How Prince of Persia's famous jump animation was made

1989's Prince of Persia, by Jordan Mechner, featured superbly realistic animation when such things were a rarity in computer gaming. Now, two decades later, he's published the original footage of his little brother leaping to and fro, from which each frame was traced and digitized.


Jordan began his pioneering work while still an undergraduate at Yale University. Dissatisfied with the stilted movement of characters in computer games, Jordan borrowed the technique of rotoscoping that he had learned about in his history of cinema class. In 1983 he began experimenting by filming his karate instructor, Dennis, doing a variety of martial arts moves. Then he traced images from the film and used a Versawriter graphics digitizer tablet to copy the images onto the computer. On March 19, 1983, Jordan finished a test of this to see if it would work in a game he was developing, and in his diary he recorded his excitement: "When I saw that sketch little figure walk across the screen, looking just like Dennis, all I could say was "ALL RIGHT!"" Jordan's game Karateka (1985), a Japanese-themed karate game, became the best-selling title in the country and Jordan had established himself as a video game designer even before he had graduated

Here is Ben Kingsley, villain of the movie version of Prince of Persia, being wrong about experimental rotoscoping footage.