The Empire Strikes Back is credited with paving the pay for the future of CGI. VFX supervisor John Dykstra pioneered a computer-manipulated motion camera system, fittingly called the "Dykstraflex". The Dykstraflex created the illusion of motion by filming a spaceship model against a blue screen while the camera circled around it.
James Cameron had been drafting Avatar since the 1990s, but the director had to wait for technological advancements that could bring his vision to life. The cast acted out their scenes wearing full-body motion-capture suits on a performance capture stage six times larger than anything Hollywood had ever seen. A whopping 900 people were employed by Weta Digital to work on the movie.
Microsoft was forced to build a brand new system specifically for the purpose of storing massive amounts of data for Avatar. Each minute of final footage for the nearly three-hour-long film occupied 17.28 gigabytes of storage. It took several hours to render each individual frame of the film.
Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is actually known for its lack of CGI. The team behind one of history's most iconic films pulled it off by mixing digital imagery with real-life animatronics. You might be surprised to learn that only 15 or so minutes of the dinosaur scenes were computer-generated. The rest used SFX master Stan Winston's physical dinosaur models.