Canadian computer companies take lead in special effects


By Sarah King
Amalgamated Academy
Bay Roberts, Newfoundland

Canadian companies are playing a big part in the development of computer graphics, says David Plant.

His company, Silicon Graphics, has created special effects for movies such as Titanic, Clear and Present Danger, Lost in Space and Anastasia.

 Plant started work in the 1970's at the CBC working as a newsreader. Now, he is part of one of the biggest companies in Canada in its field, developing computer graphics. His company has worked with other computer companies to develop many of the special effects for the movies mentioned above.

Plant said that distinguishing between real images and computer graphics is becoming harder and harder.


For example, in the movie Titanic, the sky doesn't exist, the water doesn't exist, the sun doesn't exist and many of the extras don't exist. They are all computer-generated graphics. But to our untrained eyes, those things appear real.

Other Canadian companies in the field are ToonBoom, Discreet Logic, SoftImage (Montreal) and Alias Wavefront and Side effects (Toronto). But Plant works with people all over the world. In the United States, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Germany, India, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, many companies are working with computer animation and graphics.

Plant said virtual reality is another growing entertainment field. In Orlando, Florida, there is a theme park that is totally made up of virtual reality. Instead of riding a real roller coaster, you program a motion simulator for how many bumps, turns and twists you want your "roller coaster" to make. Then, you climb inside and away you go. The sensation is very realistic because the motion simulators used are the same as for astronauts training for outer space. The theme park is located inside Disney World.

Canadians have made headlines over the years with their many accomplishments in the field of computer generated graphics. Here are some of their accomplishments:

1963 - First 3D models
1971 - First computer animated film nominated for Academy Award
1980 - First company for computer graphics

As you can see, without Canadians, computer graphics wouldn't be what they are today.


 Back to News