Vol.33 No.4 November 1999

The Story of Computer Graphics Premiers

Carl Machover - Photo credit: Louis Fabian Bachrach
Carl Machover
Machover Associates Corp.

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The Story of Computer Graphics

General Information


Title: The Story of Computer Graphics

Length: 93 Minutes

Format: HDCam or D5 playback

Narrator: Leonard Nimoy

Director: Frank Foster

Producer: Steven M. Silas

Exec. Producers: Carl Machover, John Hart

Co-Producer: Joan Collins Carey

Writer: Judson Rosebush

Director of Photography: Robert Carr, Tony Foresta and Andrew Sobkovich

Hi-Def Post Production: Robert Hopkins, Sony Pictures High Definition Center

Hi-Def VFX Supervisor: Steven Robiner

HD On-Line Editor: Jim Ward

HD Engineering: Rafael Adame, Dale Hunter

Digital Post Production Audio Services: Sony Pictures Studios Post Production Sound

The Story of Computer Graphics premiered August 8, 1999 at SIGGRAPH 99, Los Angeles, CA. The story played well and the high-definition (HD) projection is spectacular. Variety called it a "parade of striking visuals." Los Angeles Times said there "is a flood of dazzling color and imagery illustrating the astonishingly protean nature of computer graphics." The Hollywood Reporter said "While the title isn’t exactly a slick attention-grabber, The Story of Computer Graphics certainly delivers the goods."

One attendee, Steve Markel ( of Whitehall High School in Michigan, said:

"I cannot express enough how much I was impressed with the movie, The Story of Computer Graphics, at SIGGRAPH 99. It has so much more to tell than what the title indicates. Particularly, how many individuals who made a difference knew in their hearts and minds what they were doing was the wave of the future in spite of skeptics. Their fortitude made a difference and is admirable. Also, the struggle between art and computers was captivating. Typically, these individuals are opposite sides of the brain and have little to do with each other. How this changed over time conveys the story of how different people complement each other if they work together rather than spending their time and energy struggling against one another. It was refreshing.

"I would very much like to pass the story of computer graphics and these individuals on to the computer/art students at Whitehall High School. It is my hope to inspire them to follow the role models as shown in this movie. Is there someway I could avail them the opportunity to view this excellent work? I am open to purchase, rental, shown on PBS, or some other option. Any help you could provide would be appreciated. Let me thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

"Also let me thank you and all the individuals who worked on the preservation of this piece of history. It was well done and well worth you time and energy. Thank you all."

It’s a project we can all be proud to have been part of.

We had a large audience at the Shrine Auditorium premier (about 3,000) and each of the 25 subsequent showings at the LACC drew almost full-houses (about 300 each) for a total of about 10,000 viewers during SIGGRAPH 99.

We’re starting to formulate distribution plans which in the near term include possible TV (PBS) showings and several film festivals including Eurographics 99 in September in Milan; DIGIFORM in October in Belgium; and probably the Museum of Science in November in New York city. We expect to be able to sell copies of the tape by mid-2000, and we’re developing a plan for distribution to our sponsors, interviewees, committee folks and others. Please check http:/ for the latest info.

We did manage to get some brilliant footage of George Lucas, the early SAGE years and tons of compelling clips. Thanks to Joan Collins-Carey for organizing the movie description.

From its early development as an obscure topic of research to its widely accepted role as an important communication tool, computer graphics has exhibited a rich history of human accomplishment. Computer graphics has changed the way we work and play. The Story of Computer Graphics documents some of the most compelling stories behind the striking graphics and technology that we take for granted in today’s environment. This is the "human" story of representative innovators who have forever changed the way in which we interact with the world.

The Story of Computer Graphics chronicles the history of the industry, its impact on society and the excitement of future possibilities. As an official SIGGRAPH history project, care was taken to produce a lasting document that will inform and inspire generations to come, and appeal to a broad audience beyond the computer graphics community. One of the main goals of the HDTV documentary is to help educate the general public about computer graphics. It is intended for festival screenings until a broadcast deal can be negotiated.

The movie website can be found at:

Interviewees (in order of apperance):

Fred Brooks Jr.
Ivan Sutherland
Sylvan "Chase" Chasen
Pierre Bezier
David F. Rogers
John Whitney Sr.
Ken Knowlton
Michael Noll
Lillian Schwartz
Charles Csuri
Marceli Wein
Ed Catmull
Jim Clark
Jim Blinn
Martin Newell
J. Turner Whitted
Dr. Donald Greenberg
Nick England
Lou Doctor
Richard Shoup
Alvy Ray Smith
David Em
Yoichiro Kawaguchi
Cynthia Goodman
Isaac Victor Kerlow
Phil Mittelman
Robert Abel
William Kovacs
Tim McGovern
John Whitney Jr.
Gary Demos
Art Durinski
Richard Taylor II
Larry Elin
Jeff Kleiser
John Hughes
Douglas Engelbart
John Warnock
Jim Clark
Craig Barrett
Eric DeJong
Donna Cox
Holly Rushmeier
Dr. Arthur J. Olson
Norman Badler
Michael Girard
George Lucas
Dennis Muren
Jim Morris
Carl Rosendahl
Dan Sandin
Mark Bolas
Michael Capps
John Romero

Film Footage Included

  •  Footage from Toy Story and TRON, courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
  •  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. Willow footage, courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
  •  Terminator 2: Judgment Day, used by permission of Canal+Distributors.
  •  Antz behind the scenes footage provided by Pacific Data Images, Carl Rosendahl, Sheigh Crabtree, courtesy of Amblin Entertainment.

CG Clips Included

  •  TRON Excerpts
  •  Dailmer Chrysler Neon 2000, Virtual Reality Avant Garde Festival, Basilar Membrane
  •  Jurassic Park behind the scenes footage, dinosaur test footage - Tippett Studio
  •  Computer Aided Airfoil Design
  •  Jim Clark in early headtracking gear
  •  Social Virtual Reality
  •  Diamond Park & Spline
  •  Diamond Park: November 1995
  •  Live Demonstration at Fall Comdex ‘95
  •  MERL - A Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratory Brilliance (Sexy Robot) Television Commercial Trade Secrets of the Violin Masters
  •  Boeing Photos
  •  Boeing Historical Archives
  •  IBM Archives Photos
  •  IBM Archives
  •  Lincoln Laboratory Photos
  •  DAC1
  •  "Sketchpad"-1963
  •  SAGE footage - Provided by MIT
  •  "Counterbalance"-1954 - Provided by MIT Sun Stone - Provided by Mrs. Ed Emshwiller Renault footage
  •  Cornell in perspective
  •  Metamorphosis, UFO, Computer and the Artist Ascent of Man
  •  A Simple Method for Extracting the Natural Beauty of Hair Poliovirus - provided by Dr. Arthur J. Olson, Ph.D. Dept. of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute
  •  Virtual Vietnam - Provided by Michael Capps
  •  Sketchpad
  •  LDS-1 Carrier Landing Simulator
  •  Smithsonian Awards Bio
  •  Virtual Archives: 30 Year Retrospective
  •  Evans & Sutherland UITA Tribute
  •  Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy by Pixar
  •  The Visible Human
  •  The University of Colorado Center for Human Simulation and The National Center for Atmospheric Research
  •  Nude, Ken Knowlton
  •  TRON Storyboards
  •  Magi Stills & Demo Footage
  •  The Scripps Research Institute Campus Footage Looking into HIV
  •  Fire Simulations
  •  Experiments from NIST/National Institute of Standard Technology
  •  Fiat Lux - Paul DeBevec, UC Berkeley
  •  The Skeleton Animation Systems- David Zeltzer, Sarnoff Corporation Voyager I & II, Venus and The Sun HD footage - JPL

Carl Machover is President of Machover Associates Corporation, a consultancy providing services to computer graphics users, suppliers and investors. He has been interested and involved in the field of CG for many years, written numerous articles and conducted a number of seminars. Machover is Editor of the CAD/CAM Handbook (McGraw Hill, 1996) and serves on the editorial board of several publications.

Carl Machover
Machover Associates
152A Longview Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605

Tel: +1-914-949-3777
Fax: +1-914-949-3851

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.