The first digital 3-D rendered film, circa 1972  SEP 02 2011

This short film of a 3-D rendered hand made by Ed Cattmull (Pixar founder) and Fred Parke in 1972 might be the first digital 3-D rendered film ever.

This is kind of amazing...from 1972! The story that goes along with the film is worth a read as well.

The best part of this film is not even the 3D rendering itself, but the outtakes and "making of" footage that has been interwoven throughout, including footage of a plaster replica of Ed's hand onto which he is meticulously mapping the polygon vertices that make up the three dimensional model (around 1:30). That's really remarkable. The math that we take for granted for rendering 3D was being invented, real time, to create this video. (Ed's credited for having working out that math to handle things like texture mapping, 3D anti-aliasing and z-buffering.)

See also Vol Libre, a film from 1980 that, for the first time, used fractals to generate graphics. (via @beep)

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