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Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), best visual effect company

  • Wednesday, September 7, 2011
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  • Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an Academy Award-winning motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas and is owned by Lucasfilm. Lucas created the company when he discovered that the special effects department at 20th Century Fox was shut down after he was given the green light for his production of the film Star Wars. The studio originated in Van Nuys, California, later moved to San Rafael, and is now based at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco. Lynwen Brennan who joined the company in 1999, currently serves as the ILM's President and General Manager.

    Industrial Light & Magic original logo, designed by Drew Struzan
    Lucas wanted his 1977 film Star Wars to include visual effects that had never been seen on film before. He first approached Douglas Trumbull, famous for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull declined, but suggested his assistant John Dykstra. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists and engineers who became the Special Visual Effects department on Star Wars. Alongside Dykstra, other leading members of the original ILM team were Ken Ralston, Richard Edlund, Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett Steve Gawley, and Jeff Mann.
    When making The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. They have since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films, including the entire Star Wars saga, The Abyss, the Indiana Jones series, the Harry Potter franchise, the Jurassic Park franchise, the Back to the Future trilogy, many of the Star Trek films, Ghostbusters II, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the entire Terminator sequels, the Transformers films, the Men in Black series, and also provided work for Avatar, alongside Weta Digital.
    In addition to their work for George Lucas, ILM also collaborates with Steven Spielberg on nearly every film that he directs, and for many that he produces as well. Dennis Muren has acted as Visual Effects Supervisor on many of these films.
    Additionally, the company has created less noticeable effects - such as widening streets, digitally adding more extras to a shot, and inserting the film's actors into famous photos - in movies such as Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, Snow Falling on Cedars, Magnolia, and several Woody Allen films.
    ILM established their use of computer-generated imagery when they hired Edwin Catmull from NYIT in 1979. John Lasseter worked for ILM in the early 1980s as a computer animator. The computer graphics division, now known as Pixar, was eventually sold to Steve Jobs, and went on to create the first CG animated feature with Toy Story.
    ILM, rather than hide behind barbed wire and high fences, operated from an inconspicuous property in San Rafael, California until 2006. The company hid in plain sight and was known to locals as The Kerner Company. In 2006, when Lucas decided to move locations and focus on digital effects, a management-led team bought the five physical and practical effects divisions of Industrial Light and Magic. The new company, home to the George Lucas Theater, retained the "Kerner" name as Kerner Technologies, Inc. and continues to provide physical effects for major motion pictures, often working with Industrial Light & Magic.
    In 2005, ILM extended its operations to Lucasfilm Singapore, which also includes the Singapore arm of Lucasfilm Animation. In 2011, it was announced the company was considering a project-based facility in Vancouver.[1]
    As of 2009, ILM has received 15 Best Visual Effects Oscars and 23 additional nominations. It has also received 24 Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of the critical role the company's advances in technology have played in the filmmaking process.
    ILM is also the largest visual effects vendor in Hollywood with regards to workforce, with more than 500 artists. It also has one of the largest renderfarms currently available with more than 7500 nodes. ILM revolutionized the motion capture business when they invented IMoCap (Image Based Motion Capture Technology), which is the most advanced technique of motion capture currently available.

    It was in the late 1980s when Adobe Photoshop made its first appearance on the world stage. It was used at the Industrial Light & Magic studios as an image-processing program. Photoshop was created by ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll and his brother Thomas as a summer project. It was used on The Abyss. The Knoll brothers sold the program to Adobe shortly before the film's release.
    Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci of Mythbusters fame have all worked at Industrial Light & Magic.
    Industrial Light & Magic is also famous for their commercial work. Their clients include Energizer Holdings, Nike, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Budwiser and other companies.
    Actor Masi Oka worked on several major productions of ILM as an animator, including Revenge of the Sith before joining the cast of the NBC show Heroes as Hiro Nakamura. Oka still works at ILM.
    American film director David Fincher worked at ILM for four years in the early 1980s, shortly working at John Korty's Korty Films, and the man who influenced George Lucas into opening his own company in the San Francisco area

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