Industrial Light & Magic

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Industrial Light & Magic ( ILM ) is a US company that creates special visual effects for movies , TV series , commercials, and music videos .



Parking lot and building of the first ILM headquarters in Van Nuys. All specials effects of the first Star Wars film (1977) were produced here.

Since no company could be found for George Lucas ' then new film project , Star Wars , which was able to bring his visions in terms of animation technology onto the screen, Lucas was forced to open his own animation technology studio in May 1975 establish. A 2500 m² warehouse in Van Nuys was rented for this purpose , in which the optical effects were to be created. John Stears , who won an Oscar for the Bond film " Fireball " , could be won over for the project. In addition, some young specialists were found, including John Dykstra , who was given overall management. The 350 effect shots were created entirely without CG animations, but were realized with the help of miniatures. ILM revolutionized the motion control process, which was created using a completely new type of computer-controlled camera, the Dykstraflex . In addition, the so-called blue screen was used on a larger scale . Although fraught with numerous problems, a team of around 75 people managed to complete the visual effects just in time and in the end to win the Oscar.

ILM was planned as a project for Star Wars, but remained as a studio for optical and later also digital effects.

New ways

In preparation for the sequel to Star Wars , Lucas put together a new ILM team. ILM was now located in San Rafael and was affiliated with Lucasfilm . The former employees not taken over by Lucas for the new incarnation of ILM, including Dykstra, continued to work in Van Nuys under the company name Apogee on projects such as Battlestar Galactica .

A separate department for computer-generated special effects was founded at ILM in 1979, the earliest milestone of which was the first complete computer-generated film character, a glass knight in The Secret of the Hidden Temple (1985). With Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan , the Genesis sequence was created in 1982, the first completely computer-generated scene. The Return of the Jedi (1983) set a long-standing record with 900 special effects shots.

The EditDroid , the first computerized non-linear editing system, was developed in 1984. Particularly noteworthy is the first digitally generated animated film The Adventures of André and Wally B. , which was created by John Lasseter in 1984 - the department was sold to Steve Jobs in 1986 and is now part of Disney under the name Pixar .

In 1988, the morphing process was used in the film Willow , in which a computer program calculates the transition from one character to another. Transitions from animation to real film in Wrong Game with Roger Rabbit were also realized by ILM.

Just one or three years later, the works The Abyss and Terminator 2 were both directed by James Cameron . Both had new digital effects: a kind of water snake in The Abyss and a robot made of liquid metal that could change its shape, in the latter. These were fantasy figures as well as objects with a smooth surface that were within the limits of high-performance computers at the time. In 1992, the series The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones , conceived for television, started , in which the trick technicians tried out new techniques, such as: B. the digital reproduction of people.

In the film Jurassic Park (1993) ILM succeeded in integrating photo-realistic and lifelike dinosaurs into the filmed material on the computer. At the beginning of the production of Jurassic Park , director Spielberg planned to create only one scene with the help of digital animation. However, he was so enthusiastic about the result that he devised several scenes for the digital department. But here, too, the computing power was still limited, so that most of the illusion was made up of animatronic puppets, and actually only six minutes of film are populated with computer-animated animals. George Lucas was also enthusiastic, who then brought his original Star Wars trilogy back to the cinemas with new digitally edited scenes. As with the Special Edition of Star Wars , ILM succeeded in developing and establishing new techniques with films such as Forrest Gump , Twister , Dragonheart and Jumanji .

The new century

ILM made further major advances with animating stormy seas ( The Storm , improved in Poseidon ) and the first fully integrated digital actor in a film, the character of Jar-Jar-Binks in Star Wars - Episode 1 .

ILM is one of the oldest special effects studios in Hollywood and, together with Intrigue FX , Animal Logic , Sony Pictures Imageworks , Weta Digital or Cinesite and Framestore CFC, is one of the most sought-after companies for optical effects. The model making department was sold to former ILM employee Mark Anderson in 2006 and now operates as an independent company under the name Kerner Optical .

Known employees

Some of them no longer work at ILM today, like

There are also some former employees who mainly work as directors today, for example:

Others, like Masi Oka , are now acting as actors.

Movies and TV series

Incomplete list (sorted by year of publication of the first title):


Text in italics: nominations
Bold text: Awards

Academy Awards Nominations ( Oscars )

British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards ( BAFTA Award )

Scientific and technical awards

  • 1981: Development of a motion picture figure mover for animation photography.
  • 1981: Concept and engineering of a beam-splitter optical composite motion picture printer.
  • 1981: Engineering of the Empire motion picture camera system.
  • 1987: Development of a wire rig model support mechanism used to control the movements of miniatures in special effects.
  • 1992: Development and the first implementation in feature motion pictures of the "Morf" system for digital metamorphosis of high resolution images.
  • 1993: Concept and development of the digital motion picture retouching system for removing visible rigging and dirt / damage artifacts from original motion picture imagery.
  • 1994: Development work on a linear array CCD (Charge Coupled Device) film input scanning system.
  • 1994: Pioneering work in the field of film input scanning.
  • 1995: Pioneering efforts in the creation of the ILM digital film compositing system.
  • 1996: Development of the Viewpaint 3D Paint System for film production work.
  • 1996: Development of a system to create and control computer-generated fur and hair in motion pictures.
  • 1996: Creation and Development of the Direct Input Device.
  • 1998: Pioneering work in motion-controlled, silent camera dollies.
  • 1998: Design and development of the "Caricature" animation software system at Industrial Light & Magic.
  • 2001: Development of the ILM Motion and Structure Recovery System (MARS). The MARS system provides analysis of camera motion and object motion, and their dimensions. It employs a rich set of user-interface tools and sophisticated algorithms.
  • 2001: Development of the ILM Creature Dynamics System. This system makes hair, clothing, skin, flesh and muscle simulation both directable and integrated within a character animation and rigging environment.
  • 2003: Subsurface scattering techniques. For groundbreaking implementations of practical methods for rendering skin and other translucent materials using subsurface scattering techniques.
  • 2006: Scientific and Engineering AwardDesign and development of the ILM Image-based ModelingSystem.
  • 2006: Technical Achievement AwardDesign and engineering of OpenEXR , a software package implementing 16-bit, floating-point, high dynamic range image files.


Web links

Individual evidence


Coordinates: 37 ° 47 '55.3 "  N , 122 ° 27' 0.2"  W.