Industrial Light & Magic

Location: San Francisco, CA

Founded: 1975


When George Lucas began development on the first film in the Star Wars saga, he concluded that the available filmmaking technology was not adequate to fully realize his vision for the story. As a result, he founded the Industrial Light & Magic visual effects studio in 1975. Two years later, the studio won the Academy Award for visual effects on Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It was announced in October 2012 that Walt Disney Company would purchase Lucasfilm for $4 billion.

Notable Products

  • Visual effects
  • Imocap
  • Dystraflex
  • Go-Motion
  • Morf
  • Ambient Occlusion
  • PhysBam

What to Expect

In preparation for Star Wars, George Lucas first approached director and visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey) to head his special VFX department that would become ILM, but he declined. Instead, Trumbull suggested Lucas contact John Dykstra. The result of that fortunate relationship is more than two-dozen Sci-Tech awards, 15 Oscars, and nearly 300 films. Industrial Light & Magic has contributed to 10 of the top 15 grossing films of all time, and half of the top 50. Films include the Indiana Jones series, Jurassic Park, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future trilogy, the Terminator sequels, The Abyss, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Iron Man, and the Harry Potter series.

Edwin Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney/Pixar, was hired by Lucas to establish ILM’s computer-generated imagery department in 1979. Pixar CEO, John Lasseter was in the employment of ILM in the early 1980s, before the computer graphics division was sold to Apple founder Steve Jobs, thus establishing Pixar Animation Studios. Prior to 2006, ILM produced both digital effects and practical effects for motion pictures. Since then, Lucas has chosen to focus solely on the digital end, allowing a team of former managers to purchase the physical departments and establish a new company known as Kerner Technologies.

Among Industrial Light & Magic’s numerous achievements in the motion picture industry are several U.S. patents and proprietary software applications. ILM’s research and development department has been responsible for inventing many of the standard techniques used in filmmaking today, including motion control photography, the first fully computer-generated character, the first morph effect, the CCD digital input scanner, photo-realistic hair and fur, facial animation, ambient occlusion technology, and the image-based performance capture system, known as Imocap.

For those seeking employment with Industrial Light & Magic, expect a highly competitive candidate field. ILM has the clout and reputation to recruit only the very best and most talented animators, artists, designers, engineers, and programmers. While a college degree may not be a standard requirement for employment, most recruits have at least a bachelor’s degree in a concentrated field relevant to their expertise, such as computer animation, fine art, computer science, mathematics, or similar area. Within ILM’s walls are even a few PhDs. Artists and animators must demonstrate mastery of traditional art skills but also a firm grasp of digital art software. Engineers and programmers must have solid backgrounds in advanced mathematics, as well as proven ability to write agile, portable code for multiple uses and applications. Most of all, ILM is seeking inspired, passionate individuals that are of the highest caliber of talent.

Employees of Industrial Light & Magic, like the rest of the LucasFilm family, are treated to an excellent array of benefits. In addition to the typical corporate perks, Lucas employees are offered an extensive continuing education program. Seminars, workshops, and speaker series are held year-round to encourage employees in all departments to learn new skills and refine existing talents. ILM staff members must stay ahead of the curve in mastering new technologies, as well as innovating new ones. Other benefits include daily meals provided in the Dining commons, use of fitness centers, free first-run movie screenings, company sports teams, and even a free turkey on Thanksgiving.

Industrial Light & Magic is headquartered at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco, formerly located in San Rafael, Calif., under the pseudonym of The Kerner Company. ILM is a wholly owned subsidiary of LucasFilm, with an additional studio located in Singapore.



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