The First Film Footage of a 3D Rendered CGI Object

Computer generated images have opened up an entire universe of possibilities for filmmakers, video game developers and graphic designers.  While early uses of the technology in live action films was…less than impressive by today’s standards, the tech managed to survive and grow, becoming more and more sophisticated and life-like.  In fact, were it not for that darned Uncanny Valley, the special effects created using CGI would manage to fool the human eye into believing that dragons, giant transforming robots with testicles for some reason, and foul-mouthed raccoons exist.

With the over-saturation of CG images in every aspect of our lives, we often take them for granted, not realizing how incredible it is that they exist at all.  The amount of mathematical prowess it would require to figure out how to accomplish things like texture mapping and anti-aliasing is absolutely staggering.  Of course the process of rendering objects into 3D objects on a computer are taken for granted today, but over forty years ago, in 1972 the process didn’t exist yet.  Until a University of Utah student by the name of Ed Catmull and his colleagues invented it.

What you are about to watch is the first video of a 3D rendered CGI animation.  The hand belongs to Ed Catmull and the video shows some of the process they went through to create the short animation.  What is particularly noteworthy is Catmull meticulously drawing polygons on a plaster cast of his hand. 

By today’s standards, these animations look incredibly basic and primitive, but just keep in mind that these animations were made when the powerful computers you would need to render the images looked like this:

Ed Catmull continued to perfect the process of rendering 3D images using computers until he helped found this little company:

Pixar was at the forefront of developing CGI for use in film.  They helped provide the Genesis Effect special effect in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Ricardo Montalban’s Impeccable Plastic Pecs as well as the stain glass knight in Young Sherlock Holmes.  Of course Pixar is most well-known for their accomplishments in furthering computer animated films with such classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up. Catmull now serves as president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation and DisneyToon. 


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