How Star Wars Changed Real-World Technology Forever

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For nearly forty years, the holidays have been intrinsically tied to Star Wars. Whether it was through watching movie marathons on TV or action figures under the tree, the galaxy far, far away always seems a little closer around this time of year.

This year, however, the world has a little more to look forward to this December, with the release of the first Star Wars motion picture in over ten years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. On December 18, moviegoers worldwide will find out exactly what has been happening to characters like Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca, in the first sequel to 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

Analysts predict this will be the highest grossing film ever made. It is already on track, with ticket presales shattering records by wide margins. People worldwide care about this movie, and the reasons are often as diverse as its fan base, due to the universal appeal of its story and its evergreen appeal across generations.

Aside from lightsabers, spaceships and the Force, Star Wars is also known as a franchise that, behind the scenes, has revolutionized technology within the film industry and beyond. Industrial Light and Magic, the division of Lucasfilm responsible for the amazing effects found in these movies, has quite the reputation for doing the impossible. Let’s have a look at some of the ways that ILM changed motion picture technology.


1. ILM was Created to do the Impossible

Prior to 1977’s Star Wars, movies were not made the way they are today. Director George Lucas knew he wanted a fast-paced, realistic looking film, and it took an entire year to invent a camera capable of achieving the right shots. Everything was built by hand; computers, cameras, equipment, all to achieve the vision that was conceived, and it paid off: Dennis Muren, one of the founding members of ILM, holds the most Academy Awards ever to date.

2. Computer-Generated Images

Industrial Light and Magic didn’t invent computer animation, but they perfected it, and to this day remains a leader in CGI special effects. The list of films they’ve worked on is massive, and with each, a new advancement and iteration on technology pushes the medium forward. From the first CG characters to motion-capture technology so prevalent today, their roots began at ILM.

3. Pixar

Many people don’t realize this, but Pixar was born at ILM, as an idea from George Lucas, who wanted to have a computer capable of having the processing power needed to do computer-generated effects. The result was the Pixar machine, which revolutionized CGI in the 80s and 90s. Eventually, this technology was retained by ILM and also spun off into its own company, which was bought by Steve Jobs.

4. Photoshop

Ever heard of it? This program, which is integral to so many jobs today, was a summer project of ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll and his brother Thomas, who needed better image-editing capabilities at work. It was used on the 1989 movie The Abyss, and then sold to Adobe shortly afterwards.

5. Managed IT Services

Ok, this is 100% not true! But, let’s talk about what MSPs can gain from a look at ILM. In retrospect, it’s easy to think that they accomplished what was inevitable; that their successes were bound to happen. However, when it comes to technology, it’s never that easy. It takes, trial, error and perseverance to make magic happen, and your clients rely on that every day from you as well. What you provide for SMBs is, for many of them, just as inexplicable and magical as a CGI character come to life or a revolutionary program written over the summer. Managed services is constantly evolving, and when the status quo just won’t do, it takes vision and innovation to build the right tools to get the job done. It’s this spirit that has always guided ILM, and it is one that serves successful MSPs well.

If you're like me, you're counting the days until the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie release on December 18th! With that in mind, I'll leave you with this:

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May the Force be with you 

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