Marvel at this computer graphics demo reel created c.1980 by the company Mathematical Applications Group (MAGI). More specifically, you're seeing the work of the firm's MAGI/SynthaVision group, one of the main outfits that created the CGI for Tron, including the light cycles (clip below)! From Wikipedia:
In 1981, MAGI was hired by Disney to create half of the majority of the 20 minutes of CGI needed for the film Tron. Twenty minutes of CGI animation, in the early 1980s, was extremely gutsy, and so MAGI was a portion of the CGI animation, while other companies were hired to do the other animation shots. Since Synthavision was easy to animate and could create fluid motion and movement, MAGI was assigned with most of Tron's action sequences. These classic scenes include the light cycle sequence and Clu's tank and recognizer pursuit scene. Despite the high quality images that Synthavision was able to create, the CSG solids modeling could not create anything with complex shapes and multiple curves, so simpler objects like the light cycles and tanks were assigned to MAGI. MAGI was given $1.2 million to finance the animation needed for Tron. MAGI needed more R&D and many other engineers who were working in government contacts at MAGI were assigned back into MAGI's "Synthavision" division.Read the rest
MAGI sped up the process of supplying its work to Disney Studios in Burbank by a transcontinental computer hook-up. Before each scene was finalized in MAGI's lab in Elmsford, New York, it was previewed on a computer monitor at Disney.
In addition to visual effects, I was asked to record myself using a unix terminal doing technologically feasible things. I took extra care in babysitting the elements through to final composite to ensure that the content would not be artistically altered beyond that feasibility. I take representing digital culture in film very seriously in lieu of having grown up in a world of very badly researched user interface greeble. I cringed during the part in Hackers (1995) when a screen saver with extruded "equations" is used to signify that the hacker has reached some sort of neural flow or ambiguous destination. I cringed for Swordfish and Jurassic Park as well. I cheered when Trinity in The Matrix used nmap and ssh (and so did you). Then I cringed again when I saw that inevitably, Hollywood had decided that nmap was the thing to use for all its hacker scenes (see Bourne Ultimatum, Die Hard 4, Girl with Dragon Tattoo, The Listening, 13: Game of Death, Battle Royale, Broken Saints, and on and on). In Tron, the hacker was not supposed to be snooping around on a network; he was supposed to kill a process. So we went with posix kill and also had him pipe ps into grep. I also ended up using emacs eshell to make the terminal more l33t.Read the rest
Limor "Lady Ada" Fried and Becky "Lady Becky" Stern show you how to solder and sew electroluminescent wire borders to your favorite fabric accouterments and create exciting, tronesque glows: "Tote your Thinkpad and port your Apple in style with our custom TRON-inspired laptop bag tutorial. With a little soldering and sewing skills you can have your own light up satchel, sure to impress geeky friends. So grab your sewing needle and soldering iron and follow along."
As you'd expect from an effects-heavy action-thriller, there's not much by way of plot. Through an incoherent process, the feckless, alienated son of the long-lost founder of the largest video-game and software company in the world is transported into a magical computerland in which his father has been stranded for 20 years. There, he finds an oppressive force oppressing madly and plotting something awful. He discovers that time is running out, and he has to get very quickly from A to B (with stops for brilliantly choreographed fight scenes in a variety of beautifully rendered environments) or all is lost. On the way, he reconciles his fecklessness with the wisdom of his father, much selfless sacrifice takes place, betrayers betray, redemption happens, etc etc (anyone so sensitive as to claim that the foregoing is a spoiler should probably abstain from reading anything written about movies, period).
Of course, the primary artistic effect of T:R comes from its action and its aesthetics (which are closely entwined). It's a beautiful movie, even in 3D (I find 3D hard to converge, overly dark, and hard on my eyes). The visual design, from the rendered panoramas of the inside of computerland (which look like the Matrix, as resdesigned by Dubai's urban planners) to the meticulous set-dressing and costumes (more of a 2001-meets-Rollerball thing) works in improbable and even moving ways. Read the rest