Many people know that the movie industry has been revolutionized since the use of computers has been added. Computers allow viewers to see images and places from the imaginations of the writers and directors that were never before possible to create.
A recent and very popular film to utilize this new technology is Jurassic Park by director and producer Steven Spielberg. The special effects team for the movie had originally planned to use full size and quarter size models, or puppets, of dinosaurs to create the effect. After weeks of intensive efforts and unsatisfactory results the team needed a new approach to creating such difficult special effects.
Their answer would come from the developers at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) corporation in California. The ILM team has been using computers to create images and video effects in television advertisements for over twenty years. Spielberg and his special effects team had shown ILM their progress so far with the models. ILM was interested in using computers to digitally scan the models into a 3D-computer environment. Spielberg’s team was happy to hear that their efforts in the models wasn’t a complete waste, and would be delighted to work with ILM in producing realistic images for their computers to scan. ILM and Spielberg’s team collaborated on making sure the models and scanned images would produce a believable dinosaur, something no one else had ever attempted. Their results were breath taking and had Spielberg convinced that computers could produce a believable three-dimensional dinosaur that would captivate audiences.
ILM began to scan the models into their computers and within minutes produced great results. Their computers would send laser beams over the body of the model from all angles receiving information about its shape in the same manner a police radar gun reads laser signals bounced back to it. The three-dimensional image would be later fitted with the proper look. This is when ILM’s artists go to work.
The teams of artists would find picture of animals in their habitat and look for ways they mimic their surroundings for camouflage. They were looking for any hints as to how the dinosaurs used their surroundings and colors to blend into their environment. Obviously there aren’t any pictures of the Jurassic period but with the help of paleontologists the team was able to put together a realistic looking flesh for the dinosaurs, something that would convince viewers it belonged in the wildest forests.
With the dinosaurs brought to life in a three-dimensional world and digitally painted with the skins of a realistic creature from the prehistoric age these animals needed only one more thing, life. Bringing a thirty-ton digital creature to life on the movie screen would not prove itself to be easy. Research teams gathered hundreds of hours of video of animals -hippos, giraffes, horses, and personal pets- to study their movement. The movements gave the designers an idea of how to make a dinosaur move about in such a way that the audience would believe it was interacting with its environment. The dinosaurs would be moved frame by frame until there was animation created much like drawing cartoons. The directors could also mix computer animation with real video, over lapping the two to help produce a more realistic effect. An example of this is the scene of a truck in Jurassic Park being rolled on its side by a tyrannosaurus rex. The truck was filmed being tipped over by thin wires. Later the computer artists would remove the wires from the scene by painting the background over them. Animation of a dinosaur charging forward with its head lowered would then be placed in the scene. The two images together would give the audience the impression that the dinosaur was pushing the truck over. With a little help from the sound studio and the actors having to imagine a thirty-ton dinosaur charging them, this scene provides the audience with a realistic and scary action sequence in the film.
Jurassic Park was a huge success for George Lucas and his team. With much credibility going toward the Industrial Light and Magic for their outstanding work. ILM has continued to amaze audiences with their production abilities and George Lucas looks to teams up with them in the future to produce more amazing movies.
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