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Unformatted text preview: I'm Sorry Dave,I'm Afraid I Can't Do That: The Technology of Digital Visual Effects One of the greatest misconceptions about modern movies is that visual effects are generated by computers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human inventiveness is the most important ingredient and it al- ways will be.-PIERS BIZON! D1G1Td L DOMAIN: THE LEADING EDGE OF VISUAL EFPECTSI Establishing the common ground of the classical narrative is only a beginning point for examining the extent to which DVFx have affected storytelling in lilm. To address how they make a difference to either the structure or the qual- ity of storycraft, it is important take into account the history of computer graph- ics and how they came to be such a significant part of film production.2 Computer graphics emerged from scientific studies in rhe I91+0s and 1950s, when computers were used to drive mechanical means ofproducing graphic im- ages. In the eady 7950s,Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad graphic interface would Iead to the CAD (computer assisted design) and CAM (computer assisted manufacture) applications of the automotive, naval, and aeronautics industries. Sutherlaod is a pivotal figure in the development of computer graphics, and his graduate students from the University of Utah include the leading developers of the major computer-graphics advances that have changed the world. Before long, architects and artists adopted new CAD and CAM techniques for their own uses. The brothers James and John \Thitney Sr. are recognized as being among the first to create computer assisted art. Interested in the rela- tionship between music and absttact imagery, they built their own equipment from repurposed computers and optical printers to create short films combining music and images, developing techniques copied by those who followed in their footsteps.r Most famously, the star-gate sequence of 2001 : A space odyssey used the \Thitneys' slit-scan system-holding open the shutter while movrng art_ work held behind a slir in a screen ro creare the frowing images of light. corporate, military, scientifrc, and academic research all contributed to the establishment of the computer science discipline and the breakthroughs needed to make ir one of rhe most powerful influences in che latter half of the twen- tieth century. For example, Bell relephone Laboratories funded an exrensrve research-and-development program in communications technology. The brief to researchers was broad, including everything from visuahzation of sateilite technologies to collaborations between artists and researchers to create new uses for the technology.a In the late 1960s and early 1970s, several short films usrng computer-assisted-art techniques gained recognition. peter Fol des,s Hungerwas even nominated for an Academy Award in lgj 4and won a jyn.y prizear Cannes.t At the same time, key figures such as Ed Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith, andJim Blinn were developing the programs and graphic-imaging techniques that would lead ro 6ne-art...
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- Summer '10