If you want to post animations on the Internet then you need to become familiar with Macromedia Flash. Here Tom Calthrop does the introductions in a very useful "how to."
The Shrine Auditorium once again rolls out the red carpet for a special premiere: SIGGRAPH's 93-minute documentary, The Story of Computer Graphics. The film is set to debut on Sunday, August 8, as part of the SIGGRAPH Conference's opening night celebration. Seating for the 8:30 p.m. premiere is open to all badged attendees on an 'availability' basis -- so arrive early to assure your spot at the screening!
An In-depth Account
Too often, historians are faced with the task of documenting events
that occurred many years ago, long after the pioneers and many of
the original artifacts are gone. However, SIGGRAPH's documentarians
tried to overcome this problem by documenting the history of computer
graphics before too much time has slipped away. Their account of the
45-year history of computer graphics includes interviews with over
fifty pioneers in the industry, as it traces the evolution of today's
technology back to its early days. Highlights include Star Wars
creator George Lucas, Bell Lab's Ken Knowlton, Pixar's Ed Catmull,
ILM's Jim Morris, early scientific visualization researcher Jim Blinn,
television computer graphics pioneer Robert Abel, and John
Whitney, Sr., considered by many to be the 'father' of computer
Also included in the film is never-before screened documentary and
computer-generated footage, reaching back more than four decades.
Viewers will be surprised to see a report being given by Edward R.
Murrow in the early 1950s, discussing the future of computer graphics!
Wide-ranging in its scope, the documentary then moves on to cover
everything from weather patterns, flight simulation, and surgery to
the latest animated effects found in theatrical feature films. The
film's director is Frank Foster, Senior Vice President of Sony Pictures
Imageworks, whose credits include the feature films Jumanji, Speed
and Contact. He explains that the creators of the documentary
thought of their work as storytelling, as its title suggests; he says,
"We delve into history, but stick to the story." Bringing
together such a vast array of computer graphics materials was "a
big challenge," according to Foster, who tells how the film's
content was determined: "SIGGRAPH is a very democratic organization.
For this project, we had a content committee of about a dozen pioneers
who advised us on what to include. Our script, written by Judson Rosebush,
went through a review process as we decided how to structure the film.
Of course, you can't put in everything from the entire period -- you
couldn't even include all the developments from the last year in a
ninety-minute film! In the process, we shot over seventy interviews,
including pioneers in the field as well as leading figures in the
Getting the Inside Story
The result, says Foster, is a "human story" that contains
elements of humor, drama, sadness, and triumph. He thinks the film
will appeal to a wide audience, saying that even a teenager with minimal
knowledge beyond some cartoons and video games will be able to enjoy
and learn from this film. Foster explains that the goal of the SIGGRAPH
documentary is summarized by Ed Catmill, now head of Pixar, who worked
unnoticed for many years, researching and developing technology that
helped bring computer graphics to the attention of the entertainment
industry. Catmull says, simply, "In the end, we got noticed."
The Story of Computer Graphics reveals the great debt that
today's dazzling feature films owe to the early pioneers in such fields
as medical research and scientific visualization. It was because of
the work of many research facilities that the technology developed
to the point where the entertainment industry felt it was worth the
risk to try it. Foster says that many stories of perseverance are
presented in the film. For example, it tells of individuals who stood
behind the first paint systems in the early 1970s, though they nearly
lost their jobs. Also included is the 'true story' -- as opposed to
the mythology one frequently hears -- of George Lucas' dream for the
future of computer graphics, as told by Lucas himself. Foster says
that The Story of Computer Graphics helps set the record straight,
giving credit to the individuals who built the field throughout the
Another function of the film has been to make individuals and institutions
more aware of the importance of computer graphic preservation. Foster
notes that many people were surprised by how quickly materials from
the 1970s and 1980s had decomposed. He says that "a lot of footage
from the 1980s had faded. For example, Triple I's Juggler could barely
be transferred. We had limited resources, so there was only so much
material we could restore." Working with Michael Friend of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Study Center, Foster
has made arrangements to store the component parts of The Story
of Computer Graphics in a special preservation vault.
How to Catch It
SIGGRAPH attendees who miss the film's debut at the Shrine can see
it during its numerous screenings at the conference. The film will
be shown five times each day, Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m.
to 4 p.m. More information on screening times can be found at www.siggraph.org/movie.
After SIGGRAPH, the film will continue to be shown worldwide. Its
next stop will be Eurographics, which is being held in Milan during
September 1999. Because the documentary was created using high definition
video technology, plans for a high definition television broadcast
are also in the works, as are plans for distribution on DVD.
The documentary's production team also includes Executive Producers
Carl Machover, President of the computer graphics consulting firm
Machover Associates Corp., and John Hart, Associate Professor of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University. Producer
Steve Silas, founder of 213TV Productions, is an ACE-nominated television
producer and director, while the co-producer is longtime SIGGRAPH
member and veteran visual effects producer Joan
Collins. The documentary's writer, Judson Rosebush, founded Digital
Effects Inc. in New York and is former American Editor of Pixel
Vision Magazine and columnist for CD-ROM Professional.
Maureen Furniss, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor and Program Director
of Film Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. She is
the Founding Editor of Animation Journal and the author of
in Motion: Animation Aesthetics (John Libbey, 1998).