Wednesday 1 July 2015

These Retro Computer Animations Were Way Ahead of Their Time

Computer Animation Commonplace in Recent Times

Computer animation is a commonplace in recent times and it is impossible to watch a TV program without viewing some examples. However recalling those days in the 70s, the scene was quite different and in 1971, it was a cutting edge technology where a lot has altered since then. The animation revolutions would not have started but for one company - `Disney’. When the cartoons were introduced initially, to the world way back in 1908, they seemed to be the real thing.

In those early days, cartoons seemed to be short, had no colour and no sound. Walt Disney in 1928 had introduced `Steamboat Wille’ to the world and this was not only the birth of Mickey Mouse but also the first motion picture containing synchronized sound. Towards 1932, the first coloured motion picture was presented which was another work of Disney - `Flowers and Trees’. The rules of animations was once again broken by Disney in 1937 and towards to end of that year, it released `Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, which were the first feature length animated movie and till present times, seems to be one of the best ever viewed. It was only in 1995 that,Disney in collaboration with Pixar had released the first fully computer animated movie `Toy Story’.

Animation Progress Prior to Computers

With passage of time, animation continued to progress which was prior to the entry of computers. Computer animation did not show up till the 1980s and at that time was not as popular as it is in present times. In the late 80s and all through the 90s, computer animation was specifically utilised in making special effects in commercials as well as movies. Computer generated images is nowuniversal at the box office and though this technology came about in 1990, and has become more realistic since then, computer generated graphics existed from the early 1960s.

The first documented animations was a Swedish demo of a planned highway which was a simple route animation by present day standards but a strong demo during that time. It was produced in 1960 and aired on Swedish TV during the late 1961. Ivan Sutherland of MIT provided a demonstration in 1963 of a light pen which aided computer rendered drawing wherein the device interacted with the screen as a computer peripheral similar to a mouse and a stylus. The technique was uneven and did not have a full digital drawing but helped in rendering circles, line together with other shapes.

Bell Laboratories - 3D Version of Communication Satellite in Contact with Ground 

At the same time, Bell Laboratories also worked on CGI and in its 1963 demonstration, displayed a 3D version of how a communication satellite could stay in contact with the ground. This was not only a demo of 3D modelling but a full-on 3D animation as well and was no less impressive than CGI that were used in movies like Star Wars more than a decade later.

Another piece of art -`Hummingbird’ created in 1967 by Charles Csuri and James Shaffer did not put the hummingbird in flight though it concentrated on an authentic light drawing of the hummingbird prior to twisting, distorting and fragmenting it for the experimental part. A Computer Animated Hand tends to reveal the prospective of CGI graphics, created by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke, in 1972, when they were student at the University of Utah; their project demonstrated a fully rendered human hand. However, it was sad that Catmull had left computers and nothing was heard from him again.

Computers Capable of Amazing Things – Purpose of Entertainment 

Parke presented a 3D rendering of faces by 1974, as his thesis, portraying a deep progress in the field of `grimaces from the uncanny valley’. Moreover he also rendered 3D faces that were better than the ill-famed CGI during the 2001’s `The Mummy Returns’ that had changed The Rock into a CGI monster. Where Catmull had continued his efforts in the entertainment field, Parke tend to remain within academia and presently serving as the head of Associate Head of the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M’s architecture school. However by developing one forthe first realistic 3D versions of human face, his contribution to the field was considered immeasurable.

Eventually the work on the computer animated hand ended in Futureworld, a 1976 consequence to Westworld, which used one of the first examples of digital imaging. The rendering scenes that were shot on the film appeared as though one would be seeing them from the pixelated viewpoint of Yul Brinner’s defective cowboy robot, but Futureworld presented a complete rendering of a hand on screen being the first official 3D animation in a motion picture. All these experiences of the 1960 as well as the 70s took place at a time when the personal computers and home video game systems seem to be a dream of the future. Computers were capable of amazing things which gave rise to the ways that movies are now made for the purpose of entertainment.

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