Industrial Light & Magic

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Industrial Light & Magic
Industry Visual effects, Computer-generated imagery, Feature animation, Television animation
Founded May 1975
Founder George Lucas
Headquarters Letterman Digital Arts Center,
Presidio of San Francisco, California, United States
Key people
Sam Mercer
(Head of Studio)
John Knoll
(Chief Creative Officer)
Dennis Muren
Parent Lucasfilm
(The Walt Disney Company)

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an American motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas. It is a division of the film production company, Lucasfilm, which Lucas founded, and was created when Lucas began production of the film Star Wars. For many years, particularly during the widespread inception of computer graphics in film during the 1980s, ILM was considered the leading industry standard production house for computer graphics in film; many studios other than Lucasfilm sent scenes to the studio for CGI. It is also the original founder company of the animation studio Pixar.

ILM originated in Van Nuys, California, then later moved to San Rafael in 1978, and since 2005 it has been based at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired ILM as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm.[1]


Industrial Light & Magic original logo, designed by Drew Struzan

Lucas wanted his 1977 film Star Wars to include visual effects that had never been seen on film before. After discovering that the in-house effects department at 20th Century Fox was no longer operational, Lucas approached Douglas Trumbull, famous for the effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull declined as he was already committed to working on Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but suggested his assistant John Dykstra to Lucas. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists, and engineers, and set them up in a warehouse in Van Nuys, California. 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 Ken Ralston, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson, and Paul Huston.

In late 1978, when in pre-production for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. From here on, the company expanded and has since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films, including the entire Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones series, the Harry Potter series, the Jurassic Park series, the Back to the Future trilogy, many of the Star Trek films, Ghostbusters II, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the Terminator sequels, the Transformers films, the Men in Black series, Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Wild Wild West, most of the Mission: Impossible films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, *batteries not included, The Abyss, Flubber, and also provided work for Avatar, alongside Weta Digital.

In addition to their work for George Lucas, ILM also collaborates with Steven Spielberg on most films that he directs, and for many that he produces as well. Dennis Muren has acted as Visual Effects 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 Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, Snow Falling on Cedars, Magnolia, and several Woody Allen films.

After the success of the first Star Wars movie, Lucas became interested in using computer-generated imagery on the sequel. So he contacted Triple-I, known for their early computer effects in movies like Westworld and Futureworld, 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 Edwin Catmull 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.[2] John Lasseter, who was hired a few years later, worked on computer animation as part of ILM's contribution to Young Sherlock Holmes. The Graphics Group was later sold to Steve Jobs, named Pixar, and created the first CG animated feature, Toy Story.

In 2000, ILM created the OpenEXR format for high-dynamic-range imaging.[3]

ILM operated from an inconspicuous property in San Rafael, California until 2005. The company was known to locals as The Kerner Company. 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 Singapore, which also includes the Singapore arm of Lucasfilm Animation. In 2011, it was announced the company was considering a project-based facility in Vancouver.[4]

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

As of 2009, ILM has received 15 Best Visual Effects Oscars and 23 additional nominations. It has also received 24 Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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,[5] but began to lay off employees by April of the next year.[6]

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 render farms currently available with more than 7500 nodes. Following the restructuring of LucasArts in April 2013, ILM was left overstaffed and the faculty was reduced to serve only ILM's visual effects department.[7][8]

ILM opened a London studio headquartered in the city's Soho district on October 15, 2014.[9]


ILM filmography[edit]

Year Name of film[10]

Transformers: The Ride


Future releases[edit]

Year Name of film


Year Name of television show[33]

Notable employees and clients[edit]

Photoshop was first used at the Industrial Light & Magic as an image-processing program. Photoshop was created by ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll and his brother Thomas as a summer project. It was used on The Abyss. The Knoll brothers sold the program to Adobe shortly before the film's release.[citation needed]

Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci of MythBusters fame have all worked at Industrial Light & Magic.[citation needed]

Industrial Light & Magic is also famous for their commercial work. Their clients include Energizer, Benson & Hedges, Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Nickelodeon and other companies.[citation needed]

Actor Masi Oka worked on several major ILM productions as a programmer, including Revenge of the Sith, before joining the cast of the NBC show Heroes as Hiro Nakamura.[35]

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

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

Film Director Mark A.Z. Dippé was a Visual Effects animator who directed Spawn (film) which was released in 1997.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Disney would acquire a visual effects firm with Lucasfilm deal". Los Angeles Times. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  2. ^ 1970's - School of Computer Science - Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science
  3. ^ a b "About OpenEXR". ILM. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Lucasfilm's Industrial Light + Magic Exploring Opening New Facility in Vancouver, The Hollywood Reporter
  5. ^ LATimes (31 October 2012). "Disney would acquire a visual effects firm with Lucasfilm deal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  6. ^ LucasArts Shut Down, Layoffs At ILM |. (2013-04-03). Retrieved on 2013-09-04.
  7. ^ "Disney to Shut LucasArts Videogame Unit". The Wall Street Journal. 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  8. ^ Cohen, David S. (3 April 2013). "LucasArts Shutdown Triggers Layoffs at ILM". Variety. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Ritman, Alex (October 16, 2014). "Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic Opens London Studio". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Our Work". Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  12. ^ "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Dragonslayer". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "The Dark Crystal". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Poltergeist". Our Work. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi". Our Work. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  20. ^ Failes, Ian (February 21, 2011). "Lumen-escent: the VFX of I Am Number Four". Creating killer machines – the Pikens. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of "Star Trek Into Darkness"". ILMVisualFX. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "Behind The Magic - Invisible Effects of "The Lone Ranger"". Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  23. ^ Failes, Ian. "VFX adventures: The Lone Ranger". Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  24. ^ Failes, Ian. "Monster mayhem: Pacific Rim". Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Failes, Ian. "Elysium: a practical, miniature and digital fx odyssey". Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  26. ^ Failes, Ian. "Case Studies In Invisible Effects". Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  27. ^ Failes, Ian. "Character Ark: the visual effects of Noah". fxguide. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  28. ^ Failes, Ian. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier – reaching new heights". Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  29. ^ Failes, Ian. "Age of Extinction: ILM turns up its Transformers toolset". Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  30. ^ "the vfx show #187: Lucy". Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  31. ^ Cohen, David S. "‘Star Wars,’ ‘Avengers’ Spawn Industrial Light & Magic’s London Expansion". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  32. ^ Makuch, Eddie (November 9, 2013). "Star Wars effects studio working on Warcraft film, an Orcs vs. Humans origin story". Gamespot. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Our Work". Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  34. ^ "AGENT CARTER: Creating Movie Effects on a TV Schedule". WIRED's Design FX. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  35. ^ Gaudiosi, John (25 October 2006). "Masi Oka: Coder, Actor, Hero". Wired. 

External links[edit]