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How a Boeing worker invented computer graphics for movies

A screen grab from former-Seattleite Loren Carpenter's groundbreaking movie "Vol Libre."

In a blast from the past, the public radio show Bullseye dug up Seattle’s connection to the first video showing the genesis of computer-generated images or graphics in movies.

In 1980, Boeing employee and University of Washington graduate Loren Carpenter presented a two-minute computer generated movie call “Vol Libre” that almost immediately revolutionized moviemaking.

“I can imagine watching it in 1980 and just knowing that you’re seeing the future,” said Bullseye’s guest Jason Kottke.

Here’s the video:

Vol Libre from Loren Carpenter on Vimeo.

Kottke runs the website, which Bullseye host Jesse Thorn calls “a collection of some of the finest links the internet has to offer.”

Kottke writes that Carpenter’s video, presented at a computer graphics conference, was the world's first film using fractals to generate the graphics.

According to Wikipedia:

"The video showcased Carpenter’s “software for generating and rendering fractally generated landscapes, and was met with a standing ovation, and (as Carpenter had hoped) he was immediately invited to work at Lucasfilm's Computer Division (which would be come Pixar). … There Carpenter worked on the "genesis effect" scene of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which featured an entire fractally-landscaped planet.”

Hat Tip to KPLU’s Gabrial Spitzer.