Hello - this is Brian Mathews. Scott is on sabbatical, and I've been invited to be a guest writer while he is out.
Sorry for the long post, future posts will be short. This topic involves childhood passions.
The Under-appreciated TRON
I've always been interested in computers and electronics since I was a little kid. I remember being small enough to sit on my Dad's back while he was laying on the floor studying for an exam. He was busy but wanted to spend time with me, so he read his college level physics textbooks out loud to me. I wasn't really paying any attention, I was probably 4 years old, and was just happy to be with Dad. But I do remember about protons and photons and neutrons and electrons. Lots of -trons. Those -trons got into my blood and shaped my interests: electronics, computers, etc.
Fast forward to high school where I was interested in computer graphics: a relatively new field with lots to discover and invent. I spent hours after school programming a DEC VAX 750 (probably the only public high school to have one) that was hooked to a primitive VT102 terminal with a raster graphics attachment. I was able to draw shapes like epicycloid's and hypocycloids. Such fun.
At that time all the technical magazines were writing about a new Disney movie: TRON. Way beyond my VAX line art, the articles showed fantastic computer graphic images based on something amazing called Ray Casting. TRON was the first movie containing mostly computer graphics renderings. One frame of TRON animation could take days to compute on the machines available then.
In 1982 the movie released, and I was blown away. For others, the movie was a flop: most people had no appreciation of the computer imagery or understanding of the symbolize. Many critics dinged it for a light plot and some bad acting by supporting actors. Not everyone hated it: years later Roger Ebert, bless him, selected TRON as his first pick in the Overlooked Film Festival and the movie attracted a cult following in computer graphics circles.
The main character was played by none other than "The Dude": Jeff Bridges! Mr. Bad Ass himself. Back then Jeff wasn't the Big Labowski star he is today, but he was great in TRON. [An aside: it's interesting that my high school classmate Philip Seymour Hoffmanended up in The Big Labowski along side my favorite TRON actor Jeff Bridges. Phil thought I was a nerd in high school, and he ends up acting along side the nerd's idol! Ha!]
TRON Legacy (aka TR2N)
Fast forward again to the present day. After a decade of rumors, Disney wowed a crowd at the COMI-CON conference with a conceptual trailer of TR2N, later renamed to Tron Legacy. The release date is December 2010 and I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait over a year to see it. I'll be in a sleeping bag outside waiting to buy the first ticket.
Check out the Movie Trailer, and see the surprise actor playing a lead role...
Looking at that trailer I'm convinced that Autodesk software is playing a big role in the production. The motorcycle characters are rendered (not real actors) and my guess is that Autodesk Motion Builder is being used with a bunch of motion capture technology (mo-cap). Looking at the explosion it sure looks like the Maya particle solver from the Autodesk two-time Oscar winning scientist Jos Stam.
Best of all, Disney announced that the new TR2N vehicles are being created by the amazingly talented designer Daniel Simon. [There are a lot of hyperlinks in this article, but make sure you follow the one on Daniel Simon: you've never seen a vehicle designed like his!]. Daniel uses Autodesk AliasStudio and Autodesk Maya in a lot of his work.
Any other TRON fans out there? Leave a comment on the blog...
-Brian Mathews (guest writer while Scott's on sabbatical)