Kerner Optical, former home of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, has succumbed to the ravages and convulsions of the recession, and the glut of digital special effects houses worldwide, and is now formally closed. They had been struggling to stay out of bankruptcy for the last few years, but it was official when CEO Eric Edmeades tweeted last night:
Sadly, the “model shop” is now closed. #kerneroptical
George Lucas chose to set up ILM on Kerner Boulevard in an industrial area of San Rafael, California, during the making of The Empire Strikes Back in the late 1970′s. The sign outside said Kerner Co, but it may have been the worst kept secret in movie making history.
Besides the incredible innovations in digital image technology, the invention of motion capture, and so many more groundbreaking special effects we now take for granted that were created there by ILM’s wizards, there was also the fabulous Model Shop, which built everything from miniatures to the Death Star to the ship Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean.
When Lucas moved his operation to San Francisco’s Presidio in 2006, and decided to focus on purely digital effects, a group of investors bought the physical and practical effects divisions of ILM and renamed the company Kerner Optical.
Even though they continued to do exceptional work, and even built their own 3D camera rig, it apparently wasn’t enough.
Insiders will continue writing about all that went on there, but for now, check Wikipedia for an idea of some the amazing accomplishments that were achieved there.
Update – Eric tweeted me:
Nice blog piece — it certainly is a sad day. It is worth noting that Kerner 3D Tech is still alive and kicking.
Update – September 30,2011 – Doniphan Blair has written a comprehensive, well researched article in Cinesource Magazine on all the monetary shenanigans behind Kerner’s demise – Kerner Collapse: Hubris, Hustle or Outright Scam?
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