Digital 3D film from 1972

The geeks and AV club’s tables at the Internet’s cafeteria went agog over this recently unearthed gem: a 6-minute film from 1972 that might arguably be the first celluloid example of digital 3-D rendered images back when such technology was rudimentary at best or simply non-existent and waiting to be invented and developed. Created by Fred Parke and Ed Catmull, unfortunately the brilliant minds behind this disappeared to work at a bacon packing plant. Kidding. Ed would go on to be a co-founder of the small animation shop, Pixar. This video was shared online by the son of Robert B. Ingebretsen, a pioneer in his own right (a recipient of a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), who happened to be grad school friends with Ed and was responsible for the 3D morphing titles at the beginning and end of this film.

…apparently the facial animation ”took ~2.5/minutes to render each B&W frame… on hardware that was probably in the ballpark of $400,000 in 1972 dollars.” Amazing to consider how far we’ve come. Today we render 3D that is an order of magnitude more complex in realtime (upwards of 60 frames per second) on commodity hardware. It makes you excited about what the future must hold.

It’s wild to think that nearly everything that was involved in the posting of this entry didn’t exist back when this film was made: Google Reader, blogs, Vimeo, uhm, the Internet!