Visualizing The Future

Quicklinks on this Page

 Hollywood's Future
 Hollywood Matures
 Industrial Light and Magic
 Technology Timeline

 Pixar Animation Studios
 Hollywood and Science
 Suspension of Disbelief
 The Story

Hollywood's Future

Credit goes to Hollywood for influencing the way most people in the new millennium view the future. Even when those visions are "cheesy" (a reference usually to the old "B" movies of the 50s and 60s) they still affected the imagination. In movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), War of the Worlds (1953 George Pal version), and even Abbot and Costello Go to Mars (1953), special effects capabilities were considerably limited by today's standards. It was the days of flying plates with cups in the center and bad actors covered in green paint. Well, it wasn't that bad.

At the time, some of these movies were not considered cheesy but innovative. Filmmakers began to look at the future and the realm of sci-fi with relative seriousness. War of the Worlds, directed by George Pal, won an Oscar for its special effects. George Pal was to the 50s what Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and George Lukas are to the 70s and now (2006).

But, we need to go back farther than the 50s when it comes to sci-fi master visions of the future. H.G. Well's, The Time Machine, was published in 1898. As much as we take his novel for granted in the 21st century, it's important to realize just how "visionary" Well's was in a time of no cars and streets lit by gas lights, yet alone time machines.

Jules Verne preceded Wells in his 1864 novel, Voyage to the Center of the Earth, a year before Lewis Carroll's, Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is considered more fantasy than sci-fi, although the line between the two genres is often a thin one. In The Time Machine, we actually traveled into the future. But other sci-fi visions were more imaginings of the time or no time in particular, rather than prophetic visions of the future. It was a "vision" of the way things could be now-now, being a relative term.

Of course, visions of the future are by no means solely credited to fiction writers and moviemakers. Writers and movie makers were-and still are-more like ambassadors for the scientists and innovators who plot and plan for a changing world. Leonardo da Vinci was fooling around with flying machines in the 1400s. And long before that, Plato was envisioning utopia in his imaginary city of Magnesia (Plato's, Republic, and other works by Plato).

Hollywood Matures

Now Hollywood has grown up, and the special effects (F/X) used in the New Millennium rival the most advanced scientific technologies of the day. In fact Hollywood-or more accurately the world of filmmaking-has been instrumental in the development of new visualization techniques and tools. Director George Lukas's use of a full motion camera in 1977 during the making of Star Wars was as innovative as stop motion animation was in the early 1900s.

Willis O'Brien was a stop motion pioneer as early as 1916, but it was his innovative work in King Kong (1933) that put him on the F/X map. O'Brien's work led to Ray Harryhausen, who lifted stop motion to new levels in the film, Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Of course, credit must also be given to Greek Mythology for the tales of Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.

Behind Hollywood movies is a technological backbone of immense strength and power. Innovation comes from numerous companies like Disney and Stan Winston, to the 1000s of artists and technicians that make things happen. Three companies that best represent this backbone are Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Pixar Animation Studios, and Silicon Graphics (SGI).

ILM: Industrial Light and Magic

Following a stream of lesser known successors and born out of the success of Star Wars, George Lukas launched Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in the late 70s. ILM's Computer Division is responsible for a slew of advances in digital imaging, electronic editing, and interactivity.

Improving on the 3-D camera techniques of the 1950s and the 1960s, powerful tools were needed. Lucas built the framework for computer animation and special effects (F/X), and continues to push barriers through the new millennium. The success of Star Wars changed movie history. Since its release, seldom is there a movie produced without some kind of computer-generated F/X. Computers became not only integral to how films were made and produced, but even conceived.

ILM's Technology Timeline

Note: Not all technical achievements are listed.

1977
Star Wars marked the first use of a motion control camera.

1979
Lucas sets up ILM's Computer Division to explore new uses of computers for digital imaging, electronic editing, and interactivity.

1982
The "Genesis sequence" for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, marks the first completely computer-generated sequence.

1984
Lucasfilm pioneers disc-based computerized electronic nonlinear editing for picture and sound and premiered EditDroid and SoundDroid at the National Association of Broadcasters conference.

1985
The first completely computer-generated character is created with the "stained glass man" in Young Sherlock Holmes.

1986
Lucas sells off the rendering software portion of ILM's Computer Division. The spin-off becomes the leading animation company in the world, Pixar Animation.

1988
The first morphing sequence for motion pictures in created for the movie, Willow. ILM wins technical achievement awards for the development of Morf, a computer-graphics program allowing the fluid, onscreen transformation of one object to another.

1989
The first computer generated three-dimensional character, "pseudopod," debuts in The Abyss.

1991
The first computer graphics generated lead character is created with the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Skywalker Sound introduces the first utilization of T-1 tie-lines for real-time digital audio transmission to distant locations.

1993
ILM wins its 12th Academy Award for computer graphics work on Death Becomes Her and its fifth Academy Technical Achievement Award. The Award marks the first time human skin texture is computer generated.

Avid Technology acquired the EditDroid and SoundDroid technologies and joined forces with Lucasfilm to develop and produce the next generation of digital picture and sound editing systems.

Lucas Digital Ltd. and Silicon Graphics formed an exclusive alliance to create JEDI, a unique networked environment for digital production. JEDI is a beta test sight for Silicon Graphics equipment and allows the artists and technicians at ILM to advise SGI on future developments.

1994
ILM wins its 13th Academy Award for work on the computer-generated dinosaurs for Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park and its sixth Academy Technical Achievement Award for pioneering work on film digitization. Digital technology is used for the first time to create a living, breathing dinosaur with skin, muscles, texture, movement and personality.

1995
ILM wins its 14th Academy Award for its breakthrough work on Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump features a slew of breakthroughs such as the seamless integration of historical documentary footage, computer-generated jets, helicopters, birds, crowds, and even ping-pong balls bouncing back and forth during a playoff.

An Oscar nomination is won for the first photo-real cartoon character in The Mask. ILM turns a human being into a cartoon character.

The first fully synthetic speaking characters with distinct personalities and emotions are created for the movie, Casper. The ghost characters garnish more than 40 minutes of screen time.

The first computer-generated photo-realistic hair and fur are created for the digital lion and monkeys in Jumanji. The stampede scene, featuring dozens of elephants, rhinos, zebras and pelicans, were all computer-generated.

1996
ILM wins another Technical Achievement Award for pioneering work in digital film compositing.

In Mission: Impossible, the first fully virtual set is used for the climactic action sequence, requiring a computer-generated train speeding through a computer-generated tunnel followed by a computer-generated helicopter. Actors were digitally composited into the virtual set to complete the scene.

Twister's Digital tornadoes in Twister were entirely computer-generated using particle systems animation software.

ILM's proprietary facial animation software gives life to the 3D digital character Draco in Dragonheart.

1997
Two more Technical Achievement Awards are earned for the creation and development of the Direct Input Device used by stop-motion animators and for the development of a system to create and control computer-generated hair and fur.

ILM gets a Scientific and Engineering Award for the development of the Viewpaint 3D Paint System. The system allows artists to color and texture details to computer-generated effects. This is the 12th Scientific and Engineering award won by ILM.

Skywalker Sound installs the Capricorn, manufactured by AMS Neve, the largest digital audio console at any audio post-production facility in the world.

Soundtrack mixes for Contact and Titanic earn Academy Award nominations for best sound. Utilizing more sound elements (including dialogue loops and sound effects) than any feature film in history, Titanic wins an Oscar for best sound combined with best awards from Motion Picture Sound Editors and Cinema Audio Society.

1998
ILM secures two patents for proprietary techniques. One for "hair, fur and feathers," illustrated in the groundbreaking images of the computer-generated gorilla in Mighty Joe Young. The other patent was awarded for the facial animation software initially developed in 1995 for Casper. Newer versions were used in Men in Black and other movies.

Saving Private Ryan earns Skywalker Sound two Academy Awards for best sound and sound effects editing. It's the most realistic soundtrack ever used for a battle scene.

1999
The facial animation software "Caricature," having already been awarded a patent, is given a boost with ILM's latest Technical Achievement Award.

The award states: "By integrating existing tools into a powerful interactive system, and adding an expressive multi-target shape interpolation-based freeform animation system, the Caricature system provided a degree of subtlety and refinement not possible with other systems."

ILM's camera department received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for pioneering work in motion-controlled, silent dollies.

The Mummy featured the most realistic digital human character ever seen in film.

90% of George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode I "The Phantom Menace" featured digital effects shots. Synthetic environments, digital terrain generation, computer graphic lead characters and 1000s of digital extras are completely computer-generated. ILM wins an Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects.

2000
ILM wins a BAFTA Award for best special visual effects, and a nomination for an Academy Award for best achievement in visual effects, for the digital waves and weather created for the movie, The Perfect Storm.

2001
ILM creates the first real-time interactive on-set visualization process allowing filmmakers to place actors in virtual sets providing complete freedom with camera moves. Steven Spielberg uses the same process in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. ILM earns another Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects.

Another nomination is given out for the attack scenes in Pearl Harbor, featuring digitally manifested World War II era airplanes and ships together with the fire and smoke generated from all the explosions.

2002
Two more Technical Achievement Awards, numbers 15 and 16, are earned for the creation and development of ILM's proprietary Motion and Structure Recovery System (MARS) and ILM's Creature Dynamics System.

The release of Star Wars: Episode II "Attack of the Clones" marks the first major motion picture to be shot completely on digital HD video.

2003

With the release of The Hulk, ILM creates a digital human character with (green) skin, hair, muscles, clothing, personality and emotions in the Hulk.

Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar started as the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group in 1979, which was reorganized in 1983 to become Pixar and a games division. It focused on software development, but also designed and developed hardware in house. The Pixar Image Computer, which was intended for the high-end visualization markets such as medicine, was eventually sold. The commercial group worked in the advertising area, and was discontinued in 1995.

Pixar was purchased by Steve Jobs from Lucasfilm in 1986. As part of the deal, Lucasfilm retained rights to access to the Pixar technology. Software created by Pixar includes REYES (Renders Everything You Ever Saw,) CAPS (with Disney), Marionette, an animation software system that allows animators to model and animate characters and add lighting effects, and Ringmaster, which is production management software that schedules, coordinates, and tracks a computer animation project.

The applications development group worked to convert the REYES technology to the RenderMan product, which was commercialized in 1989. It received Academy Technical Awards in 1992 for CAPS (1992), RenderMan (1993), digital scanning technology (1995), Marionette and digital painting (1997), and for laser film recording technology (1999).

Pixar is well known for a series of short film productions, including Luxo Jr. (1986), Red's Dream (1987), Tin Toy (1988), KnickKnack (1989), Geri's Game (1997), and One Man Band (2005). It won Oscars for Tin Toy in 1988 (Luxo Jr. was nominated in 1986) and Geri's Game in 1998. The company has won several Academy Technical Achievement awards, Golden Globes, and Clio's, and been awarded a number of U.S patents.

Pixar is especially well known for its animated feature-length films. In 1995, Pixar created the immensely popular movie, Toy Story. In 1998 the animated feature, A Bug's Life, set box office records. Other major successes followed, like Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), and Finding Nemo (2003), and the Incredibles (2004). The film recording technology mastered by hardware guru David DeFrancisco is being incorporated into a revolutionary new laser film recorder called PixarVision.

From December 14, 2005 to February 6, 2006, The Museum of Modern Art presented a special exhibit, "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation." The major exhibit featured work by the artists of Pixar Animation Studios that brought together all of Pixar's feature films and shorts. Numerous other artists contributed paintings, sculptures and other works of art using themes from Pixar films. Pixar artists work in traditional media-hand drawings, painting, sculpture, and CGI to create their films.

The Museum of Modern Art has a long history of presenting exhibitions of animation art and animation screening. The Department of Film and Media was founded in the 1930s, starting with the exhibit, A Short History of Animation: The Cartoon 1879-1933. Gallery exhibitions have included Walt Disney's Bambi: The Making of an Animated Sound Film (1942), That's Not All Folks! Warner Bros. Animation (1985-86), and Designing Magic: Disney Animation Art (1995). Most recently, MOMA presented the animation film series, Anime!! (2005) and Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata: Masters of Animation (2005).

SGI: Silicon Graphics

Silicon Graphics (SGI) is perhaps the leading maker of simulation, modeling and animation software and hardware, combining high-performance computing and data management technologies with advanced visualization capabilities. The world's leading companies and institutions employ SGI technology. SGI caters to virtually every industry.

SGI is best known for work done with Hollywood's special effects studios. Silicon Graphics has a 20-year history in the entertainment and production markets, helping to popularize 3D graphics and animation with advances in OpenGL and API-compliant graphics hardware and in the power of personal desktop computers. Silicon Graphics visualization systems provide editing, compositing, and film mastering and restoration applications in media. These solutions are changing the way new films are made and older titles are re-mastered.

The SGI Media Server for broadcast is designed with an understanding of the needs for managing both video and data in a broadcast facility. Superior LAN/WAN media distribution is a key element. Broadcast system integration services include customer qualification, site planning assistance, hardware installation, network configuration, connection of peripheral devices, software configuration, and integration with third-party systems.

SGI is the best example of the convergence of science and entertainment. The entertainment industry and scientific community use the same SGI applications.

Many diagnostic imaging devices and computer-aided surgical tools in use today are powered by SGI computers, such as MRI, CT, Computer-guided surgery devices, and surgery simulators. SGI products have delivered reliable performance in a multitude of health care environments, from radiology departments to university research centers. Security features (standard to the IRIX operating system) provide answers to the requirements for healthcare information privacy.

A dedicated in-house team of medical industry experts, medical physicists, physicians, and engineers coordinates the efforts of SGI in the medical market space. SGI focuses on three areas: diagnostic imaging, medical image management and communications, and computer-aided surgery and simulation. SGI has long-standing working relationships with the medical industry's leading manufacturers and software providers.

Tools include scalable computational servers, high-performance storage, and advanced 3D visualization combined with robust and leading-edge application software. Research centers and universities around the world use SGI technologies to store, process, and interpret massive data sets.

Large data questions produce bigger data answers that strain the human ability to understand the answer in order to ask the next question. SGI's comprehensive visualization solutions allow researchers to see their data, understand it quickly, and formulate new questions in a timely fashion. Visualization of data allows for unequalled collaborative interpretation and decision making.

Solutions include SGI's proprietary Silicon Graphics Prism, Silicon Graphics Onyx4, Universal access to advanced visualization with Visual Area Networking, and group collaboration with SGI Reality Center.

SGI provides solutions for science centers, planetariums, and museums. Applications allow people to explore the universe, cruise along a strand of DNA, stroll into a virtual model of an Egyptian tomb, and examine minute details of priceless works of art--interactively. There are many other "virtual space" applications.

These compelling and educational applications, described as experiential computing, are made possible by unique SGI visualization technology. Experiential computing is defined as the combination of high-resolution imagery, real-time interactivity, and immersive visualization.

SGI Reality Center Advanced Visualization Facilities deliver the highest realism and performance possible for collaborative visualization. Reality Center facilities provide real-time, highly interactive working solutions for design review and engineering, complex data analysis, critical and/or hazardous training, sales and marketing, scientific research and analysis, education and exploration, command and control operations, and Collaborative and interactive solutions.

Visualization is the common language that allows people from different backgrounds, training, and expertise to engage in an immediately productive working session. SGI Reality Center facilities are powered by scalable visualization systems designed to drive large-scale, immersive, and multi-projector environments. SGI scalable visualization systems offer superior performance and unique features such as clip-mapping, texture paging, volume rendering, multi-stream HDTV video manipulation, multichannel output, and immersion support.

SGI derives a large source of its revenue from government applications by providing scalable computing, collaborative visualization, and complex data management solutions. Government applications cover ballistic missile defense, homeland security, weather and climate forecasting, simulation-based acquisition, training systems, research and development, command and control, and surveillance and reconnaissance. The largest technical users are governments worldwide that are focused on applications of national defense and intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security, health care and social services, scientific research and education, transportation and communication, and energy and the environment.

Other industries include manufacturing and energy in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, and oil and gas sectors.

Hollywood and Science: A Love Story

The battle for envisioning the future between sci-fi and real science is really a "which came first, the chicken or egg" question. It's hard to say how many scientists were influenced by Stanley Kubrick's, 2001: Space Odyssey, or how much Kubrick was influenced by advances in computer technology and space exploration. The Internet was born before the movie Matrix, but the Matrix has eerily prophesized where the Internet might be headed so many decades into the future.

And the chicken or egg question is really a moot one. Let's call the relationship between Hollywood and science a wonderfully symbiotic one, neither of which can do without the other. Hollywood will continue to push the barrier, allowing us to see life on planets and imaginary futuristic worlds that telescopes and scientific forecasting techniques can't give us. Meanwhile, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and the building of biospheres will inspire a whole new generation of films.

Hollywood's Construction of Reality

Hollywood doesn't just create an image or even a vision. It creates entire universes with unknown galaxies. It builds replicas of planets, spaceships, cities, ships and every conceivable kind of building. Something most movie goers don't realize is the end credits-when most everyone is walking out of a theater or ejecting a video/DVD-is a list of names and job titles represent nothing short of a small if not mid-sized company. The crews for many films number in the hundreds. The image-the view-we get as movie watchers is the result of 100s of workers building sets, designing costumes, setting lights, and planning camera angles. Each shot is often planned with military precision. And what can't be done on a set is now done on a computer.

Big budget special effects (F/X) movies like Star Wars, the Lion King, Terminator, Titanic and Day after Tomorrow, have become notorious for their whopping multi-million dollar price tags. Price tags are not what are amazing. What's amazing is what goes into creating what some call illusion, others call fantasy, and still others call a glimpse of truth.

Constructing an image goes beyond the selection of a lens and camera, set designer, costumer, production designer, stunt coordinator and actors. It's not just a construction of an image but a re-construction of reality. 150 million dollar movies are now common knowledge. But what these movies really are, are 150 million dollar images-visions of a team of talent, crew and business who've come together to present their collective view. It is their telling of a story; their "picture" of a much larger picture. In fact, it's not a team. It's a company of 200-300 employees taking months if not years of planning to put together a "vision" that gets expressed in a two-hour movie.

Interesting in how some stories are "timeless." Few survivors and scattered accounts exist to tell the story of the Titanic. No one was taking pictures at the time. No doubt by today's standards, someone would have captured the horror on digital video.

Suspension of Disbelief

In the movie, Titanic, James Cameron came close to rebuilding the doomed ship. His "replica" was built according to original blueprint specifications. In Jurassic Park, paleontologists, along with Steven Spielberg's imagination, combined to give us the closest we've ever come to knowing what a dinosaur looks like.

Hollywood uses many tools and techniques to create images, which ultimately tell a story: 3D Modeling, weather simulation, set building, blue-screen projection, sound layering (F/X, music and dialog), animation, stunts, lights, acting, storyboards, puppets, CGI, and all the ingredients of a screenplay: the blueprint of a movie.

The trick is to use drama to make the image seem real. But no matter what tricks Hollywood uses, or how close it comes to something real, movie makers are entirely dependent on an audience's willingness to temporarily suspend disbelief. People want to believe dogs can talk, angels exist, and some regular Joe or Jane is going to save the planet from an alien attack.

It's hard to say what effects giant sharks, evil fog, and robot wars have on movie goers, yet alone a global audience. Most people know when something is "only make believe". But then, how many people could not go in the ocean after seeing Jaws? Do we think twice about global warming after seeing The Day After Tomorrow? The visions of Minority Report, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Matrix and the whole Star War series are certainly plausible ones in terms of where technology is headed.

A popular image used to illustrate how far we've come technologically is to show a group of cave dwellers or a primitive tribe viewing a TV for the first time. Our perspectives of fantasy and reality depend on what we have to use for comparisons.

Hollywood has been criticized for taking far too much liberty with historical fact. The line of defense is poetic license, or enhancement for dramatic effect. Like "Buyer Beware" in product purchases, it's "Viewer Beware" in media consumption.

It's a tough call in saying whether films educate or entertain. A story might not be historically accurate, but it can bring attention to historical events that otherwise would go unnoticed. The movie Braveheart is a good example, where only the most astute students of history would know who William Wallace was.

What could be more exciting than a motorcycle chase through a herd of stampeding dinosaurs? In movies, drama and action are used to enhance the image-make the image come alive. Animators are performers, too. The goal of an animator is not only in showing what a dinosaur looks like, but also how it moves, what it eats, and what it sounds like. Ironically, it's the use of fantasy to create realism.

The Story

The criticism that Hollywood is all about special effects is not true. The heart of any movie lies in its story…and there are many stories. There are heart-warming tales of reunited fathers and sons, lovers meeting for the first time, best friends growing up, and animals rescued from near death.

We get to see the humanity in others who otherwise go unnoticed in everyday life. Spiderman isn't so much about the wish fulfillment of being a superhero as it is about an average guy struggling with family and identity problems, meanwhile searching for love. Rocky is not about a boxer winning a championship, but about an ordinary person overcoming obstacles to finally find a way to believe in himself. Sigourney Weaver demonstrates in Alien how a woman can boldly and bravely save the planet, even if it means fighting a very ugly monster from outerspace.

Movie history is a fascinating one with very dramatic pivotal events. Screenwriters weren't around when Thomas Edison first invented the motion picture camera. In the silent era, a series of vignettes or action sequences was the best anyone could hope for in terms of a telling a story without sound. Without sound, there's no dialog. Without dialog, there's no character. Without character, there's no story.

However, there have been many interesting experiments done in telling stories visually without dialog, or minimal use of dialog. Quest for Fire and 2001: A Space Odyssey are two examples. Plus, since movies are a visual medium, it's the primary quest of a moviemaker to tell a story visually. To be more accurate, everything serves to tell a story, not the other way around. The score, sets, costumes, sound effects, camera angles, and even the actors, are all story telling devices that when combined, tell a story.

As film technology developed, namely the addition of sound and color, writers from all the worlds of literature, theater and journalism poured into Hollywood. During the 30s, some of the world's most famous writers wrote Hollywood scripts, like William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Jr., F. Scott Fitzgerald, Berthold Brecht, and Thomas Mann.

This holds true today, although most movies based on well known novels use screenwriters other than the original novelist to write the screenplay. Peter Benchley was the source behind Jaws. Ian Fleming launched the James Bond series. John Grisham gave us The Pelican Brief. Gene Rodenberry was behind Star Trek and J.K. Rowling is behind-the-scenes, generating the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series.

Very few screenwriters are as well known as novelists, but that doesn't stop them from making millions of dollars, in some cases. It wasn't always that way and very few screenwriters command such high salaries. When scriptwriters aren't writing screenplays, they're writing sitcoms for TV, an entirely different way of telling a story.

Writing for TV presents an entirely different way of telling a story largely due to two reasons: shows are syndicated over time and are subjected to repeated commercial advertising interruption. Throughout the history of radio and TV, it's hard to say if programming served advertising, or if advertising rode on the back of programming. With cable TV and subscription services, that all changed. Plus, now TV shows can be downloaded from the Internet, completely free of commercial interruption.

Although writers remain behind the scenes, there is not one single Academy Award winning actor or actress who would've won without a powerful, moving story behind them. An actor can spend weeks, months, sometimes even years, searching for the right script to launch or re-launch a career.

The impact stories in movies have on culture and society is immeasurable. Box office sales and DVD/video rentals are one way to measure in terms of business and commerce. But the fact that many people know more about their favorite stars than they do about their next door neighbors paints an entirely different picture.

Famous lines like "Make my day" and "Here's looking' at you, kid" become the language of pop culture. Everyone dreams of being a famous Hollywood actor or actress; it's the best life has to offer. But even more difficult to see, is the impact a story has, without all the glitter and glamour attached to it. We are frightened. We cry. We laugh. We are amazed. We are inspired. We identify.

Hollywood, and the stories behind it, has a negative side as well. From around 1947 to 1960, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee began a vicious campaign against suspected Communists. Hollywood was one of his main targets. Many writers, actors and other film personnel were blacklisted, often forced to use fake names to continue working.

Today, filmmakers--and writers--work under the scrutiny of the Parental Advisory Board, an organization dedicated to ensuring Hollywood stays on a good moral track. The pornography world thrives in spite of any rating system. The rating system is essentially one that rates content for violence and sex. Some movies become targets for attack by other groups, like Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ by Christian religious groups and Philadelphia by gay groups.

Many scenes in movies manage to float just under the moral radar, and parents can't watch their children all the time. In fact, some parents seldom adhere to restricting their child's viewing of movies based on ratings. Movies like Halloween and I Know What You Did Last Summer are filled with violence, and are openly targeted to those 18 and younger.

Watching the credits at the end of a movie will reveal there are anywhere from a 100 to 200 people responsible for the movie coming to life. Both those are only the people involved in the making of the movie. From there, movie critics, theater owners and a vast marketing and distribution system work to make the movie a flop or a success. Ultimately, a movie's success rests with the audience.

Why people love the movies goes beyond escapism or the need to simply be entertained. True, movies are not like the documentaries we see in school, showing the lives of insects and how trees grow. But movies are definitely educational, if not in a scholastic sense. They teach us about ourselves. They increase our awareness about different cultures, technological change and places we never knew existed.

The worlds of Hollywood, optics, photography, art and science collide in a frenzied race to create a vision of the past, present and future.

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