Software Engineer of Applied Innovation, Evan Atherton, is one of our team members. I have featured Evan's exploits in other blog posts.
- Autodesk Fusion 360 R2-D2 Project by Evan Atherton
- Evan and Arthur's Excellent Adventure
- WIRED: 3D Printed Speaker Cases with LED Lights
He recently took a field trip to ILM. Here is his story.
The Force was strong with me that day. It was a Tuesday. I was working diligently at my desk when I saw an email pop into my inbox. It was a notification that Senior Brand Communications Manager, Julie Hayes, had posted on the Brand Experience Autodesk 360 page. For some reason the picture didn't load, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the words that were in its place: "Star Wars.png."
Anyone who knows me — or anyone who has seen my desk — knows that I am a huge Star Wars fan, so naturally I thought the email was meant for me. I clicked on the link and was directed to the Autodesk 360 post where Julie was offering the final spot for a tour of Industrial Light & Magic — the geek mother ship. I scanned the page and saw that no one had posted yet. My heart fluttered as I frantically replied, praying no one beat me to it.
Turns out my Jedi training paid off because I landed the trip.
On that most glorious of days, once we arrived, we were guided to the reception area — an entire room filled with Star Wars props, golden trophies, and life-sized characters. Instead of US Weekly magazines, the coffee table was covered in Star Wars Insider magazines.
When we checked in with the receptionist, our badges were pre-printed and waiting for us, along with other guests from different parties. The name on the badge below mine caught my eye. It read "Phil Tippett." It was then that I felt the true gravitas of the sacred grounds on which I stood. Phil Tippett, for those less indoctrinated than I, was the stop-motion mastermind behind the Imperial Walkers (ATATs) on Hoth and Endor, and the holographic chess table in A New Hope. Many swoon over the Mick Jaggers and Beyonces, but these people are my rock stars.
We were guided by our gracious hosts, Rich McBride and Eric Schweckert, into the ILM screening room — a state-of-the-art theater where world-famous directors screen the visual effects shots that their teams at ILM are working on. We were treated to a video message from George Lucas and JJ Abrams, along with an incredible show reel of the work that ILM had recently completed.
Then we began the tour…
The halls of ILM are lined with George Lucas' private collection of rare vintage poster, movie props, behind-the-scenes pictures, and more. It was a general what's what of our collective childhoods.
We got to peek into the places where people actually work as well. The partitions between desks were made entirely of bookshelves, which themselves were decorated with posters, props, and books. This really broke up the homogeneity that many corporate offices seem struggle with. The only computer screen I saw someone working on had Autodesk Maya open, so that was cool to see.
Our gallery at 1 Market is our showpiece, whereas ILM's hallways are theirs. Some of my favorite things were the animatronic ghost head from Ghost Busters and an animatronic dinosaur prototype for Jurassic Park.
My favorite item, however, might have been an original Dykstraflex.
The Dykstraflex was invented by John Dykstra, who helped George Lucas form ILM to create the visual effects on Star Wars. The Dykstraflex was one of the first motion-control camera systems. It's what made many of the visual effects of Star Wars possible. We continued to travel on through the many halls until it was time for lunch.
Then an event happened so powerful, it made me believe in The Force. I am a huge fan of the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars, which I follow the making of quite heavily. The key figure in making the series so good is the supervising director — Dave Filoni.
Naturally when I found out I was going to ILM, my first thought was "Oh man, I hope I run into Dave Filoni!" Again, these people are my rock stars. I dismissed the idea as not very likely because ILM and Lucasfilm Animation are housed in different buildings.
Our last stop on the tour was to the in-house cafeteria (which was delicious). As we entered the cafeteria I couldn't help but thinking, "If I ran into Dave, this would probably be the likeliest." I turned the next corner and (not one to be star struck) I froze... Dave was walking right toward me.
I worked up the courage to stop him and tell him how big of a fan I was of the show. He noticed I was a visitor, so he asked me where I was from. I told him I was visiting from Autodesk, and he replied, "Oh that's great. We couldn't do what we do without you guys!" To put that into context, they use Maya exclusively to produce their Emmy award winning show.
What a way to end an awesome field trip. I'd like to thank the Brand Team for giving me the opportunity to tag along!
Thanks for reading if you made it this far.
May the Force be with you,
Light and magic are alive in the lab.