30th Birthday of the Engine That Powered the CGI Revolution

❝ When Pixar President and co-founder Ed Catmull announced his retirement earlier this year, people rightly saw his impending departure as a transitional moment for the animation studio. But it’s bigger than that. Catmull’s shadow looms large not just over groundbreaking films like Toy Story and Coco, his influence can be traced all the way back to the dawn of digital visual effects. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Abyss. Terminator 2. Jurassic Park. All of these titles came out before Woody and Buzz Lightyear, yet all remain watershed moments for VFX—and all used the tool that Catmull and his colleagues helped create at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic.

RenderMan, as it’s known, came out of ILM’s computer graphics team (the same one that would later spin off into its own company called Pixar). It started as a powerful algorithm, but then became something greater—a graphical interface. “Up until that point,” says Catmull, “the look, the lighting, essentially had to be done by programmers.” A movie like 1982’s Tron might have been mindblowing, but its digital sequences also necessitated an absolutely knee-buckling amount of work, creating its futuristic effects frame by frame. RenderMan, though, allowed effects artists to realize their visions without needing to write code.

CGI Rulez! Most sci-fi geeks would agree. Most would also understand how the threads and techniques reach out into many aspects of today’s film-making regardless of genre. RTFA!

2 thoughts on “30th Birthday of the Engine That Powered the CGI Revolution

    • The Biz says:

      “Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel topped the weekend box office with ease, outperforming expectations and delivering an estimated $27.8 million over the three-day weekend with expectations to hit over $33 million for the four-day weekend. The result would push the film’s five-day cume over $41 million, well ahead of the $30 million expectations for the film heading into the weekend. Of course, despite the film’s over-performance, it still carries a lofty $170 million price tag with sources suggesting it needs to gross $500-550 million globally to break even, which, at this point, looks nearly impossible.
      Internationally, Alita debuted in 11 markets last weekend and expanded to 86 total markets this weekend, delivering $56.1 million for an overseas cume* that now stands at $94.3 million. Leading the way this weekend was the film’s opening in Russia where it brought in $6.45 million followed by openings in France ($5.87m), Mexico ($4.18m), Australia ($2.97m), Germany ($2.96m), Thailand ($2.48m), Spain ($195m), UK ($1.8m), Vietnam ($1.5m) and Italy ($1.2m). The film’s top market is South Korea where it added another $2.5 million this weekend for a cume that now totals $14.75 million. Alita will be releasing in China and Japan on February 22.”
      (Box Office Mojo 2/17/19) https://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=4487
      [* IE: ‘Cumulative box office receipts’]

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