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Rated: E · Essay · Computers · #1165317
an essay looking into a 30 year history of CGI in film/video games.
A look into the industry of CGI
An Essay by J. Haldeman

The year is 1973, and you are suddenly taken by the fact that Goodbye Yellow Brick road is swarming the airways – and the Vietnam War continues to rage in the southeastern end of Asia. One would think to wonder, why in any sort of situation would a family be sitting in front of their ‘boob tube’ and be playing a game like Sword Quest? Well, from the years 1973 to 2006, there has been a significant change in the way video games are perceived, and valued. Once a simple 4-bit masterpiece with blips across the screen, to a complete moving image wonder complete with realistic 3d imagery. CGI (Computer Graphics Imagery) from the video game to the movie screen, we will look at how this industry has evolved over the years until now.

One would intend to say that the graphics found in an old Atari 2600 game are undermining the effect of the word “Lame” for lack of a better professional word. However, for it’s time games like SwordQuest, and even for example Space Invaders, these were the top performing games in the early seventies made to entertain many households across the world. Speed reflex, was no longer something you only heard of in the kung-fu movies of yesteryear; it was now known that your 12 year old child could very well be mastering the game paddle sitting in front of your family TV.

If we think about it hard enough, we’ll remember the slow progression into higher quality media that became harder to achieve success within the status quo in the gaming world. However, this graphical wizard wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, certain games had to carry a warning issue about flashing colours, lights – things that could set off harmful seizures. Whilst to sadly, many a household this deemed hilariously funny and went about their playing, it was now becoming a medical issue that probed medical professionals to start viewing the way these things affected people. Thus not to forget, that video games were evidently to blame for many teenage massacres, violent behaviour and all around abnormal character. This hasn’t been fully proved yet, as psychologists and psychiatrists akin cannot pinpoint a cause to this matter .

Yet, in all that glitters, shiny and pretty in the video game world... Nobody had any notion that this would spark computer graphics usage as a widespread factor in movies of today. In fact, not all that glitters was gold: the video game market took a substantial dive in 1983 and again in 1984 due to the bankruptcy and sudden end to several companies. (Wikipedia Oct 3rd 2006)

This had however brought in light to gaming on a new form of console: the home computer. Yet, from around the same year as our friendly video and computer games gained popularity, we gained the knowledge to put 2D and 3D computer related imagery into our film and television. From Westworld in 1973, to the Dire Straits music video ‘Money is for Nothing’ in 1985; the boiling pot was about to boil over into mainstream technology and become a breeding ground for new and exciting adventures.

These new adventures were the advent creation of a new kind of filmmaking, and a new kind of video-game creation on the side. By the mid 1990s, we were making movies, which featured 3d animation and effects without a real flesh face to put them against for comparison. (Toy Story, 1995) Around the same time, the battle for the console began, as it once had nearly fifteen or so years earlier. Several companies dipped into the proverbial gene pool, making it much harder to grab hold of a great niche market.

Consoles of the 32-bit range such as the Panasonic 3DO, Sony Playstation, Sega Cd, Sega 32 X, Sega Saturn (Dreamcast to follow), Amiga CD32, Philips's CD-I, Atari Jaguar, NEC’s PC-FX, Bandai Pippin, FM TOWNS MARTY, Pioneer Laser-interactive. These were ultimately labelled FIFTH GENERATION consoles; yet ultimately the market could really only stand to hold a few substantial products on it’s shelves. Whilst these held high aspects of the animation and CGI you are about to read, they were not brought about popularity wise until the higher end 32 and 64 bit consoles were brought to life.

Yet – something else began to stir behind the mastermind of the 3d gaming market… Japan’s Sony Playstation managed to burst out in forces nobody had ever imagined – games with IN GAME MOVIES. If it wasn’t the realistic titles of games like Tekken 2, it was the realistically made in game movies in the RPG series Final Fantasy. Each year behind the belt, and Square produced several games that blew the Sony’s sales out the window and onto the charts as nearly the #1 console in the late 90s. Without such titles as Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy, and XenoGears -- Sony’s market dominance would not be present today .

From the in-game movies featured in several titles not only created by square (later to be known as SQUARE ENIX), but titles from other popular game creators – to later known VIDEO GAME BASED MOVIES. This was an odd phenomenon, to make movies based on video games, as it had earlier never worked. [Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter to name a couple] Thus, somehow releasing opinions that it may never, in fact work for a general public. Movies like Tomb Raider, Pokemon, Resident evil – paved the way for a new generation of movies solely based off video games.

Pushing the boundaries further than ever before, with graphics were movies like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Polar Express, The Matrix Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and last, but not least: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. The Matrix trilogy brought about a new sort of CGI and filming aspect, though some of it isn’t truly computer generated – some of it deserves mention for the technology aspect.

As said in The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded: “The Matrix trilogy both celebrates and criticises Technological change, an ambivalence which could be claimed as being at the crux of post modernity, through the medium of hardware, software and cyberspace.” The matrix trilogy became famous for groundbreaking technology that served as a door-opening experience for other moviemakers. Matrix: Reloaded included the first use of "Universal Capture,” the combination of dense (rather than point-based) motion capture and per-frame texture capture {http://www.Wikipedia.org keyword: TIMELINE OF CGI IN MOVES}.

Movies like the Matrix Trilogy, went down in history for their trademark martial arts filming, crossed with 3D CGI effects such as the well noted disambiguation of the face in Matrix: Revolutions. 360 degree, stop-motion filming became an industry revelation for many films and games to come in the future. (Final Fantasy: Dirge of Cerebus, Tomb Raider Series [Movies], Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Bujingai Sword Master to name a few.)
Yet, another movie of a different genre put together similar aspects with this new way of filming. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (ファイナルファンタジーVII アドベントチルドレン Fainaru Fantajī Sebun Adobento Chirudoren) is a film based on the highly successful PlayStation One and PC game Final Fantasy VII it combined the likes of the Martial Arts, realistically rendered 3d animation and 360 degree stop motion filming (Though animated completely in 3d, the notion of the 360 degree camera was more than apparent in several parts of the film), and Motion Capture to boot.

A very successful movie indicating the way the 3D animation and CGI industry has grown over the years. A successful and booming DVD release movie franchise with several merchandising contracts, spin offs, cell phone games, and products that were specifically placed in the movie (Panasonic FOMA P900iV mobile phone unavailable outside Japan). Movies like these stand the test of time: What came first the chicken or the egg?

Whilst many will tell you the brush before the pen, the pen before the mouse, the mouse before the tablet; CGI has come along way in over 30 years. From 2D to 3D, from game to screen – we’ve seen how games affect our lives, and movies effect our emotions. Touching upon the grossly overrated video-game generations of the 1980s, to gracing it’s light upon the CGI first seen in movies like Futureworld, Tron and Looker.

Yet will we ever truly all believe that 3D is worth all the trouble we go to? We process frame-by-frame, mesh-by-mesh – room-by-room. Motion capture the dog, motion capture this that and the other thing. Are we truly free of technology? Well, that’s all for another essay I suppose – because technology rules the CGI industry. The industry that has successfully made its 30th anniversary this year, and in style I suppose. There is always one or two or even three new 3D animated films on the market these days, good or bad – there’s art in every single one of them.

THE MATRIX TRILOGY: Cyberpunk Reloaded - Gillis S.
An Introduction to Ray Tracing - Glassner, A. (0122861604 1989/2002 Morgan Kaufmann Publishing)
The Art of 3d Computer Animation & Effects - Kerlow, I. (0471430366 /006.693KER John Wiley and Sons)
What Video Games have to teach us about literacy and learning - GEE, J.
First Person - Wardrip-Fruin, N. and Harrigan, P (026223232 794.8FIR)
Handbook of Computer Game Studies - Raessens, J. Goldstein, J. (0262182408/794.8HAN)/ http://mitpress.mit.edu
Wikipedia Articles:
Images used in comparison:
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/11/Dirgeofcerberususbox.jpg/250... Oct 7th 2006 8:28 PM)
(Cover copyright Sony pictures, Square Enix 2006)
SwordQuest in-game images
© Copyright 2006 J. Haldeman (psyspiderx at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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