"A Galaxy Far Far Away"

It was 1977. George Lucas had written a script with the above line at the very beginning of the page. It was abstract, unimaginable in real life Filmmaking then. Only 20th Century Fox had a optical visual effects facility, but only for the inhouse films. 

George with his ambitious project "Star Wars" reached to Douglas Trumbull, who was working with Steven Spielberg then for "Close Encounters of The Third Kind". He referred George to John Dykstra, who was trained in industrial design and had worked with Douglas on "Silent Running" movie special effects.        

Stage Performance | Disney World Resort 
Stage Performance | Disney World Resort 

George and Dykstra became 21st century's most important pair in the movie visual effects industry. 

They hired few college graduates, artists and engineers to setup a facility at Van Nuys, California and named the Team as Industrial Light and Magic. They turned to old school effects techniques and digital computerized image making to blend into a hybrid visual output which was quite unique at that time.

John had invented a motion control camera system and named it as "Dykstraflex" which was controlled via a computer and the motion of the camera could be repeated several times to film multiple elements or layers at various point of time. 

Motion Control shoot | Star Wars | Industrial Light and Magic
Motion Control shoot | Star Wars | Industrial Light and Magic

This mechanism freed the filmmaker from making rigid movement of his screen elements and was able to shoot from any angle at any point of time and finally all the elements could be assembled as a single output image. 

Optical Effects cameras, Hand made models and practical effects techniques all were involved in the History that was being created at the distant part of California. No one had expected digital visual effects was going to be one of the most important feature of 21st Century filmmaking era.


Ken Ralston, Dennis Murren, Steve Gawley and all contributors of the star wars franchise became a buzzing name at the Film Industry after first publications of the films. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) became the pioneer in Digital Visual Effects and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). 

Today, almost 85% of Movie produced globally uses some form of special visual effects. It is now a multi billion dollar industry that supports all form of visual content creation. But, in effects of that spectacular visual has become a selling point in the modern filmmaking industry. Films containing heavy special effects work often lacks on story and proper narrative. 

as David Hayman said,

"The most important thing is that you have to have the visual effects working for you, instead of you working for the visual effects."

- David Hayman


Will be sharing more stories on History and Contemporary issues of visual effects in next blog posts. Stay tuned. You can follow me on TGL at @Abhrajit Ganguly 

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