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Newly Digitized Film Shows Ed Catmull's 3D Graphics From 1972

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the wasn't-even-conceived dept.

Graphics 95

AlejoHausner writes "In 1972, Ed Catmull, then at the University of Utah, put together a film showcasing many of the 3D computer graphics techniques he and others had developed while working as students in Ivan Sutherland's lab. That film has been digitized and is available. All kinds of modern techniques like Gouraud shading, deformed meshes, and z-buffering are shown in the film. There is a segment showing Catmull digitizing a plaster model of his hand. Catmull later founded Pixar, but at the time the Utah lab pioneered many of the graphics techniques we take for granted today." I'm just sorry I missed when this film was first made available online earlier this year.

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95 comments

It doesn't get more awesome than that. (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295140)

Thanks for that link, as a graphics artist - this brightened up my day!

Re:It doesn't get more awesome than that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295338)

Holy crap, a graphics artist?! On /.?!

Next thing you know, there'll be pilots roaming around in airports.

patent implications (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295160)

i wonder how much this buggers up any companies doing patents on 3D GPUs? the reason i ask is this: one of the problems that the ARM embedded SoC vendors face is that they are stuck on choice for GPUs, from companies who have had to design very low-power 3D engines (Vivante etc). these companies are quite young, and their relationship with the "big boys", who have had over a decade to establish their "arms-race" arsenal of patents, is unclear. so the embedded SoC 3D companies are LESS likely to release free software drivers. but if the very foundation of key parts of 3D patents is undermined through prior art.... i dunno...

Re:patent implications (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295230)

... but if the very foundation of key parts of 3D patents is undermined through prior art.... i dunno...

Formulas can't be patented, so it's unlikely that this video could provide any prior art for dismantling patents. Probably about all this video and the GPU patents share in common is the formulas involve.

Re:patent implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295398)

Formulas can't be patented

All software can be fully described by/as formulas.
Software can be patented.
Formulas can be patented if described as software.
The rest of you post is based on the idea that formulas can't be patented and is wrong.

Re:patent implications (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297294)

Abstract ideas are concepts like pure mathematics and algorithms. You cannot patent a formula. However, you can patent an application of that formula. Thus, while you cannot patent a mathematical formula that produces nonrepeating patterns, you can patent paper products that use that formula to prevent rolls of paper from sticking together.

Source [legalmatch.com]

Starting from the given "formula cannot be patented", there is no way to construct a non-contradictory soliloquy to the contrary. I understand what people do, and I understand that software is patentable, however the specific formula apart from its application cannot be patented.

It's a pretty crappy distinction that the law makes, but it is still there. Arguing things like "you can't copyright a number, but since every computer text can be converted into a number, and you can copyright that text, then you can therefore copyright a number." No. You copyright the text regardless of medium. The number that is equivalent to the text is not the text without a "decoding" process, and therefore is not equivalent to the text itself... unless that number is specifically representing the copyrighted next.

This whole post is equivalent in my coding scheme to the number 42, therefore, I have a copyright on the number 42? No, because people can use the number 42 without it representing this specific set of text.

They're razor thin distinctions yes, but they exist, and your argument is not going to change that.

Re:patent implications (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295564)

Formulas can't be patented,

Not sure that is accurate. Written as an algebraic expression, perhaps. Expressed as a method or a device (ie: drug) then a formula is able to be patented. Formulas as software (as pointed out by AC) is another avenue, such as MPEG. A formula is simply a mathematical expression, which describes a lot of software that is now patented, and as it stands now, software can be patented, at least in the US.

Re:patent implications (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297332)

Formulas can't be patented,

Not sure that is accurate. Written as an algebraic expression, perhaps. Expressed as a method or a device (ie: drug) then a formula is able to be patented. Formulas as software (as pointed out by AC) is another avenue, such as MPEG. A formula is simply a mathematical expression, which describes a lot of software that is now patented, and as it stands now, software can be patented, at least in the US.

Software contains flow control, conditionals, a process, formula describe mathematical relationships and values but are not process. We have regularized processes for evaluating them, however they are not "process" in and of themselves.

Re:patent implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37301708)

You can express a process as a formula and a formula as a process. (see, among others: lambda calculus)

Re:patent implications (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37314210)

You can express a process as a formula and a formula as a process. (see, among others: lambda calculus)

Very well then, I'm patenting 0*x = 0.

You all are already arguing that I can turn this into software, and thus patent it, right? So, I'm going to patent it.

Oh that's right, except I can't patent formulas, only their application.

Re:patent implications (1)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296234)

... but if the very foundation of key parts of 3D patents is undermined through prior art.... i dunno...

Formulas can't be patented, so it's unlikely that this video could provide any prior art for dismantling patents. Probably about all this video and the GPU patents share in common is the formulas involve.

In theory the law says that they can't in practice patent offices do approve patents for them and going to court to void them is a roulette.

Re:patent implications (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297184)

... but if the very foundation of key parts of 3D patents is undermined through prior art.... i dunno...

Formulas can't be patented, so it's unlikely that this video could provide any prior art for dismantling patents. Probably about all this video and the GPU patents share in common is the formulas involve.

In theory the law says that they can't in practice patent offices do approve patents for them and going to court to void them is a roulette.

You've responded with the best response to my comment. Patents are often issued for things that are not strictly patentable, but taking them down is of course, a wonderfully painful legal matter.

Re:patent implications (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295282)

the algo's for basic 3d are now pretty old and much of it is non-patentable, it's some hardware implementation patents which matter for the manufacturers more probably. and some other things like s3's texture compression but you could find prior art that does exactly almost the same(just not with a non-reprogrammable hw part). btw one reason why embedded 3d providers have been reluctant to release oss drivers is that some chips just don't do what they advertise.. and that the drivers have code they've licensed from elsewhere - or because they don't want to show to their competition how some opengl extension or another can be done with no change in hw, or because the companies wouldn't do anything if they didn't have a payer for the work - remember those act almost solely only as licensing bodies on contract.

the 3d pointer hardware in the vid though, that would've been patentable(but might've been used already before in airplane design etc, some warplane documentaries have glimpses of very early cad systems from 70's and the same basic idea can be used fully mechanically) . the rest of the stuff in the video hasn't been under patent as far as I know ever, certainly nobody has enforced those patents even if they exist.

and as the mobile parts are integrated on the same soc's, it's hard to break into that market. producing samples must be horribly expensive. so what you have is basically two companies, if some new company has some good ideas or good folk, they'll get acquired before they can manufacture anything.

the hand model in the video is really well done though, even if it was done with the help of a big hardware digitizing helping tool, the guy still had to choose which points to digitize. really nice vid and must have taken a lot of work(though very few people had access to such computers at that time, some of the logic how to accomplish such is semi obvious instantly once you've seen it in practice though).

Re:patent implications (3, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295428)

GPU's dont use the lighting techniques seen here, in spite of the fact that the summary claims that the technique is "modern."

Specifically, nobody does gouraud shading anymore. Hell, even in the days before GPU's people stopped using that technique in favor of phong shading.

Gouraud calculates the lighting at each vertex and then interpolates the light intensity across the polygon.
Phong calculate the surface normal at each vertex and then interpolates the normals across the polygon (calculating light intensities from those normals on a per-pixel basis.)

Hell, nobody does phong any more either. Generally the normal is now either a direct lookup (bump mapping and so forth) or derived from the zbuffer itself using differed shading.

Re:patent implications (1)

KliX (164895) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296160)

None what-so-ever. This stuff is all published - it's Catmull for god's sake!

Re:patent implications (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299026)

Back then, the patents related to hardware implementations for lighting calculations. Those patents would have expired.
Basic 3D API calls are just to draw lines, fill triangles using texture mapping. There isn't anything to patent there now. Even those low-power GPU's support programmable shading models.

If there is anything worth patenting, it will be related to parallel processing at the ASIC level and advanced lighting models at the mathematics level.

ID Software did get threatened with a lawsuit from Creative Labs over the use of some shadow-mapping algorithms - bounding plane intersection counts or something similar. Creative Labs wanted them to support their sound cards.

Sound on that film. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295166)

The sound on that film is filling me with the urge to waste some super mutants.

Re:Sound on that film. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295320)

Don't worry, someone will add some JAM Project [youtube.com] and fix that up real quick.

Westworld? (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295194)

Didn't the wireframe animation appear in a monitor in a scene in "Westworld"?

Re:Westworld? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295218)

Didn't the wireframe animation appear in a monitor in a scene in "Westworld"?

Indeed, the TFA mentions this very fact.

Re:Westworld? (1)

TrashGod (752833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295224)

Futureworld [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Westworld? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295236)

And apparently TFA doesn't even mention this at all... now I look like a total idiot...

Re:Westworld? (1)

daremonai (859175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296270)

TFA may not mention it, but TFF does - it's in the introduction of the film.

Re:Westworld? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297350)

TFA may not mention it, but TFF does - it's in the introduction of the film.

If the article contains the film, then does it count? I could have sworn I had seen it somewhere in the article... silly me, forgetting that there was text in the video itself. >_

Re:Westworld? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297308)

The lead-in for the video itself mentions Futureworld, which is probably what you were thinking of.

Yes (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296366)

If you watch the documentary about Pixar (available streamed on Netflix) it shows the scene and talks a bit about the hand animation. This video actually shows a lot more though,

1972 CALLED !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295246)

And, uh, I forget now !! Too long ago !! But we walked to school in three foot snow, we did !!

Re:1972 CALLED !! (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 2 years ago | (#37301618)

But we walked to school in three foot snow, we did !!

yes yes and you liked it that way... and now i'm stepping off your lawn.

Csuri beat him to it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295262)

Charles Csuri has a video like this from 1969. First NSF grant to an artist. Look it up. This is impressive but it's not the first. Csuri's students and coworkers went on to found Pixar. Note: I work with him and also have met Sutherland, et al. when I worked on the DARPA HPCS project at Sun.

Re:Csuri beat him to it (1)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296298)

And Eric Graham (maker of the juggler animation) beat them all to it. He was making raytraced 3d graphics in the mid 1960s on teletype output. Actually, I find this whole video's claims of being the first time it was digitized a hard to believe. I've seen clips from this video before and for as important as this video is, it would have been digitized in the last 20 years instead of just left on a shelf to chance be picked up by someone's son like a family home movie.

Re:Csuri beat him to it (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296696)

Csuri's work is certainly 3D computer graphics that predates Catmull's film, but it's the particular techniques shown here that make Catmull's film remarkable. Csuri's work from this period (that I've seen) is only rendered points and wireframes without any hidden-surface removal. Catmull shows fully shaded polygons with correct depth ordering (it's likely he used techniques other than Z-buffering to achieve this).

The founders of Pixar are Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith. See: http://alvyray.com/pixar/default.htm [alvyray.com] . (I would not be surprised if the list of founding employees includes some student's of Csuri's.)

Some (too much?) background on Ed and Pixar (2)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295292)

Pixar - A Human Story of Computer Animation [youtube.com]

If anything, this video is too long, but it gives a lot of background on Ed Catmull , the animated hand, and Pixar. Well worth the time, especially if you don't know what's the big deal with a crappy hand animation.

For example this video was probably made by taping polaroids to a CRT to get the images out of the computer and onto the film.

T

Re:Some (too much?) background on Ed and Pixar (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295500)

For example this video was probably made by taping polaroids to a CRT to get the images out of the computer and onto the film.

I haven't had time to watch the whole 100 minute video yet, but are you talking from having seen this film or just guessing?

My assumption had been that they would point a camera at a display, possibly cycling through multiple renderings of the same image using different dithering randomisation settings so that if (say) they only had a 2-color (black/white) hi-res display they would be able to "average out" and simulate greyscale. Of course, even a single 320 x 192 two-colour image would take up 8 KB, which would have been a lot in 1972, so I don't know if it would have been feasible to store multiple versions and "cycle" them or whether they just did multiple exposure. All this is just guesswork anyway, I might be completely wrong.

Re:Some (too much?) background on Ed and Pixar (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297654)

Not guessing - just poor memory - it had been months since I had watched it. Ed does talk about a polaroid camera, seconds or minutes per frame, and implies 3 exposures per frame for color pictures. Chances are the image was rendered one line or pixel at a time. Nobody had a real framebuffer yet, publicly anyway. They mention that too.

T

Thanks for the splines (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297896)

Wow, neat. I was working on a project once to automate fitting of endographic stents and in my CG book there was a section on Catmull-Rom splines, which fit the bill (and the blood vessel) perfectly. I hadn't realized there was so much to the back story.

I for one... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295364)

I for one am glad that they didn't think to themselves "hey - I wonder if there's money to be made in the adult entertainment industry with this stuff..."

Seriously... it must have almost crossed their mind... and then we would have been without Toy Story and a whole load of other great films!

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295452)

Well, without a doubt they would have still made Toy Story...it'd just have a completely different "plot".

Re:I for one... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295476)

I for one am glad that they didn't think to themselves "hey - I wonder if there's money to be made in the adult entertainment industry with this stuff..."

Almost forty years on and computer-generated porn still sucks (and not in the desired sense either). Creepy, mannequin-like, uncanny-valley figures in crappy fake poses. Granted, I may be biased because I like the more naturalistic stuff, but it's still rotten.

Seriously... it must have almost crossed their mind... and then we would have been without Toy Story and a whole load of other great films!

Well, unless the bad publicity would have precluded them from making Toy Story, why couldn't they have done both?

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295794)

Almost forty years on and computer-generated porn still sucks (and not in the desired sense either). Creepy, mannequin-like, uncanny-valley figures in crappy fake poses.

Torrents, please.

Re:I for one... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300730)

Seriously... it must have almost crossed their mind... and then we would have been without Toy Story and a whole load of other great films!

Well, unless the bad publicity would have precluded them from making Toy Story, why couldn't they have done both?

I might hesitate to take the kids out to see Toy Story if the poster contained something like "From the makers of Sarah meets the Tentacle Monster from the planet Eroticon 6". Also, Pixar love including subtle references to their other films... you just never know what they'd manage to sneak past the censors :)

On the other hand, i'm sure the "blooper reel" would be hilarious on their adult films!

Animation ? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295408)

What trick did they use to animate the wireframe ? If it took them a 3d manual digitizer to recreate the 3D model, how did they animate fingers ? Did they digitize every frame ? Were they already using skeletal animation ?

Re:Animation ? (1)

BitterKraut (820348) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295528)

The model hand is rigid. Letters in the 3D titles morph into each other. So my guess is: Based on the digitized geometry, they manually created the geometry for key animation phases and interpolated the rest of the geometry.

Oh boy! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295434)

It's even got period token Negroes!

Wondered where that had gone... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295460)

I remember seeing the faces (5'10" onwards) and some other bits on some BBC or Channel 4 TV documentary a while back now (late 90s) and being very impressed by the fact they'd been able to do that in 1972 (matter of fact, I'm more impressed with that than I was with the hand). In terms of quality, I would have guessed it was done years later, more like the late-70s.

Having looked for it online more recently (on YouTube and via Google) I wasn't able to find it anywhere, so it's great that these are now available.

(Side issue, but the music's different to the analogue synth swooshes I originally remember accompanying it, and which suited it better IMHO. I assume that the original film was silent and so there wasn't any "original" music anyway?)

Re:Wondered where that had gone... (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295536)

I happened to listen to early Jean Michel Jarre music while watching the video, and it was really fitting. I bet this piece ends up to the playlists of VJ's around the world.

Re:Wondered where that had gone... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299102)

Was that BBC Horizon - Painting with Numbers? That was my all time documentary back then. Horizon's intro sequence was art itself.

That documentary showed some fascinating animations - wireframe drive-through of a down-town area, terrain fly-overs, a textured cube with some animated textures (Sunstone?), and a light pen system which demonstrated cartoon animation - a little cartoon character had a nose that expanded balloon style and pulled him upwards.
There was a African-American kid who did some sprite programming with a TI system.

3D Expo did a great talk some time ago about the different eras of animation (The "Era of the Flying Logo" for one, The "Era of animated characters"). Some of those early videos can be found on DVD.

The biggest innovation back then was getting 24-bit framebuffers. Basically just three 8-bit monochrome framebuffers piggybacked into the RGB sockets for a composite monitor. Each one took around 128K of memory the size of an A3 card. Then it was just a matter of writing algorithms to render lines, circles, triangles and shade them. Each frame could be saved as video or film output.

Re:Wondered where that had gone... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37367096)

Was that BBC Horizon - Painting with Numbers? That was my all time documentary back then. [..] There was a African-American kid who did some sprite programming with a TI system.

If the reference was to one of TI's computer, and it was a contemporary example- suggesting that the documentary was made in the early '80s- then no, it wasn't that one. The one I saw would have been around the mid-to-late 90s.

Sounds like it- and the other stuff you mention- might be worth checking out via official or, er, unofficial channels!

Amazing! How...? (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295572)

That was truly amazing. I'm impressed, and thanks for sharing that.

How, though, was it output? Obviously what we saw was a digitized version of film, but how was the film made in the first place? As a kid in the late 1970's, microcomputers (that's what we called PC's then) already output modulated signals which could be recorded on early VCR's. How were these put into film? And was it real time, or generated frame by frame a la Pixar?

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295656)

I didn't think any computer back in 1972 had any kind of graphics capability outside of ASCII art.

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299286)

History of Framebuffers [wikipedia.org]

In 1969, Joan Miller of Bell Labs experimented with the first known instance of a framebuffer. The device displayed an image with a color depth of three bits.

In 1972, Richard Shoup developed the SuperPaint system at Xerox PARC. This system had 311,040 bytes of memory and was capable of storing 640 by 480 pixels of data with 8 bits of color depth. The memory was scattered across 16 circuit boards,

In 1974 Evans & Sutherland released the first commercial framebuffer, costing about $15,000.

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

anonymov (1768712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296166)

Frame by frame, probably, though wireframe could surely be rendered realtime or near that.

As for filming, camera rigged to a CRT and some electromechanics to control shutter/film feed after rendering the current frame could do the trick

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296550)

I was wondering that same thing. I'd guess they made a film transfer recorder using a computer-controlled oscilloscope. This is essentially a film camera focused on an oscilloscope display (in a light-proof enclosure), where the computer can vary the position and intensity of the light spot (using D/A converters driving scope inputs). If you use a white phosphor CRT and some color transparencies in between, you can do full-color recording. (This is exactly the same principle used in some modern film recorders.) It takes a while to scan out the image, but you do so with very high resolution (modern recorders typically do 4Kx4K on 35mm film). Have the computer control the camera's frame advance and then you can make movies.

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300054)

An oscilloscope display is electrostatically deflected. You cannot get any decent size out of the image that way without making it huge (long) or it being very slow, pick your poison. You need the image to be large since the spot is nowhere near "tiny". Modern oscilloscope tubes use mesh expanders and those diffuse the spot.

I think they'd have used an electromagnetically deflected monochrome CRT with a phosphor that gives enough light in red, green and blue. They would have tweaked the geometry (in the CRT and in the amps/geometry circuits) to get a reasonably linear and rectangular representation of things as seen by the camera. This would correct for both the camera's and CRT's distortions.

The modern recorders are also flying spot, but neither electron beam nor phosphor are involved anymore. The flying spot is a well-focused laser beam, scanned in raster directly on the film. The image can be of very good quality since distortion of the optics only affects the geometry of the spot, not of the entire image. The scanning will normally be done using a rotating polygon mirror across the film, and by moving the film to scan along the film.

Re:Amazing! How...? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300168)

Thanks for the extra insights. I wasn't aware of the internal differences between oscilloscope CRTs and TV-type CRTs. I only knew that they have X & Y (deflection) inputs and a Z (intensity) input, ideal for hooking up to a computer's D/A outputs, back in the day.

I was aware of laser film scanners, but the only one I've seen (at Pixar, in fact) was quite a big, ungainly-looking device. I have no idea how common they might be, outside of movie-making houses.

gratuitous snark (2)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295646)

It may not be as technologically advanced, but it has a better plot than [insert recent digitally-rendered feature film here]!

but seriously (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295670)

Actually what I love most about this film is how the B&W rendering and the use of intertitles and accompanying music, gives it the flavor of a silent movie, making it feel even older than it is.

Re:but seriously (1)

cOldhandle (1555485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296334)

Well, it actually is a silent movie - the blog author says that he had the 8mm reel digitised, and added the music (apparently by Dave Brubeck) himself.

Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295788)

I never knew 3D computer graphics were developed back in the 70's. Interesting video buts its lacking any technical explanation of how they did it.

What computer was this developed on? What programming languages were used? Was there a need to develop any special hardware to enable this rendering? The animation looks like its running in real time, where computers of 1972 fast enough to handle this? Or was this filmed by rendering one frame at a time and exposing a single frame of film? The computers of those days were time shared so I bet they sucked up allot of resources on the universities computer. I bet you had allot of angry students and professors waiting for the 3D jobs to finish.

It would have been nice if some technical details were given.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296084)

I agree that the like of detail is disappointing. However...

The animation looks like its running in real time, where computers of 1972 fast enough to handle this?

I think I could safely say that if I knew *nothing* about that film beyond it having been made in 1972, that I'd still bet my life on it *not* having been done in real time! Seriously, I'm pretty damn sure that you couldn't have done that in anything approaching real time even in 1982...

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296198)

Nope. Not a chance. Catmull worked out the math. He had no clue about 3-D hardware because until he'd shown the rendering in software nobody else knew what it should do.

Real-time, if it wasn't just dumping bits to a file for playback, you could probably see this thing drawing the wire frame line-by-line and filling each pixel.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37296578)

Real-time, if it wasn't just dumping bits to a file for playback, you could probably see this thing drawing the wire frame line-by-line and filling each pixel.

Yeah, to be fair, this thing probably *could* work in real time. It's just that you'd have to measure the output rate in frames per day. ;-)

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37304622)

But that would violate the principle tenet of real-time: making the data show up where it's needed at the time it's needed.

If you can't render the frames at the speed they're displayed (24 or 30 fps), you're non-real time.

Video cards cheat by varying the frame rate and making things onscreen move proportional distances. They're real-time in terms of interrelationship of objects in their internal 3-D space, but they make the human watch it through a choppy window. If they've got more processing power than they need, they jack up the frame rate just to make it look better. Which has made the framerate a good benchmark.

Unless they punt entirely and things just slow down in the game and onscreen.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37367074)

But that would violate the principle tenet of real-time: making the data show up where it's needed at the time it's needed. If you can't render the frames at the speed they're displayed (24 or 30 fps), you're non-real time.

Either a massive "whoooosh" or you misintepreted what I was saying (I posted that as AC as I forgot to log in and was in a hurry).

I was (very jokingly) implying that one could have such a system generate output in "real time" if one allowed the frame rate of that footage to be low enough (i.e. measured in frames per day!)

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

AlejoHausner (1047558) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296182)

I don't see how that could have been rendered in real time, especially the fully shaded hand. Think of all those pixels! Each frame was rendered on a CRT and photographed individually.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37296962)

Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp was producing real time, 3-D graphics systems in exactly this time period. They cost a fortune, were used mostly by the military for aircraft carrier pilot training, and used special hardware patented (mostly) by Ivan Sutherland in whose U of U lab these students were working. I can testify to all of this as I'm Ivan Sutherland daughter.

I think the face in the film is probably Henri Gouraud's wife. I know that they digitized her face and it became, for awhile, the canonical female face, just as the canonical car was our VW bug. We had a party for the grad students at our house where they used poster paint to mark the points on the car for digitizing and everyone pitched in to help. I have a photo of my grandfather (Ivan's father) helping.

BTW, my father tried very hard to sell graphic systems to Disney but they weren't interested. Couldn't possibly be better than hand animation. Which, of course, it couldn't. But it could have done a lot of the basic stuff, leaving interesting detail for the artists. They did eventually use an E&S system in production for Tron.

Juliet Sutherland

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37297578)

Wow, thanks for yet another point of insight from someone 'there' in the era this happened :)

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297692)

We have to remember that "3D graphics" means many different things, especially back in the 70s. The first E & S systems ("Picture System") were vector graphics machines. Their first raster graphics system was in 1974, and it was only 8-bit grayscale (though people later figured out that you could use 3 of them in concert to drive a full-color RGB display).

I see hints on the web that the female face model was Fred Parke's own wife, but nothing definite either way.

Various companies contribued the CG for Tron. A vector-graphics E & S system produced the opening title sequence and the sequence where Flynn enters the computer world.

And yes, I spend far too much time in front of a computer searching the web for stuff. But the stuff I learn this way is very fascinating sometimes...

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296254)

It's impossible even for the wire frame version to be rendered in real time. Hell for those computers it was impossible even to display in realtime the pre-rendered frames. The movie has been assembled by stitching together photos of individual frames on a computer screen.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

anonymov (1768712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296328)

Nope, wireframe would be easy - vector displays were widespread, so rendering wireframe is just transforming and clipping lines from 3d to 2d projection and sending points to the display.

Still, it probably didn't make for smooth real-time animation, but should be enough for interactive use - editing/previewing/etc.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37297418)

And what processor would have been fast enough to do the math?

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37298298)

Since a Commodore 64 was able to display wireframe graphics (Elite), I don't know where you're going with this. SInce you're obviously confined to a wheelchair and unable to google the history of technology for yourself, let me get you started.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKM3CmRqK2o [youtube.com]

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

anonymov (1768712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298340)

It takes less than you think.

Let's approximate: there's about 200 line segments in those wireframes, projecting a 3d point on a plane takes (can't be bothered to remember the math) about 20 multiplications, so about 4000 flops per frame - so with 25 fps it's 100kflops.

And if we're talking not actual real-time rendering, but just previewing the model, then 8-12 fps would be enough, making it 30-50kflops.

And here's historic Whetstone results [roylongbottom.org.uk] - check PDP-11/45, for example.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298482)

A DEC PDP-11/45 wouldn't come out until after this film was made. The first PDP-11 was only announced in 1970. There was apparently a PDP-10 at UofU in 1969, though.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37296438)

Really? So the Sketchpad demo in 1962 was rigged? Stick to scripting, kid.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37296820)

3-D computer animations were made in the 1960's. At Cornell Aero Lab (CAL, now Calspan) in Buffalo, NY, they shot frame-by-frame animations with a movie camera pointed at a CRT wireframe display. See, for example, http://www.mchenrysoftware.com/SpiralJump.pdf [mchenrysoftware.com] , Figures 7 & 8. The text of the paper dates these from 1968. A later animation of the prediction and reality of the Spiral Jump (car thrill show stunt) made with the same computer & movie camera system can be seen half way down this page, http://www.mchenrysoftware.com/ [mchenrysoftware.com]
My father managed the department at CAL where this work was done and I watched many animations (and the actual car tests) when I was in middle school and high school, mid-1960's on.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (3, Informative)

Gumber (17306) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298606)

I dug into the technical details a bit and posted some of what I found on my blog, along with links to the papers describing the hand and facial animation work in more detail: http://geekfun.com/2011/09/03/early-cgi-animation-by-ed-catmull/ [geekfun.com]

The short answer is that the facial animation was produced by software written in Fortran and run on a pair of PDP-10s, and the hand animation was likely running in the same environment. When each frame was finished, it was displayed on a CRT and captured to film using a 35mm animation camera. For the facial animation, each frame took about 2.5 minutes to render.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299428)

Just to be clear: lacking a framebuffer, the system could not display images in such a way that you could view them with your eyes (unless you used a storage CRT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storage_CRT [wikipedia.org] ). Rather, it would scan out a single dot at a time while the shutter on the camera was held open. After scanning the 1024x1024 array of pixels (which took about 2.5 minutes), the shutter would be closed, and then the film could be developed, and only after it came back from the film lab would you see your final image (unless you used the Polaroid camera, in which case you'd only have to wait another minute or so).

This long turn-around time is why you'll notice some errors in the hand animation (polygons that are dark when they should be light, etc.).

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (1)

Gumber (17306) | more than 2 years ago | (#37301066)

Thanks for the clarification. I'd misread the 2.5 minute time as being the total throughput, not the time it took to output a single completed frame, but rereading the paper, it seems like it is indeed the time to expose a 1024x1024 frame. Its unclear to me how long the computation took.

Re:Disappointing lack of technical details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37305206)

I remember seeing a documentary a few years back that said every generation of CGI has always taken about 2 minutes to render a frame. It's just that the newer generations render them in more detail. - Stepho

For more awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295976)

Read "The Pixar Touch", a book on the foundation on Pixar. It goes from before the garage days (hippies trying to steal time on a frame buffer to do trippy digital artwork) to ultra corporate (disney takeover).

Awesome book all around

Smell-O-Vision anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37297458)

All this 3D is just a fad that will fail like all the previous attempts. Most (but not all) of the heavily hyped 3D films lack a credible script. Lately, I saw an advertisement for a movie that was in 4D. It features a box that you hold to your nose for the smell of the current scene. (I'm quite serious about this I think it is the latest version of "Spy Kids".) Smell-O-Vision anybody? This is idea will certainly die when they try to create a remake of "Jurassic Park". Remember the scene where the paleontologist is digging through a fresh steaming pile of dinosaur dung? I can just imagine the people rushing out of the theater.

Get him together with Clarke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37297704)

...and you get one smooth operation.

Cool footage btw.

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