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Reflections on Computer Animation Through 25 Years of SIGGRAPH

by Carl Machover

Animation has seen a great deal of attention in recent years. The biggest change I've seen is the evolution from very simplistic work to the realistic, almost unbelievable work now being produced. Though the early work wasn't simple in the artistic sense, there was much less complexity in the technology used.

For instance "Hunger," one of the early pieces at SIGGRAPH in 1972, was very impactful, but by no means photorealistic. The use of color was limited to colored backgrounds, and they capitalized on the use of morphing. Today's animation is terribly realistic, almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Another major change is the introduction of realistic physics into animation techniques. For instance, early work might have an object, but it would float in space; gravity hadn't been incorporated yet. Today's work would reflect gravity. To a modern viewer that's important. It adds that semblance of realism that a sophisticated audience expects.