The French-born Lumière brothers are largely credited with launching the film industry with their invention and demonstration of the ‘cinematograph' at the end of the 19th century. Today, Europeans are still front-row innovators in film and cinema thanks to Eureka-funded projects in turnkey software technology.
Two Eureka projects are helping to keep Europe at the top of its game in the fast-moving, often technology-driven film and cinema industry. The first project ‘Film Special Effects' developed a software package, called Key Light, for creating realistic special effects which can be seen in the latest Harry Potter movies. The second project, called ‘Damage', developed software for tracking and managing digital assets involved in producing animated films, such as Valiant, Europe's largest-ever animated movie.
|Technology has come a long way since the Lumière brothers cinematograph invention.|
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Film Special Effects was a 14-month €1.1 million Anglo-German project, led by the UK Computer Film Company (now Framestore CFC). In addition to its Harry Potter credit, other big clients have included Tomb Raider, The Beach, Mission Impossible 2 and recent Bond films. Key Light has also generated some of the groundbreaking effects in the televised BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs.
Peter Stansfield, the project coordinator, says European expertise and technology is underappreciated in the movie world. “Most of us associate movies and Hollywood… What most people don't realise is the amount of European resources or European effort that goes into these so-called Hollywood movies.” He credits Eureka support for giving European technologies, such as Key Light, the chance to shine bright.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Eureka is an intergovernmental initiative aimed at boosting European competitiveness through support to businesses, research centres and universities which carry out pan-European projects that develop innovative products, processes and services.
According to its website, Eureka plays “a key role in building European competitiveness, driving European standards and the interoperability of products in a wide range of sectors… [demonstrating] the strength of pan-European teamwork in the European Research Area”.
Setting the ‘reels in motion'
The Lumière brothers famously commented that they saw no future in cinema, despite having invented it and showcasing their cinematograph to awe-struck Parisians in 1895. How wrong they were. Their creativity never won them any awards but it did set the ‘reels in motion' for over a century of European film-related innovation.
The second headline-making Eureka project did, however, win an award for its forward-looking vision. Damage received IBM's coveted 'Vision' Innovation prize for its software tool that tracks and manages the digital assets – sound, illustrations, background colour schemes and special effects – necessary for computer-generated imaging (CGI), a mainstay behind modern animated film-making.
England's Ealing Studios led the British-Belgian partnership which was instrumental in the making of Valiant, Europe's biggest animated feature film seen by some eight million people worldwide. This software gives Europe a strong foothold in the Hollywood-dominated (i.e. Pixar, DreamWorks) CGI business.
“Producing a feature-length CGI animation has long been the Holy Grail of many a European studio but, until recently, it has seemed impossible,” commented Ealing Studios' Managing Director Sean Hinton in an Innovation Reports article following Valiant's release.
Innovations Report, Eureka