In 1993, “Jurassic Park” roared onto the big screen, not just captivating audiences worldwide but also revolutionizing the use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in cinema. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this blockbuster combined groundbreaking CGI and practical effects to bring its prehistoric stars to life. But just how much CGI was used for the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”?
Surprisingly, out of the 127 minutes of the film’s runtime, only about 15 minutes featured dinosaurs, and of those, CGI was used for approximately 6 minutes. This might seem modest by today’s standards, but at the time, it represented a significant leap in filmmaking technology.
The production initially planned to use go-motion for the dinosaurs – an advanced form of stop-motion animation. However, Spielberg was not entirely satisfied with the test footage. This all changed when Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), helmed by Dennis Muren, presented a CGI test of a running T-Rex. The result was so fluid and realistic that it convinced Spielberg and the team to shift towards CGI.
Despite the innovative use of CGI, “Jurassic Park” also heavily relied on practical effects, created by Stan Winston’s team. These effects included life-size animatronics and puppets. The towering T-Rex, for instance, was an animatronic masterpiece standing 20 feet high and 40 feet long. This blend of CGI and practical effects was crucial in maintaining a sense of realism and tangibility that purely digital creatures could not achieve at the time.
The decision to use a mix of CGI and practical effects was pivotal. It not only helped in creating some of the most memorable and terrifying scenes but also set a new standard for visual storytelling. The scene where the T-Rex escapes its enclosure, for instance, seamlessly blends a CGI dinosaur with its physical counterpart, creating a sense of dread and awe that stands the test of time.
“Jurassic Park’s” CGI was also groundbreaking in its portrayal of dinosaur movement and behavior. The creatures were not only visually convincing but also moved with an unprecedented level of fluidity and realism. This achievement was partly due to the collaboration between the visual effects team and paleontologists, who provided insights into how these ancient creatures might have moved and interacted.
The film’s success with CGI marked a turning point in the film industry, opening the door to more extensive and sophisticated use of the technology in future projects. It showed filmmakers and audiences alike the potential of CGI to create worlds and creatures that were previously impossible to depict realistically on screen.