities of making images with computers advanced, computer graphics made the move from the lab to full scale production in 1970’s. In 1970’s, graphics were used extensively in movies. Although the graphics were slow and not that enticing, still it marked the evolution of computer graphics. There were several movies making use of special effects that were computer generated. Movies such as West World 1973, Future World 1976, Star wars 1977, etc made noticeable use of graphics in some scenes.

It was the movie Tron in 1982, which emphasized the use of graphics. It used four major production companies to come up with a 20 minute of full 3D graphics. Even though, the movie failed to capture the attention of the viewers, but it left an impact on the movie makers with the potential of graphics in the industry.

Special effects during olden days

While making movies in yesteryears, the only thing providing different effects was the camera with limitations. Special effects were also popularly known as camera techniques or effects. Computer had no role in the industry. In fact, no one could ever imagine computer and movies.

Movie makers would make full sized model of a structure and move it with the hydraulic systems. Others would rely on magnifying a small model and mixing up with the scene.  The combination of these techniques worked to some extent to get the desired output. In the past, movies showing aliens used plastic instead of pixels. Superman was provided assistance of wires for flying. Animations were created using paintbrushes and pencils.

Now, if on a weekend, you plan to watch one of your favorite thriller action movie, all you would get is boredom. Special effects that earlier made you jump of your seat are no longer capable of bringing the same captivating effect.

Popular Hollywood movies with computer graphics

Computer these days have become the backbone of any thriller movie. Graphics are capable of matching real images. They have currently exceeded limits of special effects. Some of the finest examples of successful movies purely based on computer graphics are- Matrix Trilogy, Avatar, Spiderman series, Life of Pi, etc,

Current trends, which made these movies a big success 

Limitations imposed by real world models have been eliminated

Before computer graphics were introduced, the creativity of directors was limited, due to lack of availability of resources. Special effects supposed to be used in movies were limited to robotic creatures. Their performance was limited to the hydraulic machines that powered their movements. These days, models generated using computer graphics are done using a graphics workstation.

All it takes is a team of skilled graphic designers, powerful and robust workstations to render the scenes. The physical uses of large human replicas and aliens have been completely eliminated.

Cost has been cut substantially

Earlier budget for movies was a significant issue. The creation of monstrous models did require a massive investment. Models crafted and drive train that powered them was highly sophisticated.  This level of sophistication, the expense of creation of models and other resources always demanded shelling of money.  With the emergence of computer graphics, the cost of creation has been limited to a team of expert designers and computers controlling the workflow.

Minimal wastage of resources

In the past, if movies were to be a series or sequels, physical models could be used multiple times. But if that was not the case, then it resulted in wastage of a huge amount of money and resources. Using computer graphics saves the movie makers from wastage of resources, as nothing much exists physically. If a CG model ever needs alteration, all it needed the efforts on the part of a graphics professional.

Saves time

The creation of huge physical models consumed time. In case of computer graphics, the need of fabrication and fixing the joints is eliminated. All it takes is a set of skilled workers to get the work done easily and quickly.

Far superior quality

Computer graphics continue to assist movie makers in developing breathtaking animations. The scenes are getting more and more realistic and hard to distinguish. The availability of experts and software with phenomenal features makes it a cakewalk to blend the real shots with special effects scenes.

The Future

Considering the present dependency of movies on computer graphics, one thing is for sure, the future of movies aided with computer graphics is going to push the limits of innovations. Numerous possibilities of graphics have already made our jaws to drop. The movies in the future may amaze us with exceptional effects, further blurring the lines between reality and special effects. The way computer graphics has revolutionized the industry in a short span of time; one can expect the future to be further thrilling with special effects.

Gone are the days, when it took months to create a six legged model, which made the audience scream.   As the demand for innovations is always high in the entertainment industry, it becomes imperative to provide viewers improved picture quality. The distance this technology has travelled over the decades, promises of even more amazing future for the viewers.


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One Comment

  1. airmax 90
    June 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing in your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!…

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