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Computer Technology In The Movie Industry Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2723 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Filmmaking is a process of producing a film based on a storyline. Although many people say, a movie is good if it has a successful plot, however, a movie needs also good production in order to be classified as a good movie.

The history of filmmaking can be traced back to as early as the 17th century, where magic lanterns were used. Back then, films were all made in shades of black and white only. Also, many of the times, special effects are done manually by workers. For example, an explosion, many workers will be needed to install those explosives and to clear up the scene. As time progressed, technology improved the quality of films largely, thus producing colored films. However, such improvements do not halt there. Movie makers and producers worked endlessly to create films that leave people in awe. Therefore, the creations of computer-generated imagery, animation and 3D have been invented and improved. Such creations have moved the movie industry one step forward. Using the same explosion example, compared to last time, with advance computer technologies, such a scene will not require a whole lot of work from the workers. Instead, it can be easily done in the editing room, where editors can easily add special effects into the movie, making it look realistic, but without much hard work.

The main objective of this paper is to educate people about the movie making industry. Many people may be awed when they see sophisticated scenes in movies. However, they only know that those scenes are mostly done with the help of computers. But in reality, there are so many computer technology that the people do not know about.

In the discussion in this paper, research will explain the computer technologies used in the movie industry. Computer-generated imagery, animation and 3D will be explained as brief introduction to technologies in the development of movie making. Also, the making of the movie sensation, ‘Avatar’ will also be revealed.

As videos are getting more attention amongst people nowadays, many people now search ways to create their own videos. Therefore, to make this paper more users friendly, an introduction of animation software, Pencil and moviemaking software, Windows Movie Maker will also be done.


Computer-generated imagery means computer graphics being applied into movie industry to create special effects. Compared to other physical means, CGI is a cheaper alternative because it uses computer software to create images instead of constructing real and physical settings.

The first ever movie that used computer-generated imagery was ‘Westworld’ in year 1973. It was a science fiction that incorporate both robots and humans. Also, famous movies like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek II’ were also able to produce effects like laser guns and robot motion. In the ‘Terminator’, computer-generated imagery created digital scenes in the robot.

CGI, especially in two dimensions was greatly used in traditional animated films as it replaced the role of manually illustrated cells. Since then, it became a significant technology used to create special effects in the movie industry. This then promoted and encouraged the great usage of animation and three dimensions (3D).

Usually, CGI for films are about 1.4 to 6 megapixels, where one frame is generally around 2 to 3 hours long which can multiple to ten times for more complex scenes.

Computer-generated imagery was also used in created the film ‘Star Wars’.


Animation is a series of images in the form of two dimensional or three dimensional art work that are display rapidly to produce an illusion of movement.

The earliest animation said to be found is the Paleolithic cave paintings. In these paintings, objects are drawn in superimposed positions that clearly try to convey the idea of motion. However, in year 1906, J. Stuart Blackton, a newspaper cartoonist, released the first ever fully animated film, ‘Humorous Phases of Funny Faces’.

The Paleolithic cave painting shows movement in an animation way.

There are many types of animations that can be used in making a movie. The traditional animation, which is also known as cell animation or hand drawn animation, was broadly used in the 20th century. This involves many individual frames first drawn on papers that differ a little from the previous. These frames are then photocopied onto transparent sheets called cells, which can be photographed by a rostrum camera to produce motion. Classic Disney animated films like ‘Snow White’ and ‘Aladdin’ are produced using this technique.

Traditional animation is manual and is drawn in multiple frames.

As computer generated imagery (CGI) is used increasingly, animation can be done by using computers. The first entirely computer-generated animated film is ‘Toy Story’, in year 1995. Computer animation simply means creating moving objects by using programs or software designed for computers. Consequently, this has caused the invention of two dimensional (2D) animations. Figures are created and edited using two dimensional bitmap graphics or two dimensional vector graphics. However, trained professionals are required to produce animations like this as it involves techniques and skills.

Toy Story, the first fully computer-generated animated film.


Three dimension computer graphics are graphics which use three dimensional representation data geometrically. These graphics will then be stored to calculate and render two dimensional images. These graphics often use many algorithms to generate images. A typical two dimensional image would only show height and width. However, a three dimensional image could show height, width and even depth. This gives the idea of realistic instead of virtual.

Animation can also be done in three dimension. An animator can use the digital skeletal structure to control the mesh. Besides that, mathematical functions can also be used to created three dimensional animation.

3D, or stereoscopic 3D uses the illusion of the depth perception to create realistic images. It can be produced using few methods. In an anaglyph, two images are located at a superimposed position with a light filtering two colors, red and cyan. By wearing the 3D glasses, the two images are cancelled out to produce only one image. That is the earlier 3D images used in movie making.

An anaglyph image.

A pair of anaglyph 3D glasses.

In the polarization systems, similarly, two images are located at a superimposed position through different polarizing filters. By wearing a pair of glasses that contain polarizing filters, each filter can only pass through similar polarized light but blocks different polarized lights, causing each eyes to see different images.

A polarized 3D image.

Polarized 3D glasses.


The ‘Avatar’ has successfully created a sensation amongst movie lovers with its breathtaking three dimension technology.

James Cameron, the director of the movie incorporated the technology as well as real human footages into the movie. Computer-generated imagery was used extensively in the movie. He used a technique called the ‘image-based facial performance capture’, which required actors and actresses to put on special headgears called skull caps that were equipped with cameras. As the recording went on, facial expressions and movies were transmitted from the camera to the virtual characters. The movements caught on tape would be six times bigger, which created authenticity in the characters. By using such technology, the facial expressions of the characters can be made to change according to how the dialog was told.

The motion capture technique that animated the expressions of the actor and actresses.

To do that, a new software called the facial action coding system was created. This software can trace the visualization of facial and muscle movements of the actors and actresses, which can then be animated to created computer-generated images.

The incorporation of computer-generated images into live action footages.

3D was also made easier by motion capture because it allowed film-makers to add special effects as well as direct the angle of camera in . The formats used were Real D 3D, Dolby 3D, Xpan 3D and IMAX 3D. With the help of a pair of polarized 3D glasses, the movie created another sensation to be viewers.

Weta Digital was the visual effects company that worked for the movie. They used Linux-based software to created graphics that made the settings in the movie looked to realistic. The company used one of the world’s largest Linux clusters as the operating system, which produced computer-generated images using 64-bit for 3D modelling.

The filming camera that gives the 3D effects.


Windows Movie Maker is a software that allows user to create and edit videos, thus creating homemade videos. The first ever version of Windows Movie Maker was available for Windows Me back in year 2000, which then followed by Windows XP in year 2001. Its development was then improved. Its so called replacement was then named Windows Live Movie Maker, which is included with the Windows Live Essentials. The new movie maker does not share the same features with the older version. However, the 2.6 version is compatible for both Windows Vista as well as Windows 7. Furthermore, this version is strongly recommended by many video editors as it is user friendly and easy to use but at the same time, produces high quality movies and videos.

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Windows Movie Maker has features like effects, titles or credits, timeline narration and auto movie. New effects can also be modified using the existing ones by using XML code, thus allowing users to create one of its kind videos. Besides that, an audio track editing is also available. Basic effects like fading in or fading out can be added. And then, the tracks can be saved in a sound file instead of a video file.

In the window, there is a storyboard that previews the timeline for video and audio. Video or images can be imported into the timeline. When doing so, user can choose either to capture video directly from webcam or import from collections of existing videos. Videos and audios that are in .WMV/.ASF, .MPG (MPEG-1), .AVI (DV-AVI), .WMA, .WAV, and .MP3 formats are accepted. However, other formats like MP4/3GP, FLV and MOV, MIDI, AIFF, AAC and SWF are not accepted.

A window showing the first page of the program.

A window showing the storyboard.

Video clips or images can be dragged into these boxes to create a continuous movie.

Editing videos and movies in Windows Movie Maker is a very rewarding process as it allows user to create and design the videos and movies in any way they want. The auto movie feature in the program contains premade editing styles which help users to create movies in a very quick period. However, if users choose to edit themselves, a total of 60 transitions, 37 effects, 34 titles and 9 credit animations are available in the 2.x version.

The effects and transitions that users can choose to use in order to increase the attractiveness of the movies.

There are also other features like adding titles or credits into the movie. All these features can be found easily on the menu pane on the left of the window. Audio and sound effects can also be added into the movie easily through options on the menu pane.

At the end, when the movie is all done editing, it is supposed to be saved. Then, it can be viewed from the computer. Besides that, the movie can also be uploaded into pocket pc like smart phones or PDA phones. It can also be uploaded back into a camera and DV recorder if the format is supported. The movie can also be sent to a website for the view of the public.


Pencil is a software for animation and drawing, which is supported by Mac, Windows and Linux operating system. It utilizes one of the most common animation method, the traditional animation which is done by drawing or sketching with a pencil. This program is great for amateur users because it is easy to use and user friendly.

A screenshot of Pencil.

This free drawing program is not equipped with many advance tools, but with simple toolbox that contain pencil, brush, eraser, and coloring tool. Although it seems to be simple, sophisticated 2D animation can be produced by just using these few tools.

The toolbox that contains the tools for drawing.

There is a timeline feature, where users are able to add layers. By saying layer, it simply means vector layer, audio layer as well as video layer. Besides that, it also allow users to use onion skinning, which enables users to check the previous and next frames to trace the animation. The default frame per second is set at 12, but this setting can be changed up to 50 FPS.

The timeline feature that enables users to create different layers altogether.

Besides drawing the animation in the program, sketches can be drawn on real paper and then imported into the program. To do so, the sketches can first be saved in the computer, and then imported onto the canvas, which then can be edited directly in the program itself. The camera layer enables users to create different frames through the usage of a camera.

Audio can also be added into the animation, making it more interesting. As sounds and voices are essentials to animation, it can easily added into the animation by exporting music files from the computer. To do so, a sound layer is first created. The music files can be imported. The format that is supported is only WAV format on Windows OS. However, Mac users can import any formats that is readable by Quicktime. When the music file is imported, a triangular key appears, indicating where the music starts to play. A sound layer will not play if it is deactivated, which can be easily controlled by pressing the sound button in the timeline control.

The feature that allows adding of sound layer.


It is undeniable that computer technology plays an important role in producing a good movie. We can see that as time progresses, computer technology also improves greatly. However, this does not mean that continuous research on this subject matter should stop here. In fact, such an achievement in this field simply means that producers and movie makers in the market should continue in creating breakthroughs in the industry. This is especially true because people will not be contented with what is in the market now if there is nothing new that appeals to them. The demand for more and better is always increasing. Therefore, it is pivotal to continue achieving for more.

As for home users and non-professional users, there is actually much other software that allows them to create their own home videos. The market now realizes that the public can also be very good in creating home videos. Therefore, there is an increasing amount of movie making and animation software for the use of the public. Much of this software actually varies in difficulty as well as quality of products. However, it is confirmed that it allows users to create according to their creativity and that is what makes the videos one of its own. If users are having problem, they can easily obtain help from tutorials and forums that are available from the omnipotent Internet.

Based on the research done on this paper, hopefully doubts and questions of many can be clarified. It is very crucial to educate people about the subject matter as it has blended into our lives and has become a part so close to us.

“There are some movies I can watch over and over, never get sick of. I’ll put one of those on and be puttering around the house. Then a certain scene will come on and I’ll just have to go over and watch.” – David Fincher


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