Early Computer Graphics Work and Equipment at LLNL

Figure 1:
The optical printer consists basically of a film projector aimed at a camera. In between them is a space for the insertion of other optical components such as filters and masks. The film in the projector contains sequences of frames that will be projected, each through appropriate color filters, onto the color film in the camera Wqe called this method "Logical Color Separation," (LCS). This picture shows the Lab's first effects printer built for us by Dave Dixon, and his group, the Technical Photography Group at the Lab. Using this equipment black and white films were converted into high quality color films. Further descriptions are given in the next two captions. The Tech photo group was one of the most capable film and optical groups in the country. They did things to, with, and for films and optical devices that most persons thought impossible. Most recently, the group was forced to disband as the Laboratory switched away from maintaining in house capabilities; a direction that diminishes the Laboratory as a research facility, and can only be regretted.
Figure 2:
As this LCS gained acceptance, the volume of work grew to the point that a faster effects printer was needed. A unit built by the Oxberry Company was procured. This view of the first model shows Dave Dixon running the machine. We note elsewhere that we were unable for a variety of reasons, to convert this model into one controlled ny a digital computer.
Figure 3:
Over several years we wore out the first Oxberry and had to get a second machine. Oxberry 2 was a much better made unit, and provided additional capabilities although not too much use was made of these. Also,, new display and color film improvements were such that we no longer desired to put an effects printer under computer control. In fact, given much better phosphors and faster 16mm color film , the whole LCS method became yet another victim of the advance of technology. Direct writing onto color film (or paper even) became the preferred method for producing animated color movies.
Figure 4:
This picture shows John Blunden operating the Oxberry 2 effects printer. John led the way in utilizing the additional features of this machine. These included special blurring effects, image sparkle generation, and custom mask making.
Figure 5:
Much of the initial work with film utilized 35 mm films. Short of large theater projectors, there was not a large selection of 35 mm equipment available. We often had the need to view a motion sequence quickly, or single step through a sequence, or measure images on such films. This Vanguard Motion Analyzer allowed us t single frame step the film, or rotate the projected images, and thanks to glass platens, such things could be done without scratching or otherwise damaging the film.
Figure 6:
When investigating the procedures for viewing 3-D images, we came upon this assemblage built by Robert Ketchpel of Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. Inside an evacuated bell jar, he placed a disk of phosphor arranged to spin in front of an electron gun. The gun was slaved to the angular position of the disk, and the very act of spinning caused the disk to sweep out a spherical volume of phosphor space. When the disk was in the appropriate position, the electron gun could activate the selected point in space. The use of two guns obviates the problem of when the disk is edge on to the gun. We demonstrated this scheme to the Lab staff and everyone was duly impressed, but nobody wanted to go forward with its further development.