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Filming Disney’s Special Effects Cult Classic ‘Tron,’ 1982

Jeff Bridges Tron 1982 Behind the Scenes
Jeff Bridges Tron 1982 Behind the Scenes

Upon previously reporting that Disney Plus now has more than 100 million worldwide subscribers, I poked around some additional House of Mouse content and came across this fantastic photo from the set of 1982’s “Tron.”

Despite the original installment being a little before my time, I’ve always celebrated the film for the technological achievement that it represents. How innovative was it? Here’s an excerpt from Frank Vitz, who worked at Robert Abel & Associates, an early computer graphics studio that created the real world to Game Grid transition scene for “Tron”:

In 1982, our vector system at Abel was way ahead of our raster system, so that was the way we went for TRON. Our PS2-based vector graphics system could create beautiful glowing lines, but it could not do hidden surface removal well, and we had to design elaborate matting strategies and complex sorting algorithms to help create the illusion of solid surfaces. Most of these techniques involved incredibly long-running multiple passes on the film recorder that we had to progressively scan onto the same piece of film.

A perfect example of the difficulties this created can be seen in ‘Flynn’s Ride’ in the section inside the tunnel and approaching the I/O tower near the end. At one point, our film recorder developed a light leak right in the middle of a 30-hour shot. We ended up sealing me into the film recorder room and duct-taping shut the door and all the cracks around the door in the hope of stopping any light leaks from ruining the film. I sat in there in the dark overnight tending the bi-pack film magazines, changing filters, and eating cold pizza; but it worked, and the shot was a hero!

Still here? Good. Chances are you may want to chase the dragon with even more “Tron” special effects goodness, so I’ve included a video about the making of “Tron’s” CGI below.

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