80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newer CG

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vvostenak
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80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newer CG

Unread postby vvostenak » Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:32 am

Hi all,

the computer graphic pictures/animations from the middle of 80ties are very different compared to the 90ties and later. What were the main differencies in the rendering (raytracing) techniques that were used in 80ties compared to the 90ties?
The objects often looked "phong-solid" rendered (shades of one color) and only on some objects low resolution textures (maybe procedural) were used.
Was also the color pallete smaller? Also the pictures often had much more "cartoon" look and less "contrast". Were mainly 4096 colors (12bit) used in the middle of 80ties? When did the graphic workstations switch to 16,7 mil colors 24bit (RGB) (which were the first workstations using 24 bit colors - maybe the Personal Iris)?

Thanks a lot.

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby diegel » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:44 am

I was involved in producing games in the 80s. There was no rendering or raytracing that time. Every pixel was set by hand. This is the reason why the graphics looks more like a cartoon. The graphics were mostly produced directly on the target system. 4096 colors was a dream that time, in most systems you had to deal with much less than 256 colors.
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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby vvostenak » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:16 am

diegel wrote:I was involved in producing games in the 80s. There was no rendering or raytracing that time. Every pixel was set by hand. This is the reason why the graphics looks more like a cartoon. The graphics were mostly produced directly on the target system. 4096 colors was a dream that time, in most systems you had to deal with much less than 256 colors.

hi diegel, I probably wrote the question in a wrong way. I was asking about profesional computer graphics for first computer animation movies, CG advertisements, music video clips, etc.. For example like Apollos "Quest (a long rays journey...)". Typical machines include early 68000 based SUN, Apollo, SGI IRIS workstations (approx. 1982-1989). Graphical features/effects were probably often written for the specific renderer(raytracer)/scene. I mean things including metal/chrome-like surfaces, water, etc.)

Of course I know that the graphics for computer games was handmade (lets call it pixelart), lines and filledpolys vectors for 3D, only later (maybe from 1987) also digitized graphics start to be used and even later (maybe from 1993) pre-rendered (raytraced) graphics became popular in computer games. Sure, common 8 and 16 bit home computers had much lower specs than the workstations. I know that hardware well (also did programming in early 90ties). But I am also interested. Please, can you write (maybe by PM) what games you were working on?
Greetings.

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby guardian452 » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:54 pm

diegel wrote:in the 80s. There was no rendering or raytracing that time.

when was geometry engine invented? far more damning, when did the money for nothing music video come out?? :lol: http://www.mtvhive.com/artist/dire_stra ... or_nothing classic graphics! It was done by the same people who later made Reboot!

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby robespierre » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:41 pm

24-bit color (8 bits per component) has been in use since the 1970s. As has raytracing, texture mapping, Gouraud and Phong shading, etc. Even radiosity is from the early 1980s. Now obviously rendering technology has advanced considerably, but for many of the application areas you mentioned, technology like PRMan is still some kind of standard for rendering, and it is from the late '80s.

I think the cause of the different "look" is that computers were much less powerful, so scenes were much simpler, and it was still fashionable to have very shiny, brightly colored characters. Part of this is the space-age generation: the visual look of something like Tron owes not a little to Logan's Run or THX 1138. Part of it is again the limits of computer power, and typically very small textures by today's standards. There were also much more primitive software tools, so while the renderer may have been capable of a richer and more modern-looking scene, it would have taken too many man-years to design it. Keep in mind that before Photoshop and its peers making a texture was incredibly complicated.
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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby vvostenak » Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:10 am

Thanks very much for the reply. I studied some historical articles a little and there really were some (micro)computers (like the PDP) using special 18/24 bit color display with high resolution in the very early 80ties, but they were mostly custom designs.
Do you know which were the earliest workstations to support the 8:8:8 RGB modes?

So basicly the scenes used more often geometric primit. (cubes, spheres, for example cones insteed of trees)?
It seems that you are right - more brighty objects were often liked - cyan, purple, etc... Also the textures were probably more often hand made and with lower resolution - it made a less "photorealistic" look compared to the 90ties and later. Anyway people did very amazing work with such limited facility.

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby robespierre » Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:52 am

it depends on your definition of workstation. The IRIS 2000 was released in 1984 or 1985, and Symbolics had something at around the same time. Both systems had 3D modeling software. There was also Quantel Paintbox and other stuff but I'm not sure that counts in terms of 3D animation.

Yes, environment mapping was widely used in the 80s, it is a natural application of texture mapping. There were many schemes for interpolating textures in either world space or screen space and a lot of hardware was designed at the time. The use of primitives is especially seen in very early animations (see for example "André and Wally B.") but I think by the late '80s there were many more organic characters. NURBS were developed to make modeling organic shapes easier, don't know if I would call that a success. ;)
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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby robespierre » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:12 am

(the fairly realistic trees in that short are actually decals/impostors I think. still they look quite effective in context.)

The very first film-quality 3D graphics was all done on custom, one of a kind hardware. You can see pictures of some of it here:
http://dave.zfx.com/omnibus.html
Important to note, I think, is that those systems were not optimized around real-time display of models but pure rendering and high-resolution output ability. The scenes would have been developed using vector display terminals like tektronix 4014 or other similar things, almost entirely as wireframes.

Much early TV animation (for station IDs etc) was actually done on analog video synthesizers that had no 3D software, or really any software. See pictures here. They were often able to trick the eye and you may not have realized the difference. Analog animations were all done in real-time direct output to videotape, whereas the Triple-I/Omnibus productions were all scanned frame-by-frame directly to 35 or 70 mm film.
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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby vvostenak » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:35 am

robespierre wrote:it depends on your definition of workstation. The IRIS 2000 was ...

well, I dont remember the exact sentence :-), but in early 80it was defined something like a minicomputer for single person (with at least 1(or more?) MIPS performance,1K (1024) pixels resolution, and so one) able to work on engineering tasks indepently (not like terminal).
So IRIS 1000/2000 did support 8:8:8 RGB colors (maybe as option)?
Last edited by vvostenak on Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby vvostenak » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:39 am

robespierre wrote:The very first film-quality 3D graphics was all done on custom, one of a kind hardware. You can see pictures of some of it here: http://dave.zfx.com...

thanks, I found that page just few days ago - man has there also some very interesting historical informations abount the Foonly computer:
http://dave.zfx.com/f1.html
robespierre wrote: I think, is that those systems were not optimized around real-time display of models but pure rendering and high-resolution output ability. The scenes would have been developed using vector display terminals like tektronix 4014 or other similar things, almost entirely as wireframes.

thanks, right, this (vector display wireframe modeling, final scene raytracing) seems to be the way of workflow before approx. 1983

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby hamei » Thu Feb 23, 2012 3:14 am

robespierre wrote:i NURBS were developed to make modeling organic shapes easier, don't know if I would call that a success. ;)

I'm pretty sure that NURBS came from the CAD world. Could be wrong but I remember when they were pushing Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines as the best new thing since sliced toast.

The objects often looked "phong-solid" rendered (shades of one color) and only on some objects low resolution textures (maybe procedural) were used. Was also the color pallete smaller? Also the pictures often had much more "cartoon" look and less "contrast". Were mainly 4096 colors (12bit) used in the middle of 80ties?

Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-dan Armada. :P

Download The Last Starfighter and see if you still think that. Released in 1984 so they had to be working on it in 1982 ....

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby robespierre » Thu Feb 23, 2012 3:24 am

I think that Geometry Engine type graphics pipelines only supported what X calls DirectColor schemes. So 3:3:2, 5:5:5, 6:6:6, 8:8:8, or 10:10:10 would have been possible. The IRIS 2000 could be configured with three BP3 bitplane boards, and there are man pages on the Web that describe "the 24 bits of color available on the IRIS 2400/3000".

The first Symbolics workstation capable of 24-bit color (although I think 32 was more common) was the 3600, released in 1984.

hamei: you may be right, but I first learned of NURBS because Wavefront was promoting them.
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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby hamei » Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:52 am

robespierre wrote: ... I first learned of NURBS because Wavefront was promoting them.

I'm fairly sure that early high-dollar CAD systems could create NURBS curves, since they started pushing that stuff downstream in the mid eighties for lower-cost programs. I remember at the time thinking "Thank God I don't have to mess with that shit - how the heck would you measure it ?" CMM's were very expensive then.

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby guardian452 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:31 am

With regard to bright colours and stylistic themes... well just look at the fashion of the 80's and pastel suits. Neon on miami beach etc. bright mag wheels. white yachts.

Nowadays all the CG effects in games and movies try and show everything dirty and post-apocalyptic. Check out the high-fashion trends, black on black etc.. gunmetal wheels on cars, that new Lamborghini with the matte paint...

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Re: 80ties CG - typical rend/raytr features compared to newe

Unread postby GL1zdA » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:54 am

guardian452 wrote:Nowadays all the CG effects in games and movies try and show everything dirty and post-apocalyptic. Check out the high-fashion trends, black on black etc.. gunmetal wheels on cars, that new Lamborghini with the matte paint...

Because it gives an illusion of high detail.
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