As I've mentioned before, I have the habit of actually typing out the transcript myself if I think it's buried in the back of the textbook in small font in an inconvenient place.
In this case, here is the transcript for the listening on page 53 of Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5, which I typed out myself so my students could have better access to it.
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Good morning, everyone. So--we’re looking at animation technology today...something we’re all very familiar with from seeing blockbuster films such as Toy Story and Shrek. But, um, I'd like to start by looking at how animation began, and how the technical side of things developed.
Not long after the invention of the first camera by Thomas Edison in 1889, a photographer by the name of J. Stuart Blackton developed the first technique for animated film. It consisted of a series of drawings and, er, he drew a number of “funny faces” and then filmed one after the other. This gave the impression of motion and changing facial expression. But it was a very slow process and a long way from being anything like a film. Then a Frenchman, Emile Cohl, moved things on a bit by using scenes and figures cut out of paper instead. This meant things could be done more quickly. It was possibly to build up a small scene, though a very large number of cut-outs were required to do this. And, of course, it was all still taking place during the era of silent film.
Eventually, Walt Disney came along. He wanted his film characters to look more “real” and so he found ways to do this. Er, it took weeks to produce a single film sequence, but in 1928, the first talking animated film came out that had been made using hand-painted slides known as “cells”--these were placed one on top of the other and then quickly removed. And that first film launched the career of Mickey Mouse--if you remember him. Disney then went on to produce the first full-length color animated film in 1937--Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs--which earned him the first of his 37 Oscars.
Animation changed very little over the the next 50 years or so until the advent of computers and the work of a company called Pixar. Pixar Animation Studios was a graphics group until Steve Jobs invested 10 million dollars in the company. Now it has become a Hollywood icon, with earnings of over 6.3 billion dollars and numerous film awards. In fact, Pixar’s films act rather like a timeline of technological developments in computer graphics. So, let’s have a look at some of them.
Pixar’s debut feature film was Toy Story, and this was the first film to be completely animated by computers. When it was released in 1995, many features of the film were seen as outstanding. It is still considered to be one of the most significant achievements in the history of film animation. A later film, Monsters, Inc., which came out in 2001, added a new animation feature, which was the on-screen representation of animal fur. This helped to enhance the appeal of one of the film’s central characters. Two years after that, the award-winning film Finding Nemo--a tale of the lives of some very appealing and visually enchanting fish--pioneered new techniques in digital lighting, which were used to create realistic-looking water. This was an essential feature of the film. Many scenes took place underwater and relied on a certain level of brilliance and clarity throughout. Had they got it wrong the entire effect would have been lost. And a film called The Incredibles in 2004 brought with it credible human characters and advances in the simulation of crowds.
So each of these films introduced new types of physical phenomena, and these days 3D animation can re-create most real-world scenarios. Yet cinema audiences have increasingly high expectations. So how do companies like Pixar plan to meet the challenges of the future?
Well, firstly, studios still struggle to create digital humans that audiences like. Up to now, they’ve been criticised for looking robotic. So the focus for producers now is on simulating more realistic human skin and more detailed facial movement. Both developments are bringing close the day when there will be convincing digital actors on screen.
A second aspect that Pixar hopes to improve on is the speed at which they can actually produce each frame of animated film. Things have moved on, but the time it takes to do this is basically staying the same. Faster computers help, but work done by companies involved in the production of video games is also hoped to improve things.
A further challenge is colour. Pixar is looking ahead to how it can better use its colour palettes and produce more brilliant images. And lastly, the company is hoping to build on methods to stylise its images in films. It seems reality has been the goal for many years, but now they are also trying to break new ground and come up with other concepts. The result could be a new breed of animated films that don’t look real or like anything that has gone before.
Now let’s take a closer look at...