One of the first innovations created at ILM was when John Dykstra and others (via Den of Geek) invented the motion control camera system known as Dykstraflex, which used an early computer to control and rehearse complicated camera movements. The system allowed cameras to move much more freely around spaceship miniatures for “Star Wars” battles, creating more complex dogfights than ever before.
Over the decades that followed, ILM continued to innovate VFX technology. At the dawn of digital effects, ILM created the first fully computer-generated sequence (“the Genesis effect” in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”), the first all-CG three-dimensional characters (for “The Abyss and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”), and the incredibly realistic dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park”, among many other achievements.
ILM scored another breakthrough in 2019 with StageCraft (aka The Volume), a virtual set viewable by both cast and crew that can be repositioned during filming to make adjustments for new camera angles or compositions ( instead of being added to finished shots in post-production). The technology made its official debut in the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.”
“People look to ILM for the future because we’ve been the future for so long,” Dennis Muren said of the company’s continued importance to the film industry. “It’s always been something in our culture and it comes from George [Lucas] walking in and saying, ‘I want to pan the camera around these spaceships’, and everybody’s saying, ‘No, you can’t do that’, and John Dykstra said, ‘We can do that .” That’s what it is. It’s true in everything we do. I don’t think it will ever go away. It’s part of us and everyone fought for this stuff.”
“Light and Magic” is now streaming on Disney+.