A long, long time ago is a BBC sounds documentary that tells how visual effects changed and how they changed the movies.

Oscar-winner Paul Franklin explores how film entered the digital realm.

The 1970s saw the very first onscreen digital effects in films like Westworld. Those first pioneers of CGI already spoke of digital humans, indeed of entire films being made within the computer, but Hollywood was unconvinced.

By 1979, some of those visionaries like Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, later founders of Pixar, were working for filmmaker George Lucas, who primarily wanted new digital tools for editing and compositing and to explore computer graphics. Their first all-digital sequence created life-from lifelessness with the Genesis effect for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Meanwhile, Disney itself was creating TRON, a spectacular mix of state-of-the-art animation and pioneering digital effects that took audiences into cyberspace for the first time. In their different ways, these two films were the true harbingers of the digital revolution that would bring profound change to moviemaking within little more than a decade. And then came Terminator 2’s chrome shape shifter-the T1000. The revolution was underway.

With the voices of Ed Catmull, Mark Dippe, Bill Kroyer, Steven Lisberger, Dennis Muren, Alvy Ray Smith, Richard Taylor & Steve Williams

Producer: Mark Burman