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About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.

61 Comments

  1. A nice hoax, judging by the number of people who believed it. But in 1972 we already had colour television and the movies from that time look pretty good, so why the purposeful crappy quality of this "historical footage"? It looks more like 1930s than 1970s (including the music)

  2. What strikes me most is that they already used some sort of scanning technique to scan physical model into the computer instead of modelling the hand directly in the computer.
    @Pawel: But these are computerrenderings, not film or ampex video. And that technique was still in its infancy. The computer you have on your desk- or laptop is infinitely more powerfull than the systems they used to send men to the moon in those days.

  3. awesome stuff, but I think that´s the crappiest hand topology I have ever seen!!!! ..... joke
    All hails to the geniuses behind that...

  4. @Pawel: 40 year old videotapes can look pretty bad, I'm not surprised at all. But since you're making such a strong statement, would you care to submit us proof? :)

  5. @Pawel
    Robby Ingebretsen's answer to that claim @ the vimeo page:
    "Hey folks. This is definitely not a hoax. There is a reference to this video on Ed Catmull's wikipedia page (something about a video of his left hand).

    Other than that, not quite sure what to say. The video quality may be because they were using very slow rending devices and likely had somewhat primitive capture technology from the renderer. The "live" action footage may have been kept in B&W to be consistent. I'm really not sure. But this is definitely and truly not a hoax (although it would be a cool one if were).

    You read the rest of the back story here: nerdplusart.com/​?p=1106."

  6. In Computer Graphics historical terms, Ed Catmull can be considered one of the fathers of CGI. Along with names like Gouraud, Phong, Blinn, Evans & Sutherland and many others.

    Fascinating to see this!

  7. @Pawel

    The footage you see is very real and definitely not a hoax. The footage looks bad could be due to the kinescope they used. They are probably recording this on film (16mm?) from a very low resolution CRT.

  8. I call BS, I should be silent but.....first off transformation of mesh surfaces.....color depth...etc...c'mon 1972...I was born in 1972 even if that stuff was real(it might be, but I doubt it.)it would require insane amounts of time and processing power for that time......I'm pretty sure I am going to regret posting this, but that never stopped me before.

  9. So words on Wikipedia are now considered proof of anything?

    This feels fake to me for some reason, there's something artificial about it (no pun intended!), I think someone is pulling off a good hoax with some clever video effects and such.

  10. My bets are this really is an early animation, but hardly *the* first.
    Not even the author of the original blog post claims it is.

  11. This mass of stupid kids, claiming "fakefakefake" for no apparent reason but their own lack of perspective, are starting to get on my nerves.

  12. All the sophistication and ease of use in blender and I probably still couldn't model something with even that bad of topology. :P

  13. @Tweety
    OMG! You have just found something the video says right in the beggining.
    It's real people. It can't be any more recent than 1976 because said movie was released in 1976.
    So... unless they have been planing this since 1976... I say it's real.
    Just because you couldn't do it in 1972 doesn't mean some computer genius couldn't.

  14. @Tweety
    That's what it says in the video.

    It's real, people.
    It was in a movie in 1976 and I believe it already existed in 1972.
    Just because you couldn't do it on a computer with CPU of a couple of Megahertz, doesn't mean some computer genius couldn't.

  15. Ed Catmull and his hand (which is definitely the one shown in this video) are famous in the history of computer graphics. Read any resource on the subject and you'll learn about tons of pioneering CG stuff that went on at the University of Utah, and there are plenty of still frames of this stuff in textbooks. As Tweety mentioned, the hand later turned up in the Hollywood movie Futureworld. But this is the first I've been aware of this much footage of it on the Internet. So this is a great find.

    As for why the footage doesn't look like 1972 studio television or big budget movies, as the post says, it was shot onto 8mm film by a couple of computer science grad students. You wouldn't expect the production values to be state of the art (unlike the graphics technology, which was obviously cutting edge). This looks pretty much like you'd expect it to.

  16. I had seen the hand video before and shots of the face (Reserch work for school). Never seen the full video, so it's great to finally see it.

  17. how about this reason, the man capturing the 3D points of the model(Mr Catmull) was video taped in black and white, while the 3D was recorded in color...apparently 16-32 bit color as I saw no banding....this level of computing was not yet available....even in a cray...

  18. Fake. FAKE. FAKE!

    I have no proof of any kind whatsoever and have no clue how far along technology was in 1972 since this was 20 years before I was born. However, my opinion should be taken as fact because I think know more about this subject than all of you. I only watched the first few moments of the video before I formed my baseless opinion and yet without any clue of what I am talking about I know that because of me everyone will finally see that they are wrong after being enlightened by another one of my moronic opinions.

    That is, like, why this is, like, you know, like, totes fake. ಠ_ಠ

  19. They briefly mentioned this in the documentary "A Pixar Story", as well as showing the clip from "Futureworld". If I'm not mistaken, the physical hand model they used to map out the polygons is in the collection at either the UofU or the Computer History museum in San Jose (along with the Utah Teapot).

    40 years after they were able to, I still can't model a decent hand! :p

  20. Also the Effects you see in recent movies are also completely fake. This would run at like, a frame per day on my computer and look crappier! The technology is just not there.
    I can tell becaus I know that for a fact.

  21. I saw this footage (without the crappy aging effects) about 12 years ago in a BBC documentary (horizon). Its really cool that its resurfaced, and I love how the head model has an afro.

  22. Pyramids in egipt, Moon landing, 3D Rendered Film in 1972 everything is fake. In earlier times civilization don't exist, so if it not fake, it was done by aliens.

  23. Well, if this is real, I stand corrected. It just LOOKS fake (the music, the cutoff edge of footage). And there was also Pixar (founded in 1979) in the title - which now has been apparently removed.

  24. Look guys, the reason I studied computer technology is because my Brother has a bar with the first real arcade machine I ever saw: that was back in 78 or 79. A few years after came pac man and balloon panic I think it was with the track ball. Around 82 I've seen a documentary about some student in Utah making this ground breaking research in computer technology. In the documentary they showed a clip named the juggler (magician juggling a lot of primitives all Gouraud shaded) and also Wally which they linked to the work of the students of Utah university 10 years ago. ...... so yes it's for real. The was also a heavily bearded guy slapping on a cool bump map on a model of a chalice, all grayscale though. Well Ton is older than I so maybe he can vouch for that.

    O O! Hold the phone, I forgot I had the book "The Art of 3D computer anomation and effects". They already had a face animation back then (with shape keys but they called it shape interpolation), and it looks better than what many intermediate Blender heads can cook up.

    1967 (the year I was born): William Fetter at Boeing has a 3D animated human
    1968: In the movie a Space Odyssey 2001 you can see 2 astronauts having their lunch while watching their iPads (look it in you tube)
    1969: Hidden surface removal algorithm
    1970: Scanline algorithm
    1971: Animated faces at university of Utah
    1972: Depth sort removal algorithm and phillips demonstrate video disc recorder and player
    1976: 64-bit Cray 1 solves 166 million floating point operations per second (leaving the PSX at a close second)

    It all makes me wonder.. if a cheap PC of today is still 50x faster than the Cray, why does it sometimes takes so damn long to start MS Word or load an Excel sheet?????

  25. Computer animation didn't actually begin for me until I saw "The Mind's Eye" back in '90 or so. That completely blew my mind and gave me a hint of what was to come.

    To this day, whenever I think of it, I recall the live-action Mario Bros. series hosts calling out, "Stanley and STELLA!!"

    :)

  26. @Toontje
    Nice list but I'm pretty sure that the first computer animation it attributed to Norman McLaren and his 1967 animation/test called "Birdlings". I can' find a link to but I have it on a collection of his works. It's more of a test and uses lines and not surfaces, here is an article
    http://www.renepardo.com/articles/companimation.pdf
    Still this is the oldest animated mesh I know of, it's great to see how far we've come.

  27. Amazing how many people think this is fake, when the footage is old and pretty well documented? Watch the wall-e dvd features or pick up some old computer graphics books from the 80's or late seventies its bound to be mentioned.

  28. @JeroenM "What strikes me most is that they already used some sort of scanning technique to scan physical model into the computer instead of modelling the hand directly in the computer."

    I don't think modeling was an option in 1972. Douglas Engelbart's first presentation of a mouse was in December 1968 with a text interface, and they used room sized tricks to do this. The first workstation with a b/w GUI was the Xerox Alto in 1973. So whatever Catmull was using was experimental and had probably to be build by themselves. It's rather unlikely they had already produced a 3D modeler before they produced the first animation.

    I remember creating sprites for a C64 in the early 80s on graph paper with color pens, calculating the resulting 63 byte values (24*21 pixels at 2bit depth) and transferring them manually into the source. There simply was no sprite editor available. In 1972 the situation was probably worse. Modeling most likely meant entering a lot of coordinates by hand, then wait some time to see the wireframe model. Having a digitizer would have been a vast improvement over measuring and manually entering the data. Interactive modeling would have been impossible, unless they just guessed coordinates, then waited for the rendering and adjusted each point manually over hundreds of steps.

    It is unlikely that they ever saw the animation live on their computer terminal (which was probably text based), but had it rendered frame by frame to a video output device, recorded all single frames to tape, then played it back on a video monitor. Betamax was released 1975, VHS in 1976, so in 1972 gray scale video recording at all was still rather high end. Rendering in color would a) probably have required more advanced algorithms and b) massively increased the rendering time.

    Most likely all the decisions that seem strange today where probably driven by necessity: there was no mouse, no graphics display, no modeler, no near real time previsualization, no easily available color cameras even for the non-CG parts. If you remember that they created this without most of the basic technologies we take for granted today, it is even more impressive that they even came up with the idea and pulled it off.

  29. And even back then in 1993 Jurassic Park bump maps was hardcoded. We are very spoiled to have Blender for free. It is lightyears ahead of anything George Lucas could come up in his dreams back in the 90's

  30. On the shoulders of giants, Toontje. Standing on the shoulders of giants. We are lucky to have been born on third base, but we didn't hit the triple.

  31. @APG: Why don't you have an IMAX 3D camera? I mean we have IMAX 3D in 2011.

    These were just students filming their own stuff.

    That hand had an awfully looking topology :D

  32. Lawrence D’Oliveiro on

    Not the first “3D” as such ...

    In 1971, Jacob Bronowski presented a BBC documentary on the history of science, called “The Ascent Of Man”. Among the many pioneering highlights was a real-time rotating 3D wireframe display of human and prehuman skulls on a computer screen.

    Now, if you had said “first 3D _shaded_ movie”, you might have a point.

    By the way, TAOM is a classic. I think you can find it on YouTube. JB died just a few years after it came out. Amazing guy.

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