Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is a name that evokes an excited reaction from most movie fans. Ever since George Lucas created the company in 1975 to provide visual effects for the first Star Wars movie, ILM has been synonymous with movie magic. In fact, the visual effects created by ILM have appeared in eight of the 10 highest grossing movies ever. ILM has won an amazing 28 Academy Awards: 14 for Best Visual Effects and another 14 for Technical Achievement!

You have seen ILM's spectacular work in such movies as:

  • "Star Wars"
  • "The Empire Strikes Back"
  • "Return of the Jedi"
  • The "Indiana Jones" movies
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • "Jurassic Park"
  • "The Lost World"
  • "Men In Black"
  • "Jumanji"
  • "The Mask"
  • "Forrest Gump"
  • "Twister"
  • "Star Wars: Episode I"
  • "The Perfect Storm"
ILM has pioneered many groundbreaking effects and processes in the last 25 years. It would be hard to cover everything that ILM has done in any one article (or even in a single book), so in this article we will focus on the incredible and revolutionary water effects used in "The Perfect Storm" as an example of their work. "The Perfect Storm" provided ILM a unique opportunity -- integrating artificial, computer-generated water with real water. Given that foaming, blowing, churning ocean water is one of the most dynamic elements in nature, the challenge was immense!

Photo courtesy of ILM
A scene from "The Perfect Storm." Everything in this image is computer generated by the ILM team -- the water, boat, sky and even the actors! This article will show you how they did it!

In this edition of How Stuff Works, you will learn how ILM works with the filmmakers, how they plan out the effects, how the effects are created and how they are incorporated into the movie. You will also learn about simulations and particle systems.