History of Visual Effects: Traditional and Computer Based



“A documentary revealing the growth of the special effects in motion pictures. From the very first use of photographic tricks and optical illusions, miniature...”

“A documentary revealing the growth of the special effects in motion pictures. From the very first use of photographic tricks and optical illusions, miniature models and matte paintings for such classical tales as "A Trip To The Moon" (1902) directed by Georges Melies and grounbreaking animated stop-motion puppets in "King Kong" (1933) created by legendary Willis O'Brien to the present days where modern filmmakers used practically the same improved techniques with some new elaborations as optical printer compositings and computer controlled model photography, steady cameras and complex animatronics.”


A History of Visual Propaganda History:

"Fiftieth Anniversary of First Digital Image Marked"

"The first digital image made on a computer in 1957 showed researcher Russell Kirsch's baby son."

"It was 50 years ago this spring that National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST) computer pioneer Russell Kirsch asked "What would happen if computers could look at pictures?" and helped start a revolution in information technology. Kirsch and his colleagues at NBS, who had developed the nation's first programmable computer, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC), created a rotating drum scanner and programming that allowed images to be fed into it. The first image scanned was a head-and-shoulders shot of Kirsch's three-month-old son Walden."

"The ghostlike black-and-white photo only measured 176 pixels on a side—a far cry from today's megapixel digital snapshots—but it would become the Adam and Eve for all computer imaging to follow."

source: Fiftieth Anniversary of First Digital Image Marked | NIST


"In the 1960s, the laboratories housed an early microfilm printer that was able to expose letters and shapes onto 35mm film."

"Bell Labs, now based in New Jersey, was hugely influential in initiating and supporting the early American computer-art scene and produced perhaps the greatest number of key early pioneers. Artists and computer scientists who worked there include Claude Shannon, Ken Knowlton, Leon Harmon, Lillian Schwartz, Charles Csuri, A. Michael Noll, Edward Zajec, and Billy Klüver, an engineer who also collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg to form Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). The Laboratory began life as Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. in 1925 and went on to become the leading authority in the field of new technologies. ...Amongst many things, Bell Labs was particularly influential in the development of early computer-generated animation. In the 1960s, the laboratories housed an early microfilm printer that was able to expose letters and shapes onto 35mm film. Artists such as Edward Zajec began to use the equipment to make moving films. Whilst working at Bell Labs, computer scientist and artist Ken Knowlton developed the programming language BEFLIX- the name stands for Bell Flicks - that could be used for bitmap film making."

source: A History of Computer Art - Victoria and Albert Museum

"The real history of digital photography as we know it began in the 1950s."

"In 1951, the first digital signals were saved to magnetic tape via the first video tape recorder. "

"While digital photography has only relatively recently become mainstream, the late 20th century saw many small developments leading to its creation. The first image of Mars was taken as the Mariner 4 flew by it on July 15, 1965, with a camera system designed by NASA/JPL. While not what we usually define as a digital camera, it used a comparable process. It used a video camera tube, followed by a digitizer, rather than a mosaic of solid state sensor elements. This produced a digital image that was stored on tape for later slow transmission back to Earth."

"The real history of digital photography as we know it began in the 1950s. In 1951, the first digital signals were saved to magnetic tape via the first video tape recorder. Six years later, in 1957, the first digital image was produced through a computer by Russell Kirsch. It was an image of his son. In the late 1960s, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, two physicists with Bell Labs, Inc., invented the charge-coupled device (CCD), a semiconductor circuit later used in the first digital video cameras for television broadcasting. Their invention was recognized by a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009. The first published color digital photograph was produced in 1972 by Michael Francis Tompsett using CCD sensor technology and was featured on the cover of Electronics Magazine. It was a picture of his wife, Margaret Thompsett. The Cromemco Cyclops, a digital camera developed as a commercial product and interfaced to a microcomputer, was featured in the February 1975 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. It used metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) technology for its image sensor."

"The first self-contained (portable) digital camera was created later in 1975 by Steven Sasson of Eastman Kodak. Sasson's camera used CCD image sensor chips developed by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1973. The camera weighed 8 pounds (3.6 kg), recorded black and white images to a cassette tape, had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels (10,000 pixels), and took 23 seconds to capture its first image in December 1975. The prototype camera was a technical exercise, not intended for production. While it was not until 1981 that the first consumer camera was produced by Sony, Inc., the groundwork for digital imaging and photography had been laid."

source: Digital photography  •  History of the camera § Digital cameras


The ability to scan and print images leads to Computer based film and video editing.

A simple sequence of black and white, photographic images, scanned into 1950's and 1960's era computer equipment could have been printed out in sequential form suitable for film and video reproduction. In other words, computer based photographic cartoon work might be older than we think. The ability to scan and print imagery means that one could simply print out a sequence of images that could have been transferred to film by traditional, non digital, means.

(see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animated_cartoon)


The History of Computer Film Making

"Non-destructive editing is a form of audio, video or image editing where the original content is not modified in the course of editing, instead the edits are specified and modified by specialized software. A pointer-based playlist, effectively an edit decision list (EDL), for video or a directed acyclic graph for still images is used to keep track of edits. Each time the edited audio, video, or image is rendered, played back, or accessed, it is reconstructed from the original source and the specified editing steps. Although this process is more computationally intensive than directly modifying the original content, changing the edits themselves can be almost instantaneous, and it prevents further generation loss as the audio, video, or image is edited."

source: Non-linear editing system - Wikipedia  •  History of computer animation - Wikipedia


"The charge-coupled device (CCD) is the image-capturing optoelectronic component in first-generation digital cameras. It was invented in 1969 by Willard Boyle and George E. Smith at AT&T Bell Labs as a memory device. The lab was working on the Picturephone and on the development of semiconductor bubble memory. Merging these two initiatives, Boyle and Smith conceived of the design of what they termed "Charge 'Bubble' Devices". The essence of the design was the ability to transfer charge along the surface of a semiconductor. It was Dr. Michael Tompsett from Bell Labs however, who discovered that the CCD could be used as an imaging sensor. The CCD has increasingly been replaced by the active pixel sensor (APS), commonly used in cell phone cameras. These mobile phone cameras are used by billions of people worldwide, dramatically increasing photographic activity and material and also fueling citizen journalism."

"In 1957, a team led by Russell A. Kirsch at the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed a binary digital version of an existing technology, the wirephoto drum scanner, so that alphanumeric characters, diagrams, photographs and other graphics could be transferred into digital computer memory. One of the first photographs scanned was a picture of Kirsch's infant son Walden. The resolution was 176x176 pixels with only one bit per pixel, i.e., stark black and white with no intermediate gray tones, but by combining multiple scans of the photograph done with different black-white threshold settings, grayscale information could also be acquired."

source: 11 Development of digital photographyHistory of photography - Wikipedia




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_Labs    •  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix  •  Space Travel (video game) - Wikipedia

“George Kupczak of the AT&T Archives and History Center "The Incredible Machine" is a 1968 short showing some of the ways that Bell Laboratories scientists used computers in communications research. Contains sequences of computer-generated movies, photographs, music and speech.”