‘Jurassic World’ Arrives with Better Animations. But, Alias is Being Deeply Remembered

Summer of 1993. Steven Spielberg’s ground-breaking, history-making movie, Jurassic Park, was running successfully in every theatre, collecting huge profits to become the highest-grosser of its time until Titanic. It was Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), the movie had revolutionized, and our way of fantasizing about dinosaurs, too.

And what had come after, was a heavy downpour of awards, including three prestigious Academy Awards, primarily for the film’s visual effects, which had managed to acquire high praises.

Winter of 2014. Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow’s upcoming movie of the Jurassic Park franchise, is all set to hit the silver screen next year. And this time, with better animations. But, after more than two decades, now, Alias, the animation software is suddenly being missed. Who can possibly forget the feel-so-real animation in Jurassic Park, the ever-hungry-for-flesh T-Rex, the beautiful tropical island of Isla Nublar, and the most amazing, amazing start cast ever? So, here goes the discussion all over again… yes, the Alias-was-good discussion, or rather, how-Maya-overtook-Alias discussion, that is.

A reign lost over time:
Until Maya came, Alias (or PowerAnimator or simply, Animator) was the undisputed animator and 3D modeling visual effect suit in demand. ‘Terminator 2’ to ‘Star Wars Episode I’ and even some episodes of ‘South Park’ – everything was under the grip of the software. And not only the film industry, Alias had even made its marks on Engineering and gaming as well.

Back then, Alias was the most up-to-date and standardized solution for all CGI needs in Hollywood, meeting up expectations of almost all big-league animation and VFX studios, including Warner Brothers, Pixar, Walt Disney and ILM. The software had the most complex user interfaces ever. But, the foremost problem with the software was its orthodox animation workflow. It was cumbersome, inconvenient and somewhat confusing. Further, it was very expensive too.

Maya was, but, a brain child of Alias just. With SGI merging Alias and Wavefront, this single product was conjured up as a fusion of many famous software. It had the best of the best products from three companies – Alias’ PowerAnimator, Wavefront’s Advanced Visualizer and Thomson Digital Images’ Explore. Maya was no less expensive than Alias. But, the interface was more customizable and user-friendly now. And did the software not dominate Hollywood animations thereon?

Soon after the release of Maya in 1998, the release of Alias’ standalone product PowerAnimator was cancelled, the focus shifting entirely on the former now. Then, Disney’s ‘Dinosaur’ came in 2000 and established the software as an animation tool of industry standards, dismissing out PowerAnimator altogether. As for Maya, it superseded its forefathers and there was no looking back after that.

What’s Maya’s strength:
Out of all aspects, Dexterity and Dynamics are the software’s forte. Nothing beats the software when it comes to animation. The tool library is huge and the software is customizable and easy to use if MEL and Python are known to you. This makes it a favorite with every animation and VFX studio as there’s a great option to customize the tools exactly in the way required.

Why, then, do we still miss Alias from Jurassic Park?
Because, even before Maya dominated, there was only and only Alias for the sake of industries. As for Jurassic Park, although animatronic models of Stan Winston and post-production stop-motion animation of Phil Tippett were also the game players, it was the Alias-done skillful CGI of Dennis Muren that had brought the movie accolades and massive profits. Jurassic Park was marked out as a true innovator movie, creating world’s first fully realized digital creatures in the reel world. And, of course, none other than Alias was behind this crowd-puller of a smash-hit movie.

As of yet, we aren’t sure which software has been used for the animation in the latest movie of the Jurassic Park franchise. But yes, to recreate something like Spielberg’s dinosaurs or even to just make it better, would not be easy, no matter how efficient the animation software used is.

A post by Chayanika Deka. 24th of November, 2014.


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