The History of CGI and VFX

@BrandonMhlanga a Johnathan Andrews International Animation Intern, provided insights below into The History of CGI and VFX.

Even though traces of Computer-Generated imagery (CGI) and Visual Effects (VFX) can be dated back to the 30’s, CGI is most realistically linked to the invention of the processing computer that rose to the masses in the 1960’s and this brought the increasing popularity of visual effects experiments.

In 1968 a simple experiment to make a digital model cat walk across a screen saw a group of Russian mathematicians create a special computer, which created hundreds of printed images commonly known as frames which were able to be converted into usable film footage.

1970’s saw VFX and CGI grip the attention of the design community. Technology fused with artistic approach as 2D animator Peter Foldes used the first key frame animation software which was created by the ‘fathers of computer animation’ Burtnyk and Marceli Wein.

Wireframe rendering, which revolutionized the 3D VFX industry. Photo Sourced From: Global Creative Collective

Wireframe rendering, which revolutionized the 3D VFX industry.
Photo Sourced From: Global Creative Collective

CGI developments carried on pouring out through the early 70’s, with achievements like the first CGI used in television programmes, and 2D animated effects continued being utilized by film artist Yul Brynner.

Towards the late 70’s, there was absolutely no stopping CGI and VFX. Future world was made, and it was to be the first 3D CGI/VFX film.

Movies such as Superman were inspired by the box office hit Star War (1977) which took a huge leap for its time, mostly because of VFX pioneer George Lucas who took the risk to produce a film that would cost a lot to create, but he placed all his art and skill on top edge CGI effects. This little gamble turned out to be worth the risk, and that meant high rewards that are being enjoyed by most of us, under The Disney Company today.

The Star Wars franchise went to uncharted territory and it is that potential which was the seed for the blooming of 3D Wireframe and more detail of VFX.

As we entered the Internet era, knowledge spreading all over the globe, CGI became more and more realistic; so much more so that even film directors took on the long shot of making the eyebrow-raising Jurassic Park, that made dinosaurs appear to be really there. Fully 3D animated features were realized (Toy Story) and the 90’s concluded with a bang as The Matrix created some jaw dropping responses with its Bullet Time Effect which made it appear as though someone was dodging bullets.

The games industry also demanded a piece of the pie as PlayStation and Nintendo took advantage of 3D technology to fully integrate their gaming platforms, with games like Final Fantasy and Crash Bandicoot leading the way as computer generated games, and with more still to come.

Next to the movie industry, the gaming industry made huge improvements between 1994 and 2009, the most noticeable being the incorporation of story driven games, which in turn saw games  evolve into what we can describe as playable movies. Star Wars: The Old Republic released in 2011 is a fantastic example of the fusion between movies, animations and games.

We can definitely expect more advances in VFX that will open up even more unseen possibility for technology.

Written By: Brandon Mhlanga (JAi Animation Intern)



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