The Story of Computer Graphics and
by Jim Bennett (August 8, 1999)
Siggraph opened today with a flurry of technical conference activity centering on animation and special effects, art, interactive techniques, modeling and rendering. Among the new and expanded events was the world premiere of the new high-definition video feature documentary "The Story of Computer Graphics" at the Shrine Auditorium. The 20th anniversary of the Art Gallery:technOasis was commemorated with special tours by educated scholars who offered special insights into the processes and aesthetics of each creative and technically centered artwork.
The Story of Computer Graphics
The informative and well executed chronicle of "The Story Of Computer Graphics" begins with some grainy black and white footage dated December 16th, 1951, with Edward R. Murrow and quickly evolves into a stunning opening montage displaying highlights of how the computer graphics industry has impacted our society and give a glimpse into future possibilities. This well researched and chronicled feature is the labor of three years work, a 1.5 million dollar investment and over 70 interviews. It is a virtual Who's Who of the computer graphics industry and showcases many of its most significant events. The educational value of this 93 minute presentation is well worth your time to attend a screening. This stunning production was created with the high-definition Sony video camcorder, Model HDV 500 and is displayed using three Texas Instruments micro-mirror projection technology units, projected on a huge 30 by 54 foot non-perforated screen with an impressive Surround Sound delivered by up to 70 speakers. I feel that the results were better than film.
Carl Machover, co-executive producer, commented that the outstanding financial and technical support of key sponsors such as Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Computer Graphics World was essential to make this a lasting documentary that will inform and inspire future generations. Frank Foster, the documentary's director, also noted that this production preserves and archives important historical information that is getting lost because dyes are fading from film stocks and oxides are becoming unstable from older videos. Judging by the favorable audience reactions, the creative team and production team achieved their opening night objectives.
A few of the memorable images presented include some early air defense computer graphics from the early 1950s and evolving to today's compelling Jurassic Park images of lifelike dinosaurs. The practical applications of computer graphics in the aerospace, automotive and architectural industries was also stunning. The total dedication of early pioneers using surplus equipment, moxxy and sheer determination is a testament to past and future technological development. The industry's competitive and cooperative nature, shared knowledge and the excitement of making "the invisible useable and understandable" are key traits that will never go out of style.
For the informed public and technological community, this movie is a must see. As we enter the next millennium, this important production documents the history and achievements of the computer graphics industry and helps set the stage for a very exciting future; a future where the new generation cannot remember a world without computer graphics.
Computer graphics has been called the marriage of science and art. From the traditional sake barrel opening ceremonies of the Art Gallery:technOasis by Siggraph 99 Conference Chair Warren Waggenspack to the creative artworks, the gallery opening was fun and futuristic. Among the more unusual presentations was the "Unconscious Flow" which two viewers, individually connected to heart rate monitors, modify the movement of each computer-generated mermaid swimming in "water". The artist, Naoko Tosa, calls this techno-healing art. At "Fisherman's Cafe", real water cups placed on a table, showed electronic and simulated "circular water ways" flowing on the table, with shadow fish swimming simultaneously in a unique interactive installation. Optical motion capture and visual reality exhibits were also featured. Steve Gompf's mixed media creations featured antique photographic and television housings, coupled with black and white video programs displaying selected insights of the old and the new.
This year's conference promises to be bigger and better than ever. Stay tuned as Reviews OnLine covers Siggraph `99 which promises additional surprises later in the week.
© 1999 Jim Bennett All rights reserved.