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Design & Engineering: Jurassic Park – Making Dinosaurs Come Alive

ILM Dinosaur Test

ILM Dinosaur Test

It’s hard to believe that the original Jurassic Park movie is over 20 years old.  We live in a world with movies like Avatar and Transformer where computer generated characters are almost an afterthought.  But Jurassic Park was really the first movie that made CGI characters the stars of the show.

In this video, we learn the story of how Steven Spielberg and the team at Industrial Light and Magic built from the amazing T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day to the incredibly life-like dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  An interesting fact is that it all started with a couple of lone engineers building a realistic moving dinosaur skeleton on nights and weekends for the producers of the movie to realize that CGI dinosaurs were even possible.  Up until that point, the plan was to use stop-motion animation – where a model is photographed, moved slightly and then photographed again.  Stop-motion animation dates back to 1897 and while it had improved by 1993 – it was still fundamentally the same technique.

When Steve “Spaz” Williams did his dinosaur skeleton test, it blew away the producers and led to another test with a fully-rendered T-Rex.  The rest is movie history.  CGI characters can be found everywhere in movies today.

In addition to being a great story full of science and engineering, Steven Spielberg’s film version of Michael Crichton’s great book demonstrates the prominent role that design and engineering play in filmmaking.  The tools may have changed (most of the tools available to amateur filmmakers are far more powerful than what ILM had in 1993) but design and engineering can make anything possible – they can even bring dinosaurs back to life!

Check out the story of the Jurassic Park dinosaurs here.

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