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The History of CGI (computer generated imagery)

  • Vertigo

    Vertigo is a film by Alfred Hitchcock and was the first ever film to use computer animation. Vashivisuals website's article about The Ultimate History of CGI in Film explains how John Whitney along with graphic designer Saul Bass, who worked on the film used "WWII anti-aircraft targeting computer on a rotating platform with a pendulum hanging above it to create the spiral elements in the opening sequence."
  • Catalog

    The first experimental computer animated short film by John Whitney. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nie3DAilv8Y&feature=emb_title]
  • Hummingbird

    This was the first computer animated film by Charles Csuri and James Shaffer that used the first digital morphing to show the morphing of hummingbirds. More than 30,000 images were created.
  • Computer Animated Hand

    Computer Animated Hand
    A Computer Animated Hand is a short film by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke. It was the first polygonal 3D animation. Catmull created a model of his left hand and drew 350 triangles and polygons on the surface of the hand. The scene of the hand was later used in the movie FutureWorld.
  • WestWorld

    WestWorld was the first film to have digital animation. The movie showed the first 2D CGI scene with "Gunslinger's Vision" where they used CGI to interpret how robots could see. The movie was written and directed by Michael Crichton. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jCDQvNh85Y&t=115s]
  • FutureWorld

    FutureWorld is the sequel to WestWorld. The film was the first to use a realistic computer model of a human face. The CGI that was used to form the 3D head was the same one that Edwin Catmull used to create the hand. The film even has the original hand animation that was created by Catmull. The film won an Oscar a decade later for the Scientific & Engineering Academy Award.
  • Cosmos

    The first particle system computer animation by Jim Blinn and Carl Sagan to animate spinning and interactive galaxies that were made by CGI particles.
  • MAGI Synthavision Demo

    MAGI Synthavision Demo
    The MAGI Synthavision Demo was the first CGI spaceships. The MAGI Synthavision Demo created the first CGI spaceships. What MAGI used to create the first spaceship was the technology they created in 1966 to evaluate nuclear radiation exposure.
  • Adam Powers, The Juggler

    Adam Powers, The Juggler
    The Juggler was the one of the first CGI animated anthropomorphic characters. It was captured from a real juggler and the animation was created by Richard Taylor and Gary Demos which was released by Information International Inc.
  • Looker

    Looker is a film that created the first realistic CGI human body. The movie presented a futuristic computer scanning scene of the model Cindy which was the first full human body CGI. Looker is a sci-fi thriller-horror movie by Michael Crichton.
  • Carla's Island

    Carla's Island
    Carla's Island is a computer animated movie that was the first to include water CGI animation and the first weather CGI animation.
  • TRON

    TRON was the first to include a talking and moving CGI character. It was also the first to combine CGI and live action. It was the first fully computer-generated polygonal animation in a movie and the first to have a fully CGI background.
  • Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

    Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
    Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan created a lot of firsts for CGI. It was the first realistic fractal-generated landscape, the first CGI fire and the first motion blur. It also used advanced particle computer animation.
  • Where The Wild Things Are

    Where The Wild Things Are
    Where The Wild Things Are is an animation that combined 3D CGI and classic standard animation. It has both computer-generated 3-D backgrounds with hand-drawn animation that was digitally inked and painted for the 2-D characters.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes

    Young Sherlock Holmes
    Young Sherlock Holmes was the first movie to have a polygonal CGI character on a live background. The character is the first fully computer-generated photorealistic animated character who was made from stained glass window. The effect was the first CG character that was scanned and painted directly onto film using a laser.
  • Cranston/Csuri Clock Demo

    Cranston/Csuri Clock Demo
    Created by Cranston/Csuri Productions, this animated video was the first liquid metal computer animations which used advanced CGI transformations.
  • Interface

    Interface was the first film to use a CGI character that interacts with a human. It is also the first to use a reflection of a human on the CGI character. Interface was also used the first reflection mapping.
  • The Abyss

    The Abyss
    The Abyss is the first film to use photorealistic fluid morphing where the creature that is made of water is able to morph into other things such as faces from different people. It also had new CGI elements like the wave scenes.
  • Terminator 2

    Terminator 2
    Directed by James Cameron, Terminator 2 was the the first partially computer-generated main character which is T-1000. It also had advanced photorealistic morphing, advanced live action and CGI, advanced CGI liquid metal animation, and advanced realistic human movements on a CGI character.
  • Death Becomes Her

    Death Becomes Her
    Industrial Light and Magic company which has produced many films such as Terminator 2 and The Abyss, created the movie Death Becomes Her which was the first time for the texture of human skin to be computer generated. Some of the effects included a twisted neck, stretching skin and a shotgun hole through the abdomen.
  • Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park
    Jurassic Park has been considered a classic for film and CGI. Steven Spielberg directed and Industrial Light and Magic worked to bring the dinosaurs to life. The movie had more realistic movement and textures to the dinosaurs on screen and was able to bring to life photorealistic CGI dinosaurs. The movie was also the first to do digital face replacement.
  • Forrest Gump

    Forrest Gump
    Forrest Gump was the first to use extensive digital manipulation to use historical figures and stock footage as characters. The film also used CGI to remove a character's legs by wrapping them in blue fabric in which a team that worked on the movie had to paint out his legs in every single frame.
  • The Crow

    The Crow
    The Crow's actor Brandon Lee had died an accidental death while filming before the movie was completed. The movie was the first to use CGI to recreate the dead actor. The actors face was done by digitally composting Lee's face onto a body double.
  • Casper

    Casper was the first character with a distinctive personality and emotion and was the first fully synthetic speaking computer-generated character.
  • Toy Story

    Toy Story
    Toy Story is the first CGI film that is a full length feature film with photorealistic streets and advanced lighting. It took over 4 years to make because of the complexity of the effects and the process was long. The film did have an impact on the film industry because of its innovate computer animation.
  • Jumanji

    Jumanji was the first film to use photo-realistic hair and fur for the animals like the lion and monkeys. It also uses photorealistic CGI animals.
  • DragonHeart

    Industrial Light and Magic produced DragonHeart which was the first completely computer-generated main character. The dragon used realistic expressions such as raising its eyebrows and curling its lips. It was also able to use advanced combination of CGI and live action.
  • Titanic

    Titanic was the first film to use photorealistic CGI water and photorealistic CGI crowd. The film also used photorealistic vapor that was used as the breath of the actors when they are in the water. There were also computer-generated people for the dangerous falls because it was a risk for real actors to do it.
  • Godzilla

    Godzilla was the first film to use photogrammetry in a movie. According to Wikipedia, photogrammetry is used to get reliable information on the environment and physical objects to record, measure and interpret photographic images. The movie also includes advanced CGI animation.
  • Fight Club

    Fight Club
    Fight Club is the first film to use a realistic close-up of detailed face deformation on a synthetic human. It also uses photogrammetry for things such as buildings. It was also the first photorealistic human skin close up and realistic CGI human face.
  • The Matrix

    The Matrix
    The Matrix was the first movie to use live action bullet time. The first bullet time was in a Smirnoff commercial but the bullet time used in the Matrix is more complex for example using temporal motion. It also used advanced photogrammetry and the first to use virtual cinematography.
  • Monsters, Inc

    Monsters, Inc
    Pixar created Monsters, Inc characters with a new fur simulation called Fizt. It helped create advanced CGI fur. The fur moved in a natural way with the movements of the characters, and the wind and gravity.
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

    Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
    Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first full length photorealistic CGI film. It was the first feature-length film based on original designs, there was no real locations or people or vehicles.No props were used. The backgrounds are done from matte paintings and the character's bodies are build from polygons.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was the first CGI forced perspective. It uses forced perspective for the characters who appear to be smaller or bigger than the 'normal' human. The movie also created the first true crowd using "MASSIVE" technology to create the battle sequences. The armies of creatures included CG elves, orcs and humans.
  • The Polar Express

    The Polar Express
    The Polar Express was the first stereoscopic 3D CGI full length film. The film digitally recorded actors using a 3D motion capture technique before animating their forms with 'skinning'.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand

    X-Men: The Last Stand
    X-Men: The Last Stand was the first film to use the de-aging effect. The animators used a computer program called "LOLA" to make them look younger. The actors that were involved in the de-aging scene, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen gave the visual effects experts pictures of them when they were younger.
  • Avatar

    Avatar mixes live-action and CGI imagery. According to filmstudies2270 word press website on Avatar, “Avatar utilizes 60% CGI imagery, with a majority of the CG character animation filmed with revolutionary new motion-capture techniques using live actors. The other 40% of the film utilizes the traditional techniques of live-action imagery.” James Cameron, who produced the film wanted every plant, tree and bioluminescent speck to be executed individually.
  • Tangled

    Tangled used advanced CGI hair which used non-photorealistic rendering to make the CGI surface look painted but still having depth and dimension. A hair simulation program was eventually used for the film which is called Dynamic Wires.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger

    Captain America: The First Avenger
    Captain America: The First Avenger was the first CGI body replacement. Paul Warren who is an experienced film double and actor was used in the pre-production of the CGI body replacement called 'Skinny Steve Rogers'. The effect was done by CGI supervisor Christopher Townsend.
  • Life of Pi

    Life of Pi
    Life of Pi film used advanced photorealistic animal CGI. According to digitaltrends website article on Life of Pi and the Oscar effects, the visual effects supervisor who worked on the film, Bill Westenhofer, about 86% of the movie uses a computer-generated tiger while the rest of the scenes use a real tiger.
  • Gravity

    Gravity was the first to merge two shots through digital background to make it seem like the scenes were done in one shot. About 80% of the film is CGI. There were continuous shots that were uninterrupted that were only CGI and live actors.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the first blend of live action and a full CGI ground. The movie is able to create the interaction of the actor to the CGI ground which in the movie is the sand hills.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 uses advanced CGI de-aging, such as the film Ant Man that also used CGI de-aging and the first film to do de-aging as mentioned before which is X-Men: The Last Stand. The film uses Lola VX who worked on de-aging the actor Kurt Russell and they also used a younger stand in.