CGI Prehistory: The Making of the Death Star Computer Graphics

CGI Prehistory: The Making of the Death Star Computer Graphics

30-some years ago, when men were men and Darth Vader wasn't some emo nancy-boy, we didn't have CGI: We had dials, pushbuttons, monochromatic screens and, thankfully, someone with the good sense to record this video of the creation of the Death Star computer graphics used in Star Wars.

You kids these days, with your Pixar and your clickity-clicking mice and your computer-generated everything. You don't appreciate how it used to be in the good old days, when cutting-edge special effects required nothing less than hundreds of man-hours of painstaking work for just a few moments of screen time. Remember the briefing scene in Star Wars, when the pilots were told about the attack on the Death Star? That computerized animation of the trench run didn't just magically appear out of nowhere, you know.

"I could've done that on my VIC-20," you might be thinking. Oh yeah? So tell me this, smart guy: What if your VIC-20 hadn't been invented yet? Then you'd have to do what animator Larry Cuba did: Digitize each component by hand based on drawings and photographs, then assemble them into a series of still shots that would eventually be photographed and strung together, one frame at a time, into a single, animated sequence.

It sounds simple enough, but technology back then wasn't quite what it is today. How much time Cuba sunk into the creation of this scene isn't revealed but based on this video of his work, it was clearly a very time-intensive job. His computer interface, made up largely of pushbuttons and dials straight out of a 60s sci-fi flick, certainly didn't help to streamline the process.

But the end result was pure magic: For breathless kids watching Star Wars on the big screen in the 70s, there was no doubt whatsoever that those Death Star plans were absolutely worth every single life it cost to get them into the hands of the Alliance. Those, my friends, were the days.

Source: mental_floss

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Simply amazing what a dedicated mind and a steady hand can do :D

I applaud those who made this kick ass movie. Had no idea that this scene was so elaborate! Just makes it more awesome though!

That very impressive i know wouldnt be able to do that with my inability to sit still.

Now that's dedication!

Malygris:
30-some years ago, when men were men and Darth Vader wasn't some emo nancy-boy

yes cause we had Luke the original whiny emo nancy-boy

yes kids often forget what computers were back in those days and how stuff like Tron and that Death Star scene was cutting edge

Yeah, people now a days are spoiled on mouse interfaces, tons of storage and memory..... and color.... =)

I had a friend tell me how easily he could re-create the CG from 'The Last Starfighter' with a C-64. I challeneged him to do it, after 3 months he had something that kinda resembled the ship from the movie. Needless to say he has more respect for early CG now.

This was a great clip, not sure how you found it, but I am sure glad that you did.

Now THAT is a true masterpiece. Who needs fancy-schmancy computers when you have a guy with multiple truckloads of dedication?

Even though I'm interested, I couldn't watch the video for more than three minutes. The soporific voice and the fighting Javas in the background are unbearable.

Larry Cuba is credit to technology!

Wow, that's dedication all right.
After getting used to UnrealEd I remember thinking back to how much work it was to create a Doom level with the first generation tools, but that was still a piece of cake compared to this.

Very cool. And I loved the random sounds of Jawas and droids in the background.

It's sort of a shame - movies and special effects these days all seem so sterile and slick. The special effects from back in the day of the original Star Wars trilogy were so much more gritty and tangible and interesting. And I have a deep admiration of the craftsmanship that went into building the actual models by hand that you never see anymore.

cleverlymadeup:

Malygris:
30-some years ago, when men were men and Darth Vader wasn't some emo nancy-boy

yes cause we had Luke the original whiny emo nancy-boy

yes kids often forget what computers were back in those days and how stuff like Tron and that Death Star scene was cutting edge

When it took a lot more work. True there are still new innovations, but they seem to still pale in consideration to what was done back in the late 70's. Guys like Larry Cuba went to work in 12 feet deep snow, uphill both ways. And for that matter so did I. :D
Luke truly began as an emo-nancy boy, but the difference between him and Dad Vader was Luke grew up in Jedi. One can argue Anakin was more mature at 8 in Phantom. Oh well, I watch the prequels for Kenobi and Windu, the best of the best.

I always wondered why the rebels didn't just get into position high above the exhaust port out of range of the defences and dive down at full speed instead of going through the trench.

Rule of cool maybe?

Now, my nerve-shattering hours spent on trying to design something with BUILD engine pales in comparison to this. Larry Cuba is a pioneer in cinematic special effects, that's for sure.

Also: Get off my lawn!

Believe it or not, I have always been interested in how this was made back then. Thank you Larry Cuba! He should get an oscar just for that.

 

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