Over the past 47 years, countless moviegoers have come across the work of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), though they may not have realized it then. That’s because the team at ILM works far behind the scenes, creating innovative – and believable – visual effects that help viewers quell disbelief for a few hours while watching movies like Jurassic Park (1993), transformers (2007) and the war of stars and Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise.
Now, a new six-part documentary entitled Light and Magic is putting the company’s story in the spotlight. The series, which premieres July 27 on the Disney+ streaming platform, explores the history and impact of ILM, which film director and producer George Lucas founded while on the job in 1975 war of stars.
The trailer for the documentary, released this week, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the origins of ILM, which developed groundbreaking visual effects techniques and technologies that revolutionized the motion picture industry. As Germain Lussier writes gizmodoILM “literally changed the world.”
“Visual effects create the magic that makes people want to go to the movies,” says Lucas in the trailer. “Movies are special effects.”
The company, which is an offshoot of Lucasfilm, has won numerous accolades since its inception, including 3 Emmy Awards, 15 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, and 33 Academy Awards for Scientific and Technical Awards, according to the ILM website. Today it draws on the talents of more than 1,200 employees around the world, including artists, software developers, art directors, editors, producers, computer graphics artists and technicians, all working with filmmakers to realize their visual dreams.
In its early days, the company mastered traditional visual effects techniques such as blue-screen photography, matte painting, and model and miniature making. Then the staff really started innovating, figuring out how to use computer graphics and digital imaging in feature films, and developing lots of new technologies along the way.
ILM created some of the earliest computer-generated characters to hit the big screen, as seen in movies like The abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Jurassic Park. The company is also known in the industry for its ability to seamlessly combine photorealistic digital images with video footage.
The company recently developed a new real-time virtual production platform called StageCraft, which allows filmmakers to surround actors with canvases that realistically depict any location in the world. This means filmmakers can get their work done from a studio rather than traveling to distant locations to get the right shot, saving both time and money.
In total, the ILM team has worked on more than 350 films, including 25 of the top 50 global box office hits, according to the company’s website. The documentary itself also features some heavyweights. war of stars and Indiana Jones Author Lawrence Kasdan directed the series, which includes interviews with Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis and other influential filmmakers
Reflecting on ILM’s path for the documentary was eye-opening for even the people who have witnessed this journey.
“It was a wild place,” Kasdan said at one war of stars Event in late May, per die AV clubby Matt Schimkowitz. “In the beginning nobody knew how it would work. A lot was improvised, which led to a lot of communication. People who realize their skills could be expanded. For 40 or 50 years, it’s been that kind of environment where geniuses can be geniuses.”