Jurassic Park 1993 – The Production

In the film Jurassic Park which was released in 1993 the producers wants to make the film include photo realistic dinosaurs which had never been done before in a full length film. But making a full length film just showing dinosaurs would have been much more expensive and time-consuming to do, so director Steven Spielberg had decided on only around 14 minutes of computer generated dinosaurs to be used in the film.

At this time the 3D graphics capabilities of computer was drastically lower than what can be produced now. So for the 3D graphics used in this film it was ground breaking the amount of CG content in the film and the realism of the models used in the film.

To produce 3D graphics to the extremely high standard which they wanted they got into contact with ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), this was the visual effect studio which helped to produce such film as Jurassic Park, Back To The Future, Avatar, Harry Potter and many others.

Steve Williams was one of the CG animators at ILM and helped to produce the film Jurassic Park. Before he started to model or animate the dinosaurs which he used in the films he made a wire frame drawings and planned where each of the joints in the dinosaurs would be. Here is his drawing of the T-Rex…




He then had to try to make a 3D generated model of what a real T-Rex would look like. To do this he went to Stan Winston, Stan Winston was a TV and film make-up and special effects specialist. He made sculptured which went on to be used in films, here are 2 photographs taken of the initial structure for the 1/5 size model T-Rex and the near finished 1/5 size T-Rex which is being modelled by Stan Winston.




Then Stan Winston and his team set out to create a full-scale model of the T-Rex which would be used in the films. They started to create the main structure of the body using ply wood panels, they then covered this in chicken wire and began to apply clay. They used chicken wire as it would prevent the clay from being pushed into the centre area of the T-Rex which did not need filling in.







Once they had the main body shape they went onto making small features and wrinkles in the skin…





Once they had finished the entire T-Rex model this is what it looked like next to the 1/5 scale model which they made to begin with…



Then Steve Williams for ILM used a very large 3D scanner to scan in the model of the T-Rex produced by Stan Winston. Steve then had a 3D model of the T-Rex, which was highly detailed and extremely accurate to the real thing. Here is the model in ILM’s software called Alias…



They then referred back to the drawing which they had done on the joint placements of the T-Rex before starting the project. They used an animating piece of software called SoftImage 3D to figure out the joint placements on the model. They then had a ‘rigged’ model of a T-Rex ready to be animated. This was the very first animation made with the newly rigged model…

dinosaur t rex jurassic park

After this they had to make the textures for the skin of the dinosaurs, for this they used a program called Viewpaint, this allowed them to paint on exactly how they wanted the skin to look. After they had the dinosaurs animated and textured they had to render the animation. To render the animations they used a ‘graphical super computer’, but as this was in the early 90’s technology was still not very advanced, so it took the computer approximately 10 hours to render each frame of the animation. And films run in 24 frames per second.

initial skin test t rex jurassic park

So this initial dinosaur skin test which is 5 seconds long would have taken weeks to render. But it was this piece of footage which convinced producers Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg that the film should use CGI instead of stop motion which was the technique most commonly used at this time.

jurassic park jeep

Here is the scene where the T-Rex is chasing the Jeep and smashes through a fallen tree, the animation used in this scene is the one which was made first which we saw earlier.

From here they need to get the animated dinosaurs, the live actors and the backgrounds to all blend into the same scene. To do this they used a technique called compositing, to do this they filmed the actors in front of a green screen which could then be removed and overlayed on background scene. Here is an animation of how this worked…

jurassic park composite

They then did the same with the dinosaurs in the background and this is how the final scene looked one finished…

jurassic-park-composite-with-dinosaursThis is how they made the dinosaurs in the films and how they animated them, rendered them and compositing them into the same scene as the live actors and made it look so realistic. They used the same techniques throughout the film and with all of the dinosaurs. Jurassic Park was the first film to use 3D generated, photo realistic dinosaurs.

Overall I would say that the 3D graphics which have been used in Jurassic Park are to an extremely high standard, especially as production began in 1993. The quality of the T-Rex model is mainly down to the fact that they had a real life-sized model made, this let the production team see what it looks like in real life and this way it would have been much easier to make small adjustments to the model as it is not on the computer, and the computer power which they had to make such models is nothing compared to the technology which is used today.



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