How on earth did they make and animate this 1985 Night Flight opening?
June 11, 2017 11:15 PM   Subscribe

This had to have been all optical, no? If so then how did they get the angles so sharp, the grid lights so clean when working ostensibly with a small budget optically in the mid-80s?
posted by Senor Cardgage to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This looks like computer animation to me. It would have been within the capabilities of mid-80’s equipment and techniques. I don’t have a clue about what it would have cost then, though. Check out this demo reel from Omnibus Graphics, which opens with a somewhat more elaborate “night flight” type scene.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:39 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tron used computer effects and that was in 1982, so clearly those would have been possible by 1985.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:21 AM on June 12, 2017

The Last Starfighter had substantial CGI in 1984, that (I think) still looks pretty amazing. That intro was just grid lights with a mirrored background set in motion. I have no idea what it would have cost at the time, but it was totally possible to do that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:36 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the cityscape looks completely within the capabilities of CGI systems of the mid-80's.

The mountain range and moon (as background and as reflection) look like a still image that pans.

The title may have been early computer graphics, or it may have been illustrated as flat art. Its flight away could have been analog, but I think the glowing trail it left was probably CGI.

These pieces may have been composited together with an analog or a digital system, I think both were in use at the time.

I did get to use some animation software in the early 90s, and they could do a lot. The main issue was render time: you'd need to set up your animation then leave it to "cook" for hours and sometimes days.

Wikipedia's Timeline of Computer Animation offers some good examples of CGI from the same time period.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

To me it looks like a combination of both; the city streets and mountains look really computery, the moon and sky look like something composited in, as well as the reflection in the "water", and the logo at the beginning. There's likely a whole lot of Scanimate going on , which isn't exactly CGI.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:05 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

We had an earlier thread about the Cromemco line of graphics workstations, which looks like the same vintage as this animation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:38 AM on June 12, 2017

The mountains were probably computer generated as well. Check out this animation from 1980 showing the use of fractals on generating mountain terrains.
posted by chevyvan at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2017

In the mid 80's everybody was using the British made Quantel Paintbox. At launch in 1981 they cost $250,000 but got gradually cheaper through the 1980's.
posted by Lanark at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2017

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