From Tron to Tron Legacy: A CGI Odyssey
December 14, 2010
If you’ve been reading my blog posts, I think it’s safe to say that you know I rather like science fiction, in all its forms. The world of science fiction films can be neatly divided into two eras: pre-Star Wars and post-Star Wars (1977). There is a second division, known only to true sci-fi film geeks: pre-Tron and post-Tron (1982).
Tron is the story of how videogame designer Kevin Flynn finds himself inside a computer, battling the evil forces of the Master Control Program (MCP). In the computer world, programs are people resembling their creators or "users". The MCP has subjugated the computer world for its own purposes, and it is up to Kevin Flynn and the heroic program Tron to liberate the computer world from the tyranny of the MCP.
What’s so important about Tron? The movie was a commercial flop and is mainly remembered for the "totally rad" (80s-speak for “really cool”) videogame tie-in. Tron is a landmark in the world of sci-fi films because it was the first film to feature extended sequences of computer generated imagery (CGI). Now that CGI has thoroughly transformed film-making, the original Tron film looks rather quaint compared to such recent CGI eye-candy as Avatar and Transformers. The only elements that were computer animated were vehicles such as the light cycles, tanks and ships. The rest of the special effects were generated by more conventional techniques.
The computer used to create the special effects had a paltry 2 MB of memory and only 330 MB of disk space! I would venture to say that your phone has 1000 times the computing capacity of that ancient clunker. Nevertheless, the light cycle sequence holds its own as a riveting piece of special effects work.
On December 17th the circle will be completed with the release of Tron: Legacy in all its full modern 3-D CGI glory .
If I had a Tron Guy outfit, I’d be wearing it right now in anticipation!
Tags: video games, science fiction, movies