"The Last Starfighter": One of the First Films to Make Extensive Use of Computer Graphic Imagery


The Last Starfighter, a 1984 science fiction adventure film directed by Nick Castle, was one of the earliest films to make extensive use of computer graphics for its special effects. In place of physical models, 3D rendered models were used to depict space ships and many other objects. The Gunstar and other spaceships in the film were the design of artist Ron Cobb, who also worked on AlienStar Wars and Conan the Barbarian.

The computer graphics were rendered by Digital Productions on a Cray X-MP supercomputer. The company created 27 minutes of effects for the film— considered an enormous amount of computer generated imagery at the time. For the 300 scenes containing computer graphics each frame of animation contained an average of 250,000 polygons, with a resolution of 3000 × 5000 36-bit pixels. Digital Productions estimated that using computer animation required only half the time, and one-half to one-third the cost of traditional special effects. 

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