The History of CGI in Film: The Good, the Bad, and the Racist

Theodore Kim - Yale

March 12, 2021, 2:30 p.m. - March 12, 2021, 3:30 p.m.

Zoom (see link below)

Hosted by: Paul Kry


The algorithms used for Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) in film today were developed over the course of the last 45 years. In the beginning, they could only depict a limited set of visual phenomena, which filmmakers took up as a creative challenge. These early efforts resulted in some of the most memorable images in cinema, from Toy Story to Terminator 2: Judgement Day. However, as these CGI gained more attention and attracted more money, the insidious effects of systemic racism crept into the design of subsequent algorithms. As a result, the techniques for rendering digital “humans” we use today were specifically designed to depict the dominant visual features of young, white people. In this talk, I will describe how we got here, what it might mean, and where we can go next.

Theodore Kim is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at Yale University, where he investigates biomechanical solids, fluid dynamics, and selected topics in geometry. Previously, he was a Senior Research Scientist at Pixar Animation Studios. He is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, multiple Best Paper awards, and a Scientific and Technical Academy Award (SciTech Oscar). His algorithms have appeared in over 20 films, and he has screen credits for Cars 3, Coco, Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4. His first (uncredited) work appeared on-screen on the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Zoom link: https://mcgill.zoom.us/j/92616954585 (zoom login required)

Reception after the talk in gather town: https://gather.town/app/3qgGGqVmX8sDW2Zb/Reception

Please note that this talk will not be recorded.