Hollywood and Computer Animation


IS 490
SPECIAL TOPICS
Computer Graphics
Lance Allen
May 6, 1996

Table of Contents Introduction 3 How It
Was 3 How It All
Began 4 Times Were Changing
6 Industry\'s First Attempts 7
The Second Wave 10
How the Magic is Made 11 Modeling
12 Animation
13 Rendering
13 Conclusion
15 Bibliography
16

Introduction

Hollywood has gone digital, and the old ways of doing things are dying.
Animation and special effects created with computers have been embraced by
television networks, advertisers, and movie studios alike. Film editors, who
for decades worked by painstakingly cutting and gluing film segments together,
are now sitting in front of computer screens. There, they edit entire features
while adding sound that is not only stored digitally, but also has been created
and manipulated with computers. Viewers are witnessing the results of all this
in the form of stories and experiences that they never dreamed of before.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of all this, however, is that the entire
digital effects and animation industry is still in its infancy. The future
looks bright. How It Was

In the beginning, computer graphics were as cumbersome and as hard to control as
dinosaurs must have been in their own time. Like dinosaurs, the hardware
systems, or muscles, of early computer graphics were huge and ungainly. The
machines often filled entire buildings.
Also like dinosaurs, the software programs or brains of computer graphics were
hopelessly underdeveloped. Fortunately for the visual arts, the evolution of
both brains and brawn of computer graphics did not take eons to develop. It has,
instead, taken only three decades to move from science fiction to current
technological trends. With computers out of the stone age, we have moved into
the leading edge of the silicon era. Imagine sitting at a computer without any
visual feedback on a monitor. There would be no spreadsheets, no word
processors, not even simple games like solitaire. This is what it was like in
the early days of computers. The only way to interact with a computer at that
time was through toggle switches, flashing lights, punchcards, and Teletype
printouts. How It All Began

In 1962, all this began to change. In that year, Ivan Sutherland, a Ph.D.
student at (MIT), created the science of computer graphics. For his
dissertation, he wrote a program called Sketchpad that allowed him to draw lines
of light directly on a cathode ray tube (CRT). The results were simple and
primitive. They were a cube, a series of lines, and groups of geometric shapes.
This offered an entirely new vision on how computers could be used. In 1964,
Sutherland teamed up with Dr. David Evans at the University of Utah to develop
the world\'s first academic computer graphics department. Their goal was to
attract only the most gifted students from across the country by creating a
unique department that combined hard science with the creative arts. They new
they were starting a brand new industry and wanted people who would be able to
lead that industry out of its infancy. Out of this unique mix of science and art,
a basic understanding of computer graphics began to grow. Algorithms for the
creation of solid objects, their modeling, lighting, and shading were developed.
This is the roots virtually every aspect of today\'s computer graphics industry
is based on. Everything from desktop publishing to virtual reality find their
beginnings in the basic research that came out of the University of Utah in the
60\'s and 70\'s. During this time, Evans and Sutherland also founded the first
computer graphics company. Aptly named Evans & Sutherland (E&S), the company was
established in 1968 and rolled out its first computer graphics systems in 1969.
Up until this time, the only computers available that could create pictures were
custom-designed for the military and prohibitively expensive. E&S\'s computer
system could draw wireframe images extremely rapidly, and was the first
commercial "workstation" created for computer-aided design (CAD). It found its
earliest customers in both the automotive and aerospace industries. Times Were
Changing

Throughout its early years, the University of Utah\'s Computer Science Department
was generously supported by a series of research grants from the Department of
Defense. The 1970\'s, with its anti-war and anti-military protests, brought
increasing restriction to the flows of academic grants, which had a direct
impact on the Utah department\'s ability to carry out research. Fortunately, as
the program wound down, Dr. Alexander Schure, founder and president of New York
Institute of Technology (NYIT), stepped forward with his dream of creating
computer-animated feature films. To accomplish this task, Schure hired Edwin
Catmull, a University of Utah Ph.D., to head the NYIT computer graphics lab and
then equipped the lab