3D World’s 7 CGI pioneers
Take some time out of your day to appreciate the people that have helped CG become a staple in modern cinema
For such a relatively new medium, CG has already thrown up an astounding number of pioneers and visionaries whose work has literally defined the sort of imagery we see on screen.
Many are still working today – as researchers, academics and developers rather than animators or directors, and while we hate to give further weight to the tiresome “CG isn’t art!” argument, it’s important to remember that without these folks, there probably wouldn’t BE any CG.
So, in no particular order, here are seven of the most important pioneers in the history of CGI.
John Lasseter may be the one afforded most of the limelight, but fellow Pixar guru Catmull is responsible for creating and developing a dizzying array of CG techniques. Texture mapping, Z-buffering, various anti-aliasing algorithms and subdivision surfaces can all be be traced back to him, in whole or in part, and he was one of the key developers of RenderMan to boot.
Edwin Catmull on IMDB
John Whitney Sr.
Born before modern computers had even been invented, Whitney – the founder of the pioneering Motion Graphics Inc. – was always fascinated by the idea of creating art with machines. He began with analogue computers, and by 1966 was IBM’s first artist in residence, producing beautiful abstract pieces and later moving to purely digital devices. He died in 1995.
John Whitney Sr. on Wikipedia
Although primarily a researcher and developer of thoroughly hardcore algorithms, Debevec has the rare gift of also being able to translate this work into beautiful imagery – such as the short film Fiat Lux. He developed many of the techniques behind HDRI and image based lighting, and continues to throw out research papers on everything from face scanning to 3D teleconferencing at an alarming rate.
Paul Debevec’s website
Blinn first gained prominence at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory with his work on the Voyager space probe animations, and later went on to develop crucial algorithms which deal with the way light interacts with surfaces – such as bump mapping, environment mapping, and the Blinn-Phong shading model. Like many of the people featured here, he is a researcher rather than an artist, but without him CG would be in a much more primitive state.
Jim Blinn on Wikipedia
Landreth is a “mere” animator, but his work using standard, off-the-shelf software pushes the boundaries of imagination and technique in CG. With films such as Bingo, The End and the much-lauded Ryan, he has developed his so-called style of Psychorealism to examine how graphics can be used for more than just pretty-pretty or ultra-photorealistic effects.
Chris Landreth on IMDB
Like it or not, ol’ George has been influential – if sometimes only indirectly – in many of the fundamental leaps in CGI technology. Pixar evolved from the Computer Division of Industrial Light and Magic, as did Photoshop; Star Wars featured a very early use of 3D animation in the Death Star trench sequence; and Lucas’ apparent desire to do away with human actors altogether has seen countless other innovations and developments.
George Lucas on IMDB
The French mathematician, who died in 2010, was another indirect pioneer. With his work on developing and consolidating fractal theory – iconically exemplified by the Mandelbrot set – he paved the way for hundreds of other algorithms and theories which describe how to realistically model the real world within CG. The representation of landscapes, atmospheres, vegetation and many other natural phenomena in CG owe their existence to Mandelbrot’s work.
Benoît Mandelbrot on Wikipedia
on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 am under Features, Opinion.
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Tags: 3d experts, cg experts, cg pioneers, Chris Landreth, Edwin Catmull, George Lucas, Paul Debevec