The ILM version: Recent digital effects and the aesthetics of 1970s cinematography

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Rather than duplicating a transhistorical notion of "perceptual realism" based on the phenomenal world, contemporary digital imaging imitates the look of photography - specifically, the look of 1970s cinematography. This is largely due to the historical dominance of one special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), which developed a photorealistic special effects aesthetic to match the live action photography of the originaol Star Wars trilogy. Over time, that particular aesthetic hardened into a powerfully convincing house style. Given the prominence of ILM in the film industry, denaturalizing the ILM aesthetic is crucial to understanding how digital images evoke "authenticity" or "veracity".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-168
Number of pages11
JournalFilm History: An International Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


  • 1970s cinema
  • George Lucas
  • Industrial Light and Magic
  • Munich (2005)
  • Realism
  • Special visual effects
  • Steven Spielberg

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History

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