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Pre-Rendered Computer Graphics (or colloquially "CGI graphics")

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Pobert-Eii, Nov 28, 2022.

  1. Pobert-Eii

    Pobert-Eii

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    okay so I don't exactly have a proper intro planned for here but this is a topic that has fascinated me ever since I learned about it as a child.
    so throughout the 80s, 90s, and to a extent the 2000s computer graphics have essentially blown up from "just a thing that appears from movies" to "a whole ass thing where you don't really think about it much".
    a medium stretched so far from its original roots that it's become this weird expression of sorts of "bad visuals" whenever you hop on to a internet forum talking about special effects.

    but video games had a thing with computer graphics too! you've heard it over and over from time to time: games were once 2D but gradually began to jump to 3D with the technology mutating to bring prettier visuals.
    one of the things computer graphics had a hand in with video games were illustrations or promo stuff, and this is what's now known as "pre-rendered computer graphics".

    once a subject that wasn't given much thought until the later half of the 2010s thanks to reexaminations of "aesthetics" and this article, pre rendered computer graphics has been a staple of the 90s up until the 2010s where it kinda fizzled out in favour of "real time stuff", now pre rendered graphics is mainly a movie thing. sega's had a thing with pre rendered graphics with sonic 3 and sonic 3d blast being quite the helluva examples. while its been talked before here, the scope was slightly limited by only focusing on sega, which while they had a huge hand is overlooking the massive amount of strange but cool stuff out there in the world of prerendered graphics.

    stuff like crazy frog, gambys, moxy, BARBARIAN, late 90s ads in some countries, sonic ride, the namco films logo, the amiga juggler... thing, the dkc tv show, beast wars, GARAGE, whatever the hell pixar pre-1992 had going on, the Hand, that THING from young sherlock holmes, megalopolis, the worms cutscenes, the classic inside out sphere, this thang, lawnmower man, the nights cutscenes, and finally the spanish sonic 2 cryptid. there's a whole strange world out there, and i'd love to see other examples from sega, sony, and the like.

    what's your favourite pre-rendered clip/illustration? mine's the sonic adventure FMVs.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2022
  2. Black Squirrel

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    (it's a Sega forum, so you'd expect the scope to be "Sega" ;))

    One of my favourite videos, which I think I posted before in the members lounge:


    Pre-rendered graphics are absolutely still a thing in games, it's just that, as they don't have the technological limitations of the 1990s, it's not immediately obvious when the transition from real-time to pre-rendered can occur. You get these wonderful, seamless hybrid productions where you can't really tell what's going on.

    For example: the Unreal Engine 5 Matrix demo. When Keanu Reeves talks to you, that bit's a video, but it's presented in a real time 3D space and magic~~.

    What you don't get, is the "this is obviously pre-rendered CG" vibe from the 90s, and that's because... we can do a lot of it in real time now. There's this old Digital Foundry video comparing the 1995 Toy Story film to Kingdom Hearts 3 - there some features that are too expensive to do in real time, but it's otherwise a very close match. And that's on PS4 - we've got PS5s now.
     
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  3. Pobert-Eii

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    The Unleashed FMV cutscenes are a highlight to me in terms of pre-rendered graphics, with many of the shots being movie-quality. I quite like them.
    That video is so interesting, I didn't know there were more early CGI demos out there!

    Segment about the Shadow the Hedgehog cutscenes. I find it interesting that Blur Studio would later go on to help with the Sonic movies.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2022
  4. Billy

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    I'm pretty fascinated and nostalgic about old CG:
    • How could you mention all this old CG without mentioning ReBoot? And going back years previously with the same studio, Money For Nothing.
    • Bringing it back to video games, here's a PS1 game from my childhood, the intro to MTV Slamscape. There's also the intros to the Namco Museum games.
    • Actually a Sega game, Bug! I played the PC version as a kid.
     
  5. Impish

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    What a wonderful topic idea. I have a great love for early CGI video, and in my study of the subject have discovered the Minds Eye series of films from Stephen Churchill. These were package films released in the early 1990s to demonstrate the usecase of the medium. They are essentially groups of tech demos set to music showing off the latest in cutting edge computer generated imagery during its infancy.


    The initial release The Mind's Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey(1990) is a series of vignettes that are interconnected only in that they are ordered to show a stylized history of humanity, from the creation of the earth to the invention of various technologies.


    The first sequel Beyond the Mind's Eye (1992) is notable that its sequences had also been used in The Lawnmower Man and The Cube Quest an arcade only Laserdisc game.

    They made four of these films in total, and they capture the same early CG artstyle that pings my brain in the way Beast Wars, the Jimmy Neutron film and the original Bionicle movies do.
     
  6. Overlord

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    What, no Insektors?



    Watched this loads as a kid. The Saturn-era Sega stuff is lovely as well - Sonic Jam's animations have a charm to them you don't get now.
     
  7. Black Squirrel

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    I was into Beast Wars

    And it's shocking how bad this looks today.

    Top tip: SIGGRAPH, the annual CGI conference. It's still a thing today, but in the 70s/80s/90s it's where all the top tier CG demos were shown, and a lot of the old VHS compilations are on YouTube now. Even Sega went a couple of times.

    The 1970s and early 1980s ones are maybe the most interesting, because they're 10 years ahead of where you'd think they'd be. You also find a lot of the early work was used in advertising, i.e. you were seeing cutting edge 3D graphics on TV before the cinema.


    In terms of video games, pre-rendered stuff wasn't much of a thing until the advent of Silicon Graphics (SGI), made famous particularly through Donkey Kong Country. Rare spent some time capitalising on the fact they'd invested tons on SGI workstations, but their lead was only brief, and soon all the big developers had access to one. And would you blame them?

    [​IMG]
    The computers are works of art in themselves.

    Admittedly I got a bit lost trying to document these for Sega Retro. Indys (stacked blue boxes, top right) were bundled as official Sega Saturn development tools, running SoftImage - I don't know how everything compares to souped up Windows boxes of the era, or indeed development environments today. You'd think given games are still made with pixel art, that more people would be emulating the wonky 90s CG look for that retro experience, but it doesn't seem to be happening, suggesting it's an area of technology that isn't widely understood (unless you were working with these things in the mid-90s).
     
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  8. MathUser

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    sonic blast on GG seems to use cg but the low pallette count make it not really noticable.
     
  9. muteKi

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    There's also a version of the number "Seeds of Life" with vocals performed by Chris Thompson, the lead vocalist for Manfred Mann's Earth Band from 1976-1986 and sporadically for a few years after this was recorded, featured on the corresponding album, and there was a video of it (using the same footage as the original film's sequence with Jan Hammer and Chris Thompson superimposed) included on the DVD release.

     
  10. Pobert-Eii

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    I actually was going to add Reboot, but at the time it was 5 am and it didn't want to come up in my mind while I was thinking of examples. Beast Wars came to mind instead.

    I quite like this pre-rendered intro from a Sailor Moon game: it's very heavy on the "watching something in your TV at 4 am" vibes.
     
  11. MarkeyJester

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    24:18 isn't that one of the early Dr Who intros? I thought that was pure slit scanning on film with a circular mask, unless the video isn't showing exclusively CGI...

    I wouldn't say it's my favourite, but something I remember on MTV/VH1, the intro and mid section to Pink Floyd's "Take it back":



    Presumably trying to simulate microscopic/genetic life
     
  12. Black Squirrel

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    I think it's a recreation.

    Incidentally the very first CG Doctor Who intro debuted in 1987 with Sylvester McCoy

    It cost nearly £20,000 and took 3 months to complete.
     
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  13. Blue Spikeball

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    ReBoot and Beast Wars kicked ass. Isn't it about time ReBoot got a proper ending?

    On the subject of 90s CGI, am I the only one who feels prerendered games on the MD like Vectorman or Sonic 3D Blast have aged better visually than the SNES ones? I think it's because the MD could display less colors, so they had to be more conservative with color use, resulting in graphics that look sharper and cleaner on modern displays. Whereas the SNES's larger color palette allowed them to be more liberal, leading to messier, artifact-ridden graphics, which look terrible unless you're using a CRT filter:
    https://twitter.com/richmond_lee/status/1232717885316812800
     
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  14. Ted618

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    You'd be surprised by how many AM3 developers got their start or came in off the back of this kind of stuff, even with them being the first team at Sega to possess the know-how and technology for it circa 1993-94.

    A lot of this early CGI goodness by the company was purely experimental or for theme park attractions though, which explains the lack of documentation of it. I still don't think Megalopolis has been seen in its entirety for years now, despite clips and trailers being handed out to feature in many things at the time - Sega Video Magazine, Gate to the Minds Eye, Bad Influence, SIGGRAPH 93, French and Spanish TV shows, even YMO reunion concerts.

    Obviously Megalopolis was Tetsuya Mizuguchi's first project, jointly produced with Michael Arias, and the basis for the "Emotion Design Lab" subdivision + a good chunk of Sega's first CGI development hardware. Less well-known is that Kenji Sasaki, his subsequent partner in crime on Sega Rally + Touring Car and later head of Sega Rosso, also started off making CGI ride films for the AS-1. Most notably Michael Jackson in Scramble Training.

    He did this while he was still leading Graphics Technologies, an external game data and CGI production company used for joint development on Sega's very earliest CGI works, before entering the fold there full-time around 1994 after an additional brief spell at Namco for Ridge Racer. Little is known about that company besides this connection, but I do suspect that much of its personnel ended up moving to Sega with Sasaki.

    Mizuguchi also oversaw the 1993 job interview of Mie Kumagai, who of course went on to become the mother of Virtua Tennis and one of the first ever female game studio heads at Hitmaker. Before all of that, her initial projects at Sega were directing CGI films for Yokohama Joypolis and Kome Kome Music Ride (which I briefly covered here), though both are as obscure and inaccessible as you'd expect.

    Lesser names who started out in this area include the likes of Koji Ono and Jun Uriu, who both did graphic design on several AM3 games for a short while afterwards. But there's also Satoshi Kitahara, a former Namco and Universal graphic designer, who made numerous CGI short films under AM3 in the late 90s. Only two of them saw a wider release, and this is all that seems to be readily available:

    We have IMAX to thank for this cam-rip of them, as both Lights and Water and Flipbook were included in their cinema-exclusive early CGI anthology film CyberWorld. Both were first featured in another SIGGRAPH, and off the back of this they ended up in the same film as a Pet Shop Boys music video, a clip from Antz, and that one 3D segment The Simpsons did for a Treehouse of Horror episode.

    It's effectively these developers who started off the tradition that continues today at Sega with Marza, though it's hard to track which other divisions started to get access to it after that point. They did make a piece of software for other people to make 3D animations though.
     
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  15. ashthedragon

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    I also have some kind of fascination with early CG, specially those who tried to replicate computer worlds like the lawnmower man, tron, reboot or my favourite, "quest world"s scenes in "the real adventures of Johnny Quest".
    I have very fond memories of watching that show and being in complete awe with Quest's world scenes ( it was a sort of virtual reality world where the characters used to access to fight the big baddie), and also with that show opening, who now watching it in retrospect it wasn't that much, but all those wireframe imaginery just felt like it was the FUTURE
    I was a dumb kid,yeah. Also Johnny was my first crush as a kid haha

     
  16. Tets

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    Oh man, the Real Adventures of Johnny Quest was my shit back in the day! I loved the Questworld scenes. Decent cartoon, too. The opening always got me super stoked. I would love to watch that again.
     
  17. Hivebrain

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    I was pretty impressed with the Mortal Kombat animation when it came out on VHS. Less so now:

     
  18. Ch1pper

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    As much as I share these sentiments, looking at it now… it's Food Fight. Like, that same exact level.
    Which is weird because FF's director had his hands all over MK at the time, and yet that looks like it was properly motion captured with real actors. Go figure.

    As weird as Reboot looks by today's standards, there's a consistency to it, and characters/writing/etc. that I can better get behind to help fill in the uncanny gaps (and Beast Wars but I'm not a Transformers guy).
     
  19. Black Squirrel

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    Something else I almost posted a few weeks ago:

    (about 3:18; I couldn't find a separated clip)

    Very quick overview: until 1983, television in the UK wasn't usually broadcast at breakfast time. To win the ITV bidding process for the BREAKFAST FRANCHISE, winners TV-am had to invest. And part of that money presumably went on this state of the art computer generated intro to one of their new programmes, Daybreak.

    Marvel at the slowdown and jerky camera movements, and question why they bothered for a logo so inherently bland.
     
  20. Impish

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    Another item of interest. If you were an artist or enthusiast in the 90s and couldnt afford the professional grade SGI workstations, you were probably stuck with your Windows 95 or Macintosh home computer. But that didn't mean you couldnt work on CGI art at the time. MetaCreations made many pieces of consumer-level software to start making your computer generated imagery.


    You had Bryce, which was used to create 3D landscapes.


    Ray Dream Studio was their low-end 3D modelling software.


    Infini-D was more useful for higher detail CG stills.


    Canoma was a very interesting piece of software, it was used to create 3D models from 2D photographs. I believe this was bought by Adobe.

    [​IMG]
    And they published Poser, the 3D character animation software that went on many years later to be used for Dead Fantasy and the first two seasons of RWBY by the late Monty Oum.

    Most of the Metacreations Suite of software continues to be used today, but the company divested its products, with most of them going to Corel (becoming a significant part of the Corel Painter suite), Daz 3D and Microsoft.

    Hearing some questions about creating this style of CGI imagery today, I know much of these programs are used by hobbyists on their retro machines to produce the imagery found in the RetriCGI subreddit, which is dedicated to new images created in this older style.
     
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