Years before Mario or PacMan or even Pong were conceived, a team at RAL started a revolution in animation. Their work sparked the creation of Computer Generated Imagery technology - changing the face of movie production and making computer gaming a reality. As such a longstanding champion of computer graphics and animation in the UK, we’re proud to continue contributing to a UK industry worth billions.
Back in the 1960s, employees at RAL began developing computer techniques to help researchers and engineers visualise scientific data as images or animated films. The researchers realised 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 CGI work caused the Financial Times to pronounce the Laboratory as the home of computer animation in Britain. At that time, RAL featured in a BBC Tomorrow’s World episode about the potential of computer animation.
STFC continued to lead UK CGI development, most notably by creating the computer imagery for Ridley Scott’s first ‘Alien’ movie. Its (sometimes terrifying) realism helped the film win an Oscar in 1980 for best Special Effects. The success of ‘Aliens’ spawned a whole sector, with many new companies commercialising the CGI concepts and code developed by STFC and introducing them to new markets.
At the time, the early pioneers of the 60’s would have had no idea just how big CGI would become. The UK computer animation industry now has revenues of £300 million. It also directly supports other UK industries, including the post-production industry worth £1.4 billion and the gaming sector worth £1 billion. Worldwide the digital animation industry is worth a staggering £120 billion today.
In addition, the graphics industries today are underpinned by international computer graphic standards developed at RAL.