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Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an American company that was founded in May 1975 by . It is a division of the film production company, , which Lucas founded, and was created when Lucas began production of the film . It is also the original founder company of the animation studio .

ILM originated in , , then later moved to in 1978, and since 2005 it has been based at the in the . In 2012, acquired ILM as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm.



Industrial Light & Magic original logo, designed by

Lucas wanted his 1977 film to include visual effects that had never been seen on film before. After discovering that the in-house effects department at was no longer operational, Lucas approached , best known for the effects on (1968). Trumbull declined as he was already committed to working on 's film (1977), but suggested his assistant to Lucas. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists, and engineers, and set them up in a warehouse in . Lucas named the group Industrial Light and Magic, which became the Special Visual Effects department on Star Wars. Alongside Dykstra, other leading members of the original ILM team were , , , , , , , and Paul Huston.

In late 1978, when in pre-production for , Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in . From here on, the company expanded and has since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films, including the entire saga, the series, the series, the series, the , many of the films, , , the series, the sequels, the films, the series, films, , most of the films, , , , and , and also provided work for , alongside .

In addition to their work for George Lucas, ILM also collaborates with on most films that he directs, and for many that he produces as well. has acted as Computer Animation Supervisor on many of these films.

Apart from flashy special effects, the company also works on more subtle effects—such as widening streets, digitally adding more extras to a shot, and inserting the film's actors into preexisting footage—in films including , , , , and several films.

Parking and building of the first company headquarters of ILM in . Here all the special effects of the first Star Wars movie (1977) were produced.

After the success of the first Star Wars movie, Lucas became interested in using on the sequel. So he contacted , known for their early computer effects in movies like (1973) and (1976), which ended up making a computer generated test of five X-Wing fighters flying in formation. He found it to be too expensive and returned to handmade models. But the test had showed him it was possible, and he decided he would create his own computer graphics department instead. One of Lucas' employees was given the task to find the right people to hire. His search would lead him to NYIT, where he found and his colleagues. Catmull and others accepted Lucas' job offer, and a new computer division at ILM was created in 1979 with the hiring of Ed Catmull as the first NYIT employee who joined Lucasfilm., who was hired a few years later, worked on computer animation as part of ILM's contribution to . The Graphics Group was later sold to , named , and created the first CG animated feature, .

In 2000, ILM created the format for .

ILM operated from an inconspicuous property in San Rafael, California until 2005. The company was known to locals as . The name 'Kerner Opticals' did not raise any eyebrows and kept the media away from the facility which was always trying to get a peek at the projects going on at ILM. ILM was a big name and projects which required utmost secrecy operated out of the Kerner Opticals facility. In 2005, when Lucas decided to move locations to the Presidio of San Francisco and focus on digital effects, a management-led team bought the five physical and practical effects divisions and formed a new company that included the George Lucas Theater, retained the "Kerner" name as Kerner Technologies, Inc. and provided physical effects for major motion pictures, often working with ILM, until its Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2011.

In 2005, ILM extended its operations to Lucasfilm , which also includes the Singapore arm of . In 2011, it was announced the company was considering a project-based facility in .. Vancouver's first location opened in 2013 and ILM opened a second location in Vancouver in 2017.

In 2006, ILM invented IMoCap (Image Based Motion Capture Technology).

In 2012, Disney bought ILM's parent company, Lucasfilm, and acquired ILM in the process. Disney stated that it had no immediate plans to change ILM's operations, but began to lay off employees by April of the next year.

Following the restructuring of in April 2013, ILM was left overstaffed and the faculty was to serve only ILM's visual effects department.[11]

ILM opened a studio headquartered in the city's district on October 15, 2014.

As of 2016, ILM has received 16 and 40 additional nominations. It has also received 24 Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

ILM is currently the largest visual effects vendor in the motion picture industry, with regards to workforce, with more than 500 artists. It has one of the largest currently available with more than 7500 nodes.


  • 1975: Resurrected the use of ; first use of a ()
  • 1980: First use of to animate the Tauntaun creatures of
  • 1982: First in-house completely computer-generated sequence — the "Genesis sequence" in . (Previous computer graphics in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope were done outside of ILM.)
  • 1985: First completely computer-generated character, the "stained glass man" in
  • 1988: First sequence, in
  • 1988: First of a full-screen live action image during the final sequence in
  • 1989: First character to show emotion, the creature in
  • 1991: First-ever dimensional matte painting — where a traditional matte painting was mapped onto 3D geometry, allowing for camera parallax, in .
  • 1991: First partially computer-generated main character, the in
  • 1992: First time the texture of human skin was computer generated, in
  • 1993: First time digital technology used to create a complete and detailed living creature, the in , which earned ILM its thirteenth Oscar
  • 1994: First extensive use of digital manipulation of historical and stock footage to integrate characters in .
  • 1995: First fully synthetic speaking character, with a distinct personality and emotion, to take a leading role in
  • 1995: First computer-generated photo-realistic hair and fur (used for the digital lion and monkeys) in
  • 1996: First completely computer-generated main character, Draco in
  • 1999: First computer generated character to have a full human anatomy, Imhotep in
  • 2000: Creates imaging format.
  • 2006: Develops iMocap system, which uses computer vision techniques to track live-action performers on set. Used in the creation of Davy Jones and ship's crew in the film
  • 2011: First animated feature produced by ILM,



Notable employees and clients[]

was first used at the Industrial Light & Magic as an image-processing program. Photoshop was created by ILM Visual Effects Supervisor and his brother as a summer project. It was used on . The Knoll brothers sold the program to Adobe shortly before the film's release.[]. Thomas Knoll continues to work on Photoshop at Adobe and is featured in the billing on the Photoshop splash screen. John Knoll continues to be ILM's top visual effects supervisor.

, and of fame have all worked at Industrial Light & Magic.

Industrial Light & Magic is also famous for their commercial work. Their clients include , , , , , , , , and other companies.[]

Actor worked on several major ILM productions as a , including , before joining the cast of the NBC show as .

American film director worked at ILM for four years in the early 1980s.[]

Film director was a Visual effects artist and an Art Director.

Film Director was a Visual Effects animator who directed which was released in 1997.

See also[]


  1. ^ . 
  2. . Los Angeles Times. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  3. . StarWars.com. LucasFilm. July 15, 1999. Archived from on February 16, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  4. Documentary:
  5. ,
  6. LATimes (31 October 2012). . Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  7. . Starwarsprequelappreciationsociety.wordpress.com (2013-04-03). Retrieved on 2013-09-04.
  8. . . 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  9. Cohen, David S. (3 April 2013). . Variety. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  10. Ritman, Alex (October 16, 2014). . The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  11. . ilm.com. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  12. . WIRED's Design FX. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  13. Documentary:
  14. Mythbusters. Season 16. Episode 10. March 2016. 
  15. Gaudiosi, John (25 October 2006). . . 

External links[]