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Bringing aliens to life

STFC developed the computer graphics and animation technology used by the movie computer animation industry all over the world, underpinning a UK industry worth £120 billion.i

Leading development of UK CGI

left-hand quote mark This innovative and pioneering approach using computer generated imagery (CGI) caused the Financial Times to pronounce the Laboratory as the home of computer animation in Britain.right-hand quote mark

Catherine Mason,
‘BITS IN MOTION: Early British Computer-Generated Art Film’ 2006

In the 1960s STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) started developing computer techniques to help researchers and engineers visualise scientific data as images or animated films. The researchers realised that these ground-breaking computer graphics and animation technologies had wider application and encouraged adoption through knowledge exchange with partners and industry.

In the late 1960s and 1970s this innovative Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) work caused the Financial Times to pronounce the Laboratory as the home of computer animation in Britainii. At that time, RAL was even involved in making a Tomorrow’s World episode for the BBC about the potential of computer animationiii.

Animation industry

The UK computer animation industry has revenues of £300 million and directly supports other UK industries, including the post-production industry worth £1.4 billion and the gaming sector worth £1 billionv; and worldwide the current digital animation industry is worth around £120 billionv.

STFC continued to lead UK CGI development and most notably created the computer imagesiv for the movie ‘Alien’, for which British director Ridley Scott won an Oscar in 1980 for best special effectsvi. The success of this film spawned a new sector, with many new companies commercialising the CGI concepts and code developed by STFC and introducing them to new markets. In addition, the graphics industries today are underpinned by international computer graphic standards developed at RAL.

As the champion of computer graphics and animation in the UK for many years, the STFC made a significant contribution to this key UK industry.

  1. Securing the Future of UK animation. Robert Kenny & Tom Broughton. Sept 2011 (Animation UK). Converted to £ using www.xe.com June 2014
  2. Bits in Motion. Early British Computer Generated Art Film. Catherine Mason. British Film Institute. National Film Theatre. http://www.catherinemason.co.uk/pdf/bitsinmotionprogramme.pdf Sep 2014
  3. http://www.chilton-computing.org.uk/acl/applications/animation/p007.htm Sep 2014
  4. http://www.chilton-computing.org.uk/acl/applications/animation/p014.htm Sep 2014
  5. ‘Securing the Future of UK animation’, Robert Kenny & Tom Broughton, Animation UK (Sept 2011), http://www.animationuk.org/files/report-pdfs/docs/4I6KD5YW2J.pdf Sep 2014, (Converted to Pounds Sterling using http://www.xe.com/ in June 2014)
  6. Global Animation Industry: 2013 Strategies, Trends and Opportunities Report. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/18/research-and-markets-idUSnBw186304a+100+BSW20130618 Sep 2014

Last updated: 02 July 2019


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