The Making of Tron
December 11, 2008 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Although the movie Tron was groundbreaking due to its unprecedented and extensive use of CGI in 1982, after pre-production, it only took four months to shoot and nine months to complete all of the special effects. From Computer Animation Primer published in 1984, we learn a bit about the technical process, which seems amusingly tedious by today's animation standards.

For example: "The process of making TRON required artist-designers to interact with programmer-technicians, and this presented some interesting problems. The TRON atists were at Disney studios in Los Angeles, and the programmers were at Mathematics Applications Group, Inc. (MAGI) in New York.... Modems were used to send low-resolution motion tests to the director at Disney before committing the images to film. For example, after MAGI received the storyboards for the vehicular animation from Disney, they took these crude images and plotted them in three views using combinatorial geometry on a 40 x 60 inch Talos digitizing table. They then made flowcharts of the speed and tables of the moving objects for the camera path. The results then went back to Disney for corrections in pacing, staging, and animation."

Here's an interesting background look at the development of the movie, from inception to conclusion, and including a postmortem: "Science fiction films that are heavily visual are often a tough sell. When George Lucas tried to set up Star Wars, he had a hard time drumming up any interest because it was completely unintelligible in treatment form. The Wachowski Brothers reportedly had to create extensive graphic novel style storyboards for The Matrix before Warner Brothers really got it. When Lisberger and company went out to sell Tron, they were ready. 'We had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the project when we went to Disney,' he said. 'We had it storyboarded, we had designs, we had budgets, we had staff, we had schedules, we had sample reels - I mean, we had everything but money.'"

If this makes you feel at all nostalgic, perhaps you'll enjoy being reintroduced to some of the merchandising that came out at the time, including the motion picture soundtrack on cassette, collecting cards, and the Intellivision videogame.

And just for fun, here's a fan re-making of the Tron light cycle scene using cardboard.
posted by SpacemanStix (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I had the pleasure of interning under Ken Perlin @ NYU-CAT in the late 90's. He won an academy award for work done to push the state of the art of computer graphics, stemming from his work on TRON while at MAGI.

An excellent primer on it, and on some of the TRON effects, can be found here.

Thanks for the links SpacemanStix, especially the first one. Brings back fond memories.
posted by zap rowsdower at 10:43 PM on December 11, 2008

The DVD is highly worth getting as the extras go into lots of detail about this.
posted by milnak at 10:47 PM on December 11, 2008

I had the pleasure of interning under Ken Perlin @ NYU-CAT

I was a junior colleague of Ken's, and Josh Pines and Christine Chang and Jan Carlee at R/Greenberg Associates in Manhattan and I used to enjoy the stories they'd tell from those days.
posted by jfrancis at 11:14 PM on December 11, 2008

They rendered it on a Cray, didn't they?
posted by Class Goat at 12:22 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just watched it for the first time night before last. Awesome.

I understand Jeff Bridges will be in the sequel, TR2N.
posted by WerewolvesRancheros at 6:18 AM on December 12, 2008

They rendered it on a Cray, didn't they?

That's The Last Starfighter.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:02 AM on December 12, 2008

I understand Jeff Bridges will be in the sequel, TR2N.

Tron 2: TRWNED would be so much more satisfying.
posted by malocchio at 9:22 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tron is a wonderfully influential film, and I think it, more than anything else kept cyberpunk novels like Neuromancer off the big screen. Mainly because no matter efforts the authrs go to to describe cyberspace in painstaking detail, it always sounds like they're describing the computer world from Tron.
posted by happyroach at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2008

I understand Jeff Bridges will be in the sequel, TR2N.

There was a bootlegged copy of the TR2N preview from comic con that has been making the rounds. Jeff Bridges makes an appearance, sporting the beard that made him pretty bad-ass in Ironman.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2008

I thought that Tron was rendered on the F-1.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2008

The correct name for a sequel to TRON is TROFF.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:24 PM on December 12, 2008

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