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!

Let the sun shine!

Amazon Prime added HAIR this weekend. Of course I cried watching it. Thousands of American soldiers died. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese died. And many still live crippled by what our nation did. The United States government still doesn’t own up to Agent Orange, the genetic poison crippling folks in that Asian land.

Politicians in both political parties collaborated for decades until the grassroots revulsion against that war forced an end. And, please, don’t delude yourself into thinking the current scumbag in the White House wouldn’t be greedy enough to buy a bagfull of “patriotic” votes to stay in office – and roll out the profits of another war to fund all the corporate help he could ever wish for.

Watch the clip. Watch the film if you’ve never seen it. If you lived it as I did – shed a tear for the loss of Aquarius and the thousands murdered in the name of The Land of the Free.

Life is like a box of hippocampus film clips

❝ A neuroimaging study of human participants watching the 1994 film Forrest Gump and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1961 television drama Bang! You’re Dead suggests an important role for the hippocampus in segmenting our continuous everyday experience into discrete events for storage in long-term memory. The research, published in JNeurosci, is among the first to investigate hippocampal function during a natural experience.

❝ Aya Ben-Yakov and Richard Henson found that the hippocampus responded most strongly to the films at the points that independent observers identified as the end of one event and the beginning of a new one. The researchers found a strong match between these event boundaries and participants’ hippocampal activity, varying according to the degree to which the independent observers agreed on the transition points between events. While watching the two-hour long Forrest Gump, hippocampal response was more strongly influenced by the subjective event boundaries than by what the filmmaker may consider a transition between scenes, such as a change in location. This suggests that the hippocampus is sensitive to meaningful units of experience rather than perceptual cues.

Evolution is amazing!

Uptown Funk Mashup

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Here’s the list of performers…

1. [1] Red-Headed Woman (1932) – Jean Harlow.
2. [2] The Littlest Rebel (1935) – Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson.
3. [3] The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
4. [4] Sensations of 1945 – David Lichine and Eleanor Powell.
5. [5] Broadway Melody of 1940 – Fred Astaire. 6
6. [6] Honolulu (1939) – Eleanor Powell and Gracie Allen.
7. Broadway Melody of 1940 – Fred Astaire.
8. [7] Lady Be Good (1941) – Eleanor Powell.
9. [8] Girl Crazy (1943) – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
10. [9] You Were Never Lovelier (1942) – Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire.
11. Broadway Melody of 1940 – Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire.
12. [10] Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) – Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.
13. [11] Colleen (1936) – Ruby Keeler and Paul Draper.
14. [12] Gilda (1946) – Rita Hayworth.
15. [13] It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) – Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante.
16. [14] Animal Crackers (1930) – Groucho Marx.
17. [15] For Me and My Gal (1942) – Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.
18. [16] Summer Stock (1950) – Judy Garland.
19. [17] The Little Princess (1939) – Shirley Temple.
20. The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
21. [18] Easter Parade (1948) – Ann Miller.
22. [19] Second Chorus (1940) – Fred Astaire.
23. [20] Footlight Parade (1933) – James Cagney and Ruby Keeler.
24. [21] Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Bob Fosse and Carol Haney.
25. [22] The Pirate (1948) – Gene Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers.
26. [23] Carefree (1938) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
27. [24] On the Town (1949) – Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Gene Kelly, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller & Vera Ellen.
28. [25] Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929) – unidentified. Any suggestions?
29. [26] The Gay Divorcee (1934) – Fred Astaire.
30. [27] A Day at the Races (1937) – Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.
31. [28] Go Into Your Dance (1935) – Al Jolson.
32. [29] Stormy Weather (1943) – the Nicholas Brothers.
33. [30] Babes on Broadway (1941) – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
34. [31] Ship Ahoy (1942) – Eleanor Powell.
35. [32] The Sky’s the Limit (1943) – Fred Astaire.
36. [33] Small Town Girl (1953) – Bobby Van.
37. [34] Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
38. [35] Show Boat (1936) – Sammy White and Queenie Smith.
39. [36] Top Hat (1935) – Fred Astaire.
40. [37] Broadway Melody of 1936 – Eleanor Powell.
41. [38] Roberta (1935) – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
42. [39] Love ’em and Leave ’em (1926) – Louise Brooks.
43. [40] Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly.
44. [41] Babes in Arms (1939) – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
45. [42] 42nd Street (1933) – chorus.
46. [43] Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) – Judy Garland.
47. [44] The Band Wagon (1953) – Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire.
48. [45] Born to Dance (1936) – Eleanor Powell.
49. Broadway Melody of 1936 – Eleanor Powell.
50. Honolulu (1939) – Eleanor Powell.
51. [46] Rosalie (1937) – Eleanor Powell.
52. [47] Swing Time (1936) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
53. [48] Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Lucille Ball (with whip).
54. Top Hat (1935) – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
55. [49] Follow the Fleet (1936) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
56. [50] Cover Girl (1944) – Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Phil Silvers.
57. [51] Thousands Cheer (1943) – Eleanor Powell.
58. Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Jerry Mouse and Gene Kelly.
59. [52] Royal Wedding (1951) – Fred Astaire.
60. [53] Way out West (1937) – Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel.
61. [54] The Red Shoes (1948) – Moira Shearer.
62. [55] Blue Skies (1946) – Fred Astaire.
63. [56] Boarding House Blues (1948) – the Berry Brothers.
64. [57] Panama Hattie (1942) – the Berry Brothers.
65. [58] The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) – Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
66. [59] Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – James Cagney.
67. [60] Broadway Melody of 1938 – Buddy Ebsen, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy.
68. [61] An American in Paris (1951) – Georges Guétary.
69. [62] The Little Colonel (1935) – Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple.
70. Stormy Weather (1943) – the Nicholas Brothers.
71. [63] Shall We Dance? (1937) – Fred Astaire
72. Easter Parade (1948) – Fred Astaire.
73. [64] On the Avenue (1937) – the Ritz Brothers.
74. [65] Hellzapoppin’ (1941) – Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.
75. Lady Be Good (1941) – Eleanor Powell.
76. Stormy Weather (1943) – the Nicholas Brothers.
77. Panama Hattie (1942) – the Berry Brothers.
78. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly.
79. Stormy Weather (1943) – the Nicholas Brothers.
80. Panama Hattie (1942) – the Berry Brothers.
81. [66] That’s Entertainment, Part 2 (1976) – Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
82. Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
83. That’s Entertainment, Part 2 (1976) – Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.