Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I'm trying to get better at drawing women. For a while my drawn women looked like men with bad wigs on. Now I think I'm getting their curves right.. need to work on my proportions and placement of features.
I found something really interesting in a book that I have at home. I have this book called "Industrial Light and Magic: The Art of Special Effects" by Thomas G. Smith. This book came out back in the late 80s, and I have fond memories of going to the bookstore and sitting in the Film section and drooling over all the cool images they had in there. Back then, I used to love to build toys models and I would dream about working at ILM as a model builder. Funny that I took towards animation in my later years. I still enjoy building and painting models, but with two little ones running around, I don't get much time to build them.
Anyway, in 2007 I decided to look up the book, and found it new on Amazon for about 50 dollars or so. I seem to recall it being 80-100 back in the day, but either way, 50 or 80, the book was too much for me then. So I found it and quickly ordered it. When I got it, all those fond memories came back. The book is a must read for any Star Wars or Indana Jones fan.. it has some of the most gorgeous photos of sets, props and models used throughout a variety of special FX movies ranging from Star Wars to ET and Close Encounters. Anyway, I found something that I thought was pretty amusing. There's a section that talks about the Star Trek 2: Wrath of Kahn Genesis sequence. This was the scene in the movie where through early cg they did a shot where a special missile/torpedo hits a barren planet, and it's instantly covered in vegetation. The interesting thing is that this sequence was done by the Lucasfilm Computer Division, and they used a special computer that they designed called the "Pixar" machine. This division ultimately went on to be purchased by Steve Jobs and become what we know as Pixar. I thought I share a few paragraphs of this section here:
"At Lucasfilm the goals are somewhat more ambitious. An image computer device named Pixar has been developed by the Lucasfilm Computer Division, and it already figures prominently in ILM's special effects program."
.skipping ahead a paragraph..
"When Steve Spielberg saw the Genesis sequence that ILM did for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, he asked if it would be possible to do a whole film using this technology. I cautioned him that those few shining moments he saw on screen were the product of a great many dull hours of computer time. It did not mean that we had conquered the scanning process; we were limited by current computer technology. Later, Walt Disney Productions releases Tron, a film that publicized the fact that computer images were used in ambundance. Observers of the film industry watched closely to see if this meant a new chapter in film history was about to unfold. Some predicted that if computer images caught on, it would be as big a revolution as the advent of sound with the Jazz Singer in 1927. Unfortunately for Disney, the film did not make much of a mark - it was not a success at the box office and did not mark a sudden revolution in special effects computer applications. Indeed, it seems unlikely to me that there will ever be a time when, overnight, computer-generated images will sweep over the visual effects field; there is too much technological development involved. Still, a quiet computer revolution is underway."
So I thought that was interesting. I guess in some ways he's right, the computer didn't replace practical effects overnight. Computer hardware was expensive and slow, and the software was just not there. He goes on to list all sorts of reasons on why it would not be practical, citing floppy drives and storage.
The book is an amazing read. I would almost say this is the Illusion of Life for the special effects of the late 70s and 80s. It has all sorts of great info on their processes, like different cameras used, hi speed photography, and even blue screen.