Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dave Kopperman and the Last Crusade

Raiders of the Lost Art, Part III

Like most kids of my generation and temperament, I was enslaved by my first viewing of Star Wars. But only that rarified strata reserves the same love and level of devotion to Tron, Disney's 1982 opening shot in the CGI revolution in visual effects.

Of course, since Tron came out about a decade before the revolution actually began, it bombed in theaters and is generally reviled as sort of an ultimate geek movie. Since I am an ultimate geek, Tron made me its bitch of my first viewing and has never quite let go of my imagination. If I pick apart any Sci-Fi story idea I have, on some level, Tron is lurking in the background. I wrote to Disney and got a press pack for the film. I bought all the video games, I painted a track suit, bicycle helmet and frisbee with phosphorescent green circuitry for Hallowe'en, 1982. I sought out showings on the Disney Channel at my mother's boyfriend's house. I had it bad

And on a visual level, I was totally blown away by and obsessed with the new art form that director Steven Lisberger showed me. I started trolling magazines for articles about the Cray Supercomputer. Expanding my search, I noted the companies that created the imagery in the film and sought out commercials that they'd also produced - Robert Abel, Triple I, MAGI. I wrote them all and got info on their operations. Whatever meager materials available on CGI, I had to have. Calendars. Fanzines.

Want to know how bad this obsession got me? I SAW THE LAST STARFIGHTER TWICE IN THEATERS LESS THAN A DAY APART.

So, when I looked at a computer to call my own, my first thought was, "I want a computer I can make 'Tron' on." Obviously, I wasn't paying close enough attention to those articles about processing power that I'd read, but, anyway. Sure, my Vectrex could give me a little lift with the light pen and the Art Master and AnimAction carts:

...but even knowing that Abel and Associates had done their work on a vector based machine wasn't enough to keep me satisfied with it's limitations for long.

Having secured an Apple IIc as my first computer (well, the first computer that was mine), I started to play around with the most advanced drawing and animation programs available. These would be Dazzle Draw and Fantavision, respectively.

But even these weren't slick enough for me. Too pixelated. Only 256 colors. I needed something smooth. Rounded. Blending. Gradients. Something, frankly, beyond what the Apple II could do. And the Second Wave of Home Computing was about to deliver.

Next: Yes, Atari Made a Home Computer. And it Rocked.

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