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Early CGI Was Horrifying

Jun 04, 2024
CGI is a term I bet you've heard before because it's everywhere this worm this purple man everything else is the work of computer generated imagery regardless of the benefits or flaws CGI has become a unanimously essential part of production of media, which is a little funny because just a few decades ago this technology went unnoticed by most of the general public, it was very time-consuming. It's very technical and niche, I mean, think about it, even the most powerful supercomputers of the 60s, 70s and 80s could I don't hold a candle next to this smart refrigerator and while most researchers used them to make math was faster, CGI could just create fun images, the value it would have wasn't readily apparent, and the skills you'd need to get into all of this. first place didn't go to the fainting Hearts.
early cgi was horrifying
Now I don't want to talk too much about the live action CGI stuff here, just the good, pure CGI demos and shorts that lead up to, say, Toy Story, I mean if I point out this particular point and you tell a computer to move that point by another button command, it will move not only that point but the three lines are attached to it and the delay between what it does, what if you wanted to, uh it's because it's Computing all these changes that are correct CGI has actually existed for quite a while in the 50s analog computers could graph patterns and lines by the 60s we would have wireframe demos that transformed images, but it's not exactly what we consider true CGI today this decade has a lot of important milestones for sure. , but a lot of them look like this for more conventional works where we'd have to go back to the 1970s.
early cgi was horrifying

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One of the biggest demos here was the appropriately named 1972 computer-animated hand. You can see some of the first shaded full meshes. and even a human face sure is a little strange, but I'd say at this point it was almost more cartoonish than creepy. The continuation of this was the Faces and Body Parts of 1974 which expanded the human face and added the elements of speech. little stone that walks alone on the road and never worries about races and demands, never fears that these first tests were groundbreaking, but in the process they found themselves deep in The Uncanny Valley, not all the CGI was being done for research, Although there was a small commercial element to All This even in the


1970s, i.e. in advertising and station breaks, you can find several companies publishing demo reels showing the advertisements they have produced alongside the technology demos. that they have created.
early cgi was horrifying
These demonstrations could attract more customers and potentially more interested employees. Working with what was at the time a very specialized segment of the computer industry, one of my favorites is Maggie Synthavision's 1974 reel. Hello, guess where I come from, a computer, me, my hat and everything else you will see in this movie. There are certainly limitations to the CGI of the era, that much goes without saying, but this is actually one of the most advanced demos I've come across. Simple polygonal shapes, flat colors without texture. Cityscapes and cars were pretty popular in 80s CGI, but for the 70s this is amazing.
early cgi was horrifying
It's a very empty space you can tell where the world begins and ends, but that's normal in most


CGI. In the late 70s we began to see the first short films that used three-dimensional polygons. Here it is the year 1978, intermittently in the foreign circus. That was disturbing the circus, the clown, the way this bear floats. Computing physics in an animation like this wasn't going to happen. Many of these researchers were not traditional animators, they came from computer science backgrounds and this was a fun way to show off. Cutting-edge technology at the time, complex backgrounds of more than just a simple color would be quite unrealistic to expect this to be 1970s CGI, after all, released the same year that Voyager 2 encounters Jupiter, it has aged much better, having a background of stars was ideal in early CGI. you don't need to worry about rendering more objects, it provides much-needed spatial context, and it doesn't have a black void.
Additionally, having a space setup makes the lighting a little more realistic, as you only need to consider one light source. sun, even with slightly quirky animations the camera moves well and this is a top-notch demo for the '70s. At the end of the decade in 1978, the first ray tracing demo, the complete Angler, was produced. It's a genuine classic, you could call this the birth of the vapor wave look at those refractions and reflections at the end we have this camera movement in the courtyard and we have water things were moving pretty fast at least in the way I'm describing them the gap between early 70s and late 70s CGI was quite big but in the 80s, well, there was just a lot more going on, there's a particular fascination with landscapes in the early 80s, which peaked Maximum in the early demonstrations of fractals, it's a mountain sitting on a plane in a vacuum, fractals allowed you to create these models without having to model each individual. surface that made it ideal for mountainous terrain.
Vile Liba is another demo from the same year and I prefer this one not only because it has a Utah teapot at the beginning, there's a surprising sense of scale here and if you really squint and shake your head. There are many landscapes that look like real mountains. Lots of landscapes in these short films from the early 80s. We take Carla Island from 81. We get this approximation of the water and climate systems. Two islands in an empty sea. Waves move in a very mathematical way. Not the clouds. quite transparent but the reflections are quite convincing at first glance and look how the lighting changes, it's wonderful, you'll notice a trend in the representation of many cities at the moment, especially in advertising, generally these would have a low polygon city filled of skyscrapers and bottomless streets Landscapes and cities can be represented by simple polygonal shapes, they don't need to move, so you don't need to animate parts of a character, so a lot of this has decent aging, thanks.
The early 80's demos would do it. In general, avoid shadows. You may notice these shadow gradients on objects, but it always looks very harsh. One of my favorite shorts and one of the most disturbing is Adam Powers, the Juggler from 1981. As he keeps juggling, he warps reality and keeps juggling and then warps reality. and then it disappears The music doesn't help ease the tension in the air, it seems to define a lot of the overly saturated CGI colors of the early 80's set in space, most objects don't cast shadows, but when they do, sure yes. 1982 was a great year for CGI because we got Tron, remember Tron?
Look, we also got the Genesis effect in Star Trek 2 using some of those fractal landscape techniques we saw before and just a year later we would be blessed with the short. demo when baboons ruled the sky, it has raid tracking and a monkey, many of these dunnos have a real nightmare. Dreamscape Vibe here is a skeleton man who uses his eye to play pool. I appreciate the bouncing of the balls, although the physics simulations are appreciated because, well, this was the alternative when it came to skeletons, although I think this Ohio State demonstration from 1983 does it better.
He's just a happy bouncing skeleton man walking through empty rooms with no roof. It is a much less attractive aesthetic. Thanks to Music Choice. The xylophone floor. Bears, it's so dense that every image has so many things happening in 1984 that we have one of my favorite short films from the early CGI era. High fidelity, it's all about shapes doing fun things on a fun polygonal island. What I like most about this is how it works within the limitations of CGI at that time our protagonists are not humanoid, they are just shapes the background is covered in lush polygonal foliage the camera appears to have ray tracing bouncing rays from one camera to another the camera is a fun two dimensional dog I imagine the Skybox is textured and works, sure it doesn't have autoshading but I can easily suspend my disbelief, on the other hand we have Snoot and Muttley the same year the first frame was received with this. the strange soft lighting the strange texture in the plane the simple polygons and the complete black void in the background I can't see any shadows here but the main focus is on these two birds with human eyes, it was a sample of how the emotions in these CGI characters and it sure does it, but at what cost this may or may not be the original music, but it's something just because I feel like mentioning it here, the first flight of 1984, what takes me by surprise are the effects cloud transparency.
Bird animation is very similar to that of a bird. Got a real PlayStation 1 scene. Vibes here, not much to say but yeah that's cool. Here's Maggie sent the vision demo back in 1984, a decade after we first saw them. Oh, this will be fun, come in here. How about we take a nice little walk instead of starting with the man in the happy hat? We have a dismembered clown. We get the more traditional smooth polygons and baked lighting effects you've seen. It's a very specific early CGI environment. I'm sure you've all seen it. appreciated before in the ray tracing that has also improved, this Pac-Man cereal ad is something and in the end we get a much more convincing water demonstration that I have seen so far, here's a fun one, it's botco, get all your fusion and fishing needs at botco, the number one name in high energy fuels, antimatter matters, don't matter at botco, it's a fake ad created with data images from the Pacific and has all the tropes of traditional CGI, the emptiness of a background, seemingly empty spaces, but at least there are some hills. now, and clouds and shadows, I like it, don't pay those expensive re-entry fees, we will bring you the widest variety of particles, subparticles and theoretical energy, factory direct fuels, now, here's something I've always questioned when deals with older CGI.
In demos we usually only have access to low quality prints and it's hard to rule out whether the low resolution in the film grain makes it look a little creepier. I don't think that's necessarily the case, but VHS quality demos have a certain nostalgic appeal, but luckily we have a high quality copy of the famous Brilliance advert, as you can see it starring the sexy robot Lady, it's set in space , who would have guessed and while the robot itself isn't all that shiny, the table is. I'm pretty. I sure used this in a song thumbnail, once I looked at the behind the scenes footage, the original concept art was amazing, it's also pretty funny that they refer to this as photorealistic, it has to be something I don't really know I can know if she is real or not.
She is computerized, her movements are very human and she is very sexy but very strong. The definition of photorealism is constantly changing and I think that as we are exposed to more advanced CGI, our definition changes as well. It's like the owl at the beginning of Labyrinth that was photorealistic. in 86 but today not so much I don't know maybe it sits in 480p it would look better let's try it of course yeah that's great, in the mid 80's we have the beginning of the so famous Pixar shorts, it's not really Pixar in this one moment. point was technically a spin-off of Lucasfilms' 1984 The Adventures of Andre and Wally B, unlike many of the previous tech demos, this had an ulterior motive for its creation, not just as a technical Marvel that it was, but as a work artistic to show the potential of CGI as an animation medium sure has been done before, but you know they're really leaning into it here.
The story is simple. A blue thing finds a bee and runs away from the bee. The bee stings. A blue thing. A blue thing throws the hat. Pixar is generally a step. Throughout all of these demos, they always bring something new to the table and show off truly cutting-edge technology, but that being said, I don't like it, I understand that it has great technical achievements, such as the soft, shaky bodies and the motion blur looks. that motion blur but there are so many other things that bother me is this use of real textures on these low poly surfaces the lighting in the background feels so dull but the trees use realistic textures those tree models are also much better than what you expect for 1984, but still this was all due to the limitations of the early CGI, that's why it looks the way it does and works well within its own restrictions, but you know I'll still complain about there being a backstory. things behind the animation approach, but it's like a parallel worldwhere things don't look like the things the character animations are supposed to be, although they are better than you would expect, but it's a far cry from replicating that hand-drawn. animation style everything looks smooth moves smoothly is too smooth a good rule of thumb is that any human that has a polygon count equivalent to that of a Kazooie will have those select visual distinctions the use of emotion on the face is quite good for the moment I admit it, but the scary French man playing the piano with laughing masks was a decision as he plays, it starts to get a little weirder and weirder and eventually turns into this greeting at the end.
I guess it's like in Dr. Stone, when all the people become Stone and yes, making humans work in CGI even at this point was a problem with this in mind, I have to mention the Dire Straits Money for Nothing music video and I love it like I'm not pushing too hard. many are not doing it, it's not too strange, but the CGI work I still think is phenomenal, there is a lot of space used in it that has the limitations of the basic shader colors and tile floors and it works well, that's what I try to say sometimes.
It can be difficult to distinguish whether demos are trying to be stylized or realistic. Take one of my favorite chromosaurs from 1985. Look at it, look at the dinosaurs. Chrome dinosaurs. I don't really see a texture to the floor, but I do see some cracks here and there, maybe that's it. a texture a few mountains look at those mountains and some clouds instant classic there is a coherence in the themes here there are many rigid bodies shiny surfaces that lean towards the computer Zeitgeist of the 80s of the time however some short films took a very different direction foreign look to This thing is cool, it's also a little creepy, I don't know, I don't know exactly what's going on all the time.
Quest from 85 also shows some Peak aesthetic with some new ideas, we follow something that travels through things, it has some nice things. water effects for the time and the world feels alive, more complex than we would normally get overseas. I really like this one, it has some nice reflections and refractions and a lot of weird stuff. 1986 saw the release of what may be the simplest. famous shorts from the early CGI era, it's Luxo Jr, there it is, this Pixar classic gets such a good response on siggraph that you reportedly couldn't hear the music or sound effects over all the cheering and yes, keep going Still excellent, the animation quality has a huge improvement since Wally B, the revolutionary of lighting and shadows himself.
One thing that has always seemed a little strange to me is that the background is nothing, it doesn't exist, the camera doesn't move either and both are technical limitations, it would take too long. rendering feels a little creepy right, it's just me, it's probably just me, another Pixar short released around the same time as one of my favorites, it's beach chair, it has a chair, it touches the water and it comes out, It's 18 seconds long, but look at that. In water, some more complex physics simulations can also be found at this point. Another OSU demonstration from 87 shows simulations of rigid bodies and a black vacuum in an airplane.
One of the key aspects that makes computer animation possible today is automating certain physics calculation tasks to make them look as realistic as possible, you can do it by hand, but if the computer does it, hey, it will save you a lot of time. I love these soccer balls, look, they even bounce and I guess this is a good time to explain why checkerboards and black voids are so prevalent in all of these demos. A checkerboard provides more depth than a basic colored surface and having a background is useless unless you just want to show things that are there, why make it harder and longer? render just for this aesthetically pleasing nonsense, the quality of ads was improving at an amazing rate around this time, just two years after Brilliance we got this Hawaiian Punch ad, thanks for that music that slaps even if it's a Trent knockoff Rezner, but there are so many details. in some of these models much longer than I expected, it is also much longer than Brilliance, the backgrounds are yes and there is still a kind of black void there, but still, in 1987 we got the volume display of my favorite short film from Pixar on an image computer. getting volume visualizations, which in this case I guess means good, honest, fluffy clouds, that's what I'm talking about, a lot of physics stuff at this point.
Rhythm manufactured, a fabric demonstration was a fabric demonstration. I mean, it's not that amazing on the surface. fabric yes, it looks like a good fabric, but listen to this original soundtrack in the original song that accompanies what it is, let me remind you of a technical demonstration of the physics of fabric, the rhythm is breaking my heart, manufactured rhythms, put your face , will this video be claimed now? Stanley and Stella Breaking the Ice is a fairly popular CGI short film. It is set in a sphere. It has some rare birds. I don't like that bird. There's the fish from Shark Tale.
I'm sorry those eyes ruined it for me. It's all technical. Achievements aside, simply getting rid of the human eyes of snoot birds and Muttley set trends. One of my favorite demos this year is Mental Images intended to be an abstract short film, which is a little strange, but there's something about it. atmospheric moments a sense of scale the lighting everything is fine these reflections at the end are really good I mean really good and we have another Pixar short Red's Dream I also have mixed feelings about this one, I think the exterior environment and lighting Here is exceptional , the reflections are amazing, the LED goes out in the rain, everything is great, the lighting on the bikes here bothers me a little but whatever it is, it's a little tacky, a lot of the lighting on this throughout the decade is a little sticky, the really creepy part.
It's when we enter the unicycle dream and find this clown with a rubber face and eyes like a certain Carl Wieser. Clowns don't work in CGI. Let's leave it to the clowns. I guess there was a lot of work going on. in animations and smooth body mesh like this, because we go back to the black void in 1988, we would get the biggest leap forward in computer graphics. I present to you dinosaur stuff, many of the technical demos during this era still wouldn't. having shadows was usually to show new physics or dynamic polygon movements, but I would still like Shadows, the natural phenomenon tree from 1988, which is an attractive tree, probably the best tree I have ever seen, also in 1988 Particle Dream shows something truly impressive and surprising effects is a bit strange, it only gets stranger with possibly the scariest CGI demo of the 1980s. 1988 Polygon is just every nightmare in one, isn't it?
So? You have a void in the background with simple lighting and this for All the spooky things I have to ask is that this is a post like the first one because it seems so far removed from everything else posted at the moment. Obviously, there are clipping and animation issues all over the world. The same year we received another CGI work that created in me this lifelong fear of early CGI, it's another Pixar short and a famous one in that tin toy on a technical level again, very impressive, but I hate it, not anymore we're in a void, but it's a single empty room, very liminal spaces here. the textures are almost realistic, but nothing looks real, the worst part is, honey, this is one of the most horrible things I can imagine seeing in the 80s, 90s or ever.
I don't care about the technical achievements of this at this point. it's just disturbing, I've never been a fan of the short but it's possibly the best example of creepy 1980's CGI, but I like those background characters, they look the way I feel even when the polygon count increases, the realistic textures spread across the floor, it just makes things nastier, we're already past the shadowless worlds and cartoonish humans of Money for Nothing, as things look better, in some ways they look worse and I think part of this reason is the lighting, since real world photons are emitted from a surface and hit an object and bounce back or absorb almost everything you see reflects some light which casts subtle colors on what are not necessarily shiny surfaces.
In modern computing, you can take all this light and just calculate it with the path plot of what that is. It's going to look like this, oh, that looks great, you can't do that here, you can't do that for long, so instead, they have to approach it. What we get is something that looks almost real, but the light doesn't work as it should. like an uncanny valley, but instead of measuring how human something looks, it's how real it looks and this is close to reality, but one important thing is that the lighting element is off, that's also why the lighting in shadowed areas like under the couch it looks so flat, that's why everything looks so flat that there is no indirect lighting from other objects to take us away from some of this realism.
Let's watch Jab Jablish and I don't like Jab Jab Land. OSU's Chris Wedge, the creator of this masterpiece, had other interesting shorts including Balloon Boy, I must say I love those shaky physics on display and the dog, what a dog, another disturbing work is The Little Death from '89. There are many things wrong here for me first, the dog is supposed to be a dog, the landscape is devoid of life. the dancing figures, in short, is Locomotion, it is just a train, a moving train, a moving train. I like how the train smashes and smashes, that's it, it's fun.
I don't love the trees and grass textures, but it's all so cartoony that it gets over your head. I don't know, not every early CGI needs to strike fear into your heart. Take this PD and meet the dragon. I mean, just look at it, it's a fun jumping dinosaur and then it meets the dragon and then overseas, it was a show that shows off to the crowds and does it well. strange emptiness of a landscape the desert with lakes has scale its just ominous the lighting on the blocks is very simplistic giving a pretty flat feel but the characters themselves look pretty good i must say but yeah this demo is about having a lot of characters on the screen at once and look at those crowds, don't touch me with a groundbreaking motion capture demo with a realistic human, but remember we're still in the late 80s so this is what Tipsy Turvy looks like is a surprise .
These teapots and cups are animated, but they have soft bodies and physics that move and then sneeze and break. That appearance is a bit sad. One of my personal all-time favorites are candy. You might notice a trend in Pixar's choice of characters this time around. around your plastic the plastic is good at showing light reflections without having to visually reflect many of the details of the scene. It's peak early CGI. The lighting is flat. The objects don't seem to cast shadows on themselves, but it works well in this particular aesthetic. music never forget music great particle effects amazing motion blur and while there is a certain weirdness to all of this, I mean the room still feels pretty empty, I still think it feels more developed than Red's dream in Sunny Egypt , watch it, it's perfect if you've ever seen the Finding Nemo DVD short?
It was probably the censored version. Can you spot the difference between the two? I'm definitely biased towards this one. I imagine this particular short spreads fear in many children because I know I found it. It was unpleasant and it probably was, but in the 1990s CGI was starting to grow, but the technology became more commercially viable. More money was invested and it seemed to have a compounding effect. I mean, just look at some of this early 90s CGI, look how cool. It seems that in 1993 we started to see CGI on television, but both with Veggie Tails and the incredible crash dummies.
I'm sure many of you have very nostalgic feelings towards '90s CGI, but it can still seem a little creepy. I think it's that flat. lighting there is an acceptable level of quality, although at one point this looked good enough to render fast enough and could be justified in big Blockbuster movies. I take this demo of Alias ​​​​from 1994 on siggraph of a man with a moving hand of 20 years old that surely is a the difference in transparency in tandem and the lighting effects were catching up, we are already past the tin toys, although many of these things are not photorealistic today, you can at least see how someone might perceive them as such in the 90s, no, you know what was common once.
The story is released in 95, the CGI animation scene is never the same for decades before there were attempts to make a full length CGI film, but overall theamount of time it would take between making the movie and rendering it, everything would be seen. It was outdated when it was released which makes Toy Story interesting, it's a huge jump above anything we've seen and I'm sure for many it holds up well today and you may get a lot for this but I think There are some elements. That now seems unpleasant to me. I never noticed it as a kid, but looking at this, 20 years after I saw the movie, yes, it still looks like early 90s CGI, it doesn't have the problems of sitting in a vacuum and the animations are great, but There are certain elements that still bother me, like taking the foliage, looking at the density of that grass, creating different polygon models for each leaf wasn't going to work, so we have this scrolling shader and it looks almost real, but not quite.
There are a lot of realistic textures in this film and it makes the baked lighting more evident. Certain scenes have definitely aged better, like the interior of Sid's room which looks great, that window is a big window and the human models, although yes it's better than what Tintoy had, but No, no, no I am going to talk as much about this for the technology of the time. It's truly amazing what was achieved here and the CGI finally got the attention it deserved. There is something unique about these early years of CGI, something almost akin to liminal spaces. very stylized, very nostalgic and this feeling that something could be wrong and I think that's part of the charm.
Many of these demos pushed the limits of CGI further than ever and occasionally went too far.

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