Most objects also have attributes - such as colour, density, surface texture etc - which can be regarded as a 'property' of the object, or a consequence of the technique we use to generate (render) the image.
|Date||Development||People - organisations - institutions|
|1951||WHIRLWIND||The Whirlwind project, under the direction of Jay Forrester, was the US missile early-warning system of the late 1950s. Central to this system were large-format vector display screens that displayed the crticial data in high resolution, and that could be updated continually.|
|1950's||"Computer Art"||The earliest attempts to use computer displays in a 'non-functional' way were made by James Whitney Sr. in the late 1950s when he generated 'visual feedback loops' by pointing a camera at the the display screen and using the image as input to the system to generate abstract patterns.|
|1962||Sketchpad||At the start of the 1960s a doctorate student at MIT, Ivan Sutherland, created what we today would call a graphics workstation, complete with display system, input device (lightpen) and interactive engineering design software. The system - called Sketchpad - was the forerunner of all modern graphics systems.|
|1964-||'Photorealism' at the University of Utah||Many of the techniques that are at the heart of 'realistic' c.g.i. were developed at Utah in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Key figures - all of whom went on to make other contributions to the growth of computer graphics - include Ivan Sutherland, David Evans, Edwin Catmull and James Blinn|
|1969||Evans & Sutherland||In the late 1960s Ivan Sutherland and David Evans set up what was effectively the first commercial c.g. company when they formed Evans & Sutherland. The company remains at the forefront of simulation systems, particularly flight simulators.|
|1974-77||Animation at NYIT||In the early 1970s Edwin Catmull set up a computer graphics laboratory at the New York Institute of Technology with two aims: to develop computer-based animation systems that would be produce output of sufficient quality to be attractive to the film industry, and to involve artists in the animation process. The most important artist to work in the laboratory - and whose work had the most influence on the development of computer animation - was probably Ed Emshwiller.|
Star Trek (Genesis effect)
|Although the NYIT laboratory largely failed in its first aim, two films released in 1982 had long-term impact on the development of computer graphics. Whilst c.g.i. was used throughout Tron - and proved quite cost-effective to produce - its impact was lessened by its 'non-realism' and realtively low technical quality.
On the other hand, the short section of c.g.i in Star Trek from Lucasfilm's computer graphics division (which would later split into Industrial Light and Magic, and Pixar) would have a profound effect, introducing as it did several key technical effects (such as particle systems and caustics) that would become an essential part of the 'armoury' of computer animators.
Although new techniques for defining the appearance of objects had been developed, by the early 1980s there was still no rendering technique that had any real approximation to the physical processes by which 'real' things are seen. The development of the ray tracing method by Turner Whitted changed this, and today this is one of the most widely-used rendering methods. It is especially good at rendering reflections, refractions and shadows.
One of the key limitations of modelling 'natural' scenes was that most conventional geometric systems could not generate the key components of natural-looking landscape - such as mountains, trees and clouds. The application of fractal systems to these areas by Loren Carpenter and others radically extended the range of 'scenes' that could be effectively modelled and rendered.
|1985||Radiosity||The attraction of ray tracing was somewhat offset by its slowness, and by its emphasis on reflections and 'shininess'. In order to render more realistically the 'softer' world around us - particularly that of lighted interiors - Don Greenberg and his colleagues at Cornell University developed the radiosity rendering process, based on physical principles established by lighting engineers.|
|1986||Renderman||In order to smoothly link animation and rendering, and to allow animators to create scenes without needing to program them, a group at Pixar - led by Pat Hanrahan - created an extensible 'procedural language' for controlling the animation/rendering process.|
|1988||Tin Toy||Having set up Pixar to continue his aim of integrating animation into the 'mainstream', Edwin Catmull hired the 'traditonal' animator John Lassiter, whose emphasis on character and story were quite different from the 'technology-driven' approach of most other computer animators. As well as commercial work, Lassiter produced a series of successful short films, culminating in Tin Toy: the first completely computer-animated film to win the Academy Award for animation.|
|1989||The Abyss||One of the strongest advocates of the utility of c.g.i. in films has been the director James Cameron; in a series of films - starting with The Abyss and including Aliens and The Terminator - he used Industrial Light and Magic to create effects that were central to both the visual astyle and narrative structure of the films.|
|1995||Toy Story||The release of Pixar's Toy Story is significant for two reasons: it is the first full-length, wholly computer-generated, feature film, and it was backed financially by the Disney Corporation (for whom the film's director, John Lassiter used to work) - the 'home' of conventional film animation. Computer animation has clearly become "mainstream".|
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|Last modified 3rd November 1998|