The Innovative History of Tron
A bit of cinematic history...

I just watched the special edition DVD of the movie Tron.  I didn't watch the movie again (I had already seen it a couple times), but all the extras made it worthwhile.  There was a load of behind-the-scenes footage both from the original production and follow-up interviews with the filmmakers and cast 20 years later.

One thing that was especially interesting in it was a statement by one of the special effects guys: "No film before was ever made like this, and no film will ever again be made this way."  It was an interesting way of thinking about it, but the techniques used on the film were riding between two eras: optical printing (and related methods) and the emerging world of digital effects.  The amount of work to do the film was absolutely amazing.  In fact, here's an interesting fact covered in the extras that was reiterated in the IMDb trivia section:

At the time, computers could generate static images, but could not automatically put them into motion. Thus, the coordinates for each image, such as a lightcycle, had to be entered for each individual frame. It took 600 coordinates to get 4 seconds of film. Each of these coordinates was entered into the computer by hand by the filmmakers.

What they were doing was using 100 frames per second.  Each frame required 6 numbers to describe the position of the object.  In this case, say they were animating the "light cycles."  The first three numbers described the x, y, and z axis position, then they used three more numbers to describe the pitch, roll, and yaw.  Also, you should realize this was just *one* cycle with no moving parts.  There were often two or three in a given shot.  And to top it all off, they couldn't even *see* what they were doing until the entire process was complete.  In order to figure out the best points to program into the computer, they just drew lines on graph paper, then approximated where the points fell along the axes.  Talk about tedious.

Still, the film really looked terrific, even if it wasn't the Matrix of its day in terms of an engaging story or box office success.  However, its influence on the Matrix itself is indisputable.  Consider this plot outline (lifted directly from the IMDb's main page):

A hacker is literally abducted into the world of a computer and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program.

Sound familiar?  Even the MCP (the big bad guy he faces at the end of the movie) looks just like the thing Neo meets up with at the end of Revolutions.