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Industrial Light and Magic

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Title: Industrial Light and Magic  
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Subject: George Lucas, Star Trek: First Contact, 35 mm film, Special effect, Presidio of San Francisco, Yoda, American Graffiti, The Dig, San Rafael, California, Wire removal
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Industrial Light and Magic

Industrial Light & Magic
Industry Visual effects, computer-generated imagery
Founded May 1975
Headquarters Letterman Digital Arts Center,
Presidio of San Francisco, California, United States
Key people George Lucas
Dennis Muren
John Knoll
Lynwen Brennan
Owner(s) The Walt Disney Company
Parent Lucasfilm Limited

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an American Academy Award-winning 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. 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. Lynwen Brennan, who joined the company in 1999, currently serves as ILM's President and General Manager.[1] In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired ILM as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm.[2]


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 who 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, 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.

ILM began creating computer-generated imagery when they hired Edwin Catmull from NYIT in 1979. John Lasseter 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 renderfarms 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 selected filmography

Year Notable films
  • Identity Thief[12]
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  • Pain & Gain
  • Iron Man 3
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Star Trek Into Darkness[10][11]
  • Now You See Me
  • World War Z
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Pacific Rim
  • RED 2
  • Elysium

Future releases:

  • Tomorrowland (2014)
  • Lone Survivor (2013)
  • Noah (2014)[11]
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)[10]
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)[10]
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
  • Jurassic World (2015)[11]
  • Star Wars Episode VII (2015)
  • The Fantastic Four (2015)
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2016)
  • Lucy (2014)

Notable employees and clients

Photoshop was first used at the Industrial Light & Magic studios 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.

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

Industrial Light & Magic is also famous for their commercial work. Their clients include Energizer Holdings, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Nickelodeon and other companies.

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.[13]

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

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


External links

  • PDF format)
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Alternative credits list from the Unofficial ILM site
  • Small entry at Lucasfilm's site


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