History of Computer generated imagery

August 16, 2015
3D Computer Generated Imagery

All images courtesy of The Monacelli Press.

I am very impressed.

This book is a visual standout. It is in full color. It is over a foot tall and almost a foot wide – 13.3” tall and 11.5” wide – and weighs 5.5 pounds. It is illustrated on practically every double-page spread. The reproductions of computer-generated images go back to 1839; a woven silk portrait by Michel-Marie Carquillat of Joseph Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the Jacquard loom, a loom that could be programmed by hand-punched cards to repeat a woven design. Jacquard’s portrait on a silk sheet was “laboriously orchestrated by means of twenty-four thousand hand-punched cards. It can be thought of as the first complex image to be produced by means of programmed computation, and as such it is a direct ancestor of all computer-generated imagery.” (p. 23) Since it was mechanized, Carquillat could produce not just one but many identical copies.

Finch’s The CG Story comes just eight months after Tom Sito’s Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation, but the two are very different. Where Sito’s book is a history of computer animation placing the emphasis on the computers, the inventors who created the advances in computer graphics, and the names of each technological breakthrough, Finch’s emphasizes the CG as it applies to popular films. In his prologue, Finch cites the popular 1940s-‘50s movie actor Victor Mature, who never acted when he could get a stand-in or a stunt double to do it. “He once stated that his ambition was to star in a movie in which he never actually appeared.” (p. 13) Finch points out that with CG, Mature could do this today. (In 1983, writer-artist Howard Chaykin introduced American Flagg!, a fifty-issue s-f comic-book set in 2031, featuring the adventures of Reuben Flagg, an ex-TV adventure-actor who was fired after his studio got enough footage of him in its computer-camera that it could create artificial imagery of him for all future episodes.)

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