35 years of 'impossible' ILM visual effects (photos)
Over 35 years, George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic has worked on nearly 300 films, earning 15 Oscars in the process.
Star Wars motion control
This year marks the 35th anniversary of George Lucas' famed visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic. To celebrate the occasion, Encore has produced a new 60-minute documentary on the studio, directed by Oscar- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Leslie Iwerks.
In this gallery are a series of images showcasing many of the nearly 300 films that ILM has worked on, earning 15 Oscars in the process and a total of 40 Academy Award nominations.
ILM got its start in 1975 when Lucas needed a visual effects department to work on "Star Wars." According to ILM, "The young team at ILM pioneered the use of computers to control and move motion picture cameras. The invention, named the Dysktraflex, in honor of its primary inventor, John Dykstra, allowed camera moves to be programmed and repeated time and time again giving effects artists the ability to shoot multiple registered passes of miniatures such as the Millennium Falcon, which would later be optically composited together into a single shot."
In 1982, ILM and the Lucasfilm Computer Division--which had been set up in 1979--co-created what was called the "Genesis Effect" for "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." According to ILM, this was the first-ever entirely CGI sequence in a feature film. Just four years later, Lucas sold the part of the computer division that worked on developing rendering software. That group later became a company that you might have heard of: Pixar Animation Studios.
Ninety percent of Lucas' 1999 "Star Wars" prequel, "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" contained digital effects shots, and for the film, ILM developed a brand-new way of making movies. "Scenes that are fully computer-generated, featuring synthetic environments and digital terrain generation, computer graphic lead characters and thousands of digital extras are but some of the accomplishments, which are rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects," according to ILM.
With 2002's "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," Lucas became the first filmmaker to shoot entirely using digital high-definition video. ILM completed more than 2,000 visual effects shots, "featuring digital environments, synthetic human characters, and a computer graphics Yoda."
ILM developed an all-new software system that can create computer models that could be divided into the thousands of small pieces needed for the new "Indiana Jones" film's climatic temple destruction scene.
Though Weta Digital was the lead visual effects house on James Cameron's "Avatar," for which it won an Oscar, ILM also created several shots, including the film's opening sequence, the attack of the Home Tree, and the movie's final battle sequence.