Industrial Light & Magic
Industrial Light & Magic is an American motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas. It is a division of the film production company Lucasfilm, which Lucas founded, and was created when Lucas began production of the film Star Wars.
ILM originated in Van Nuys, California, then later moved to San Rafael in 1978, and since 2005 it has been based at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired ILM as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm.
HistoryLucas wanted his 1977 film Star Wars to include visual effects that had never been seen on film before. After discovering that the in-house effects department at 20th Century Fox was no longer operational, Lucas approached Douglas Trumbull, best known for the effects on ' and Silent Running. Trumbull declined as he was already committed to working on Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but suggested his assistant John Dykstra to Lucas. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists, and engineers, and set them up in a warehouse in Van Nuys, California. Lucas named the group Industrial Light and Magic, which became the Special Visual Effects department on Star Wars. Alongside Dykstra, other leading members of the original ILM team were Ken Ralston, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson, and Paul Huston.
, where the special effects of the first Star Wars movie were produced
In late 1978, when in pre-production for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. From here on, the company expanded and has since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films, including the entire Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones series, the Harry Potter series, the Jurassic Park series, the Back to the Future trilogy, many of the Star Trek films, Ghostbusters II, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the Terminator sequels, the Transformers films, the Men in Black series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Wild Wild West, most of the ' films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Batteries Not Included, The Abyss, and Flubber, and also provided work for Avatar, alongside Weta Digital.
In addition to their work for George Lucas, ILM also collaborates with Steven Spielberg on many films that he directs and produces. Dennis Muren has acted as Computer Animation Supervisor on many of these films. Apart from flashy special effects, the company also works on more subtle effects—such as widening streets, digitally adding more extras to a shot, and inserting the film's actors into preexisting footage—in films including Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, Snow Falling on Cedars, Magnolia, and several films directed by Woody Allen.
After the success of the first Star Wars movie, Lucas became interested in using computer graphics on the sequel. He contacted Triple-I, known for their early computer effects in movies like Westworld, Futureworld, Tron, and The Last Starfighter which ended up making a computer-generated test of five X-wing fighters flying in formation. He found it to be too expensive and returned to handmade models. But the test had showed him it was possible, and he decided he would create his own computer graphics department instead. as a result, they started investing in Apple, and SGI computers. One of Lucas' employees was given the task to find the right people to hire. His search would lead him to NYIT, where he found Edwin Catmull and his colleagues. Catmull and others accepted Lucas' job offer, and a new computer division at ILM was created in 1979 with the hiring of Ed Catmull as the first NYIT employee who joined Lucasfilm. John Lasseter, who was hired a few years later, worked on computer animation as part of ILM's contribution to Young Sherlock Holmes. The Graphics Group was later sold to Steve Jobs, named Pixar Animation Studios, and created the first CG-animated feature, Toy Story.
In 2000, ILM created the OpenEXR format for high-dynamic-range imaging.
ILM operated from an inconspicuous property in San Rafael, California until 2005. The company was known to locals as The Kerner Company, a name that did not draw any attention, allowing the company to operate in secret, thus preventing the compromise of sensitive information on its productions to the media or fans. In 2005, when Lucas decided to move locations to the Presidio of San Francisco and focus on digital effects, a management-led team bought the five physical and practical effects divisions and formed a new company that included the George Lucas Theater, retained the "Kerner" name as Kerner Technologies, Inc. and provided physical effects for major motion pictures, often working with ILM, until its Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2011.
In 2005, ILM extended its operations to Lucasfilm Singapore, which also includes the Singapore arm of Lucasfilm Animation. In 2011, it was announced the company was considering a project-based facility in Vancouver. Vancouver's first location opened in 2013 and ILM opened a second location in Vancouver in 2017.
In 2006, ILM invented IMoCap.
In 2012, Disney bought ILM's parent company, Lucasfilm, and acquired ILM in the process. Disney stated that it had no immediate plans to change ILM's operations, but began to lay off employees by April of the next year. Following the restructuring of LucasArts in April 2013, ILM was left overstaffed and the faculty was reduced to serve only ILM's visual effects department. ILM opened a London studio headquartered in the city's Soho district on October 15, 2014.
, ILM has received 16 Best Visual Effects Oscars and 40 additional nominations. It has also received 24 Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
On November 7, 2018, ILM opened a new division targeted at television series called ILM TV. It will be based in ILM's new 47,000-square-foot London studio with support from the company's locations in San Francisco, Vancouver and Singapore. In July 2019, ILM announced the opening of a new facility in Sydney, Australia.
ILM is one of the largest visual effects vendors in the motion picture industry and has one of the largest render farms currently available with more than 7500 nodes.
- 1975: Resurrected the use of VistaVision; first use of a motion control camera
- 1980: First use of Go motion to animate the Tauntaun creatures of The Empire Strikes Back
- 1982: First in-house completely computer-generated sequence — the "Genesis sequence" in '.
- 1985: First completely computer-generated character, the "stained glass man" in Young Sherlock Holmes
- 1988: First morphing sequence, in Willow
- 1989: First Digital compositing of a full-screen live action image during the final sequence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- 1989: First computer-generated 3-D character to show emotion, the :wikt:pseudopod|pseudopod creature in The Abyss
- 1991: First dimensional matte painting — where a traditional matte painting was mapped onto 3D geometry, allowing for camera parallax, in Hook.
- 1991: First partially computer-generated main character, the T-1000 in '
- 1992: First time the texture of human skin was computer generated, in Death Becomes Her
- 1993: First time digital technology used to create a complete and detailed living creature, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, which earned ILM its thirteenth Oscar
- 1994: First extensive use of digital manipulation of historical and stock footage to integrate characters in Forrest Gump.
- 1995: First fully synthetic speaking computer-generated character, with a distinct personality and emotion, to take a leading role in Casper
- 1995: First computer-generated photo-realistic hair and fur in Jumanji
- 1996: First completely computer-generated main character, Draco in Dragonheart
- 1999: First computer generated character to have a full human anatomy, Imhotep in The Mummy
- 2000: Creates OpenEXR imaging format.
- 2006: Develops iMocap system, which uses computer vision techniques to track live-action performers on set. Used in the creation of Davy Jones and ship's crew in the film
- 2011: First animated feature produced by ILM, Rango
Notable employees and clients
Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci of MythBusters fame have all worked at Industrial Light & Magic.
Industrial Light & Magic is also famous for their commercial work. Their clients include Energizer, Benson & Hedges, Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, McDonald's, Nickelodeon and other companies.
Actor Masi Oka worked on several major ILM productions as a programmer, including , before joining the cast of the NBC show Heroes as Hiro Nakamura.
American film director David Fincher worked at ILM for four years in the early 1980s.
Film director Joe Johnston was a Visual effects artist and an Art Director.
Film Director Mark A.Z. Dippé was a Visual Effects animator who directed Spawn which was released in 1997.