Sunday, January 15, 2006

early CGI

from the late seventies on I produced a lot of animation
for the biggest TV-station in germany, WDR. children-
specials, titles and a lot of political satirical stuff. looking back
I think most of it was not festival-quality, but taking in
account the little time I had to finish it, it was ok.
time was the biggest problem, the show was already
printed 2 weeks in advance in the TV news magazines
and I had not even started with the animation.
through that work I met a lot of very interesting writers
for political programs and that added a very important
part to my education.

at the same time I spent at least 1 month every year in
L.A., had a lot of friends in the animation industry there
and got informed about the latest technology. through
my close contact to june foray I was invited to a number
of studios, like LESTER NOVROS and BOB ABEL.
in 1981 BOB ABEL's studio was doing a lot of slit-scan-
technique work. maybe some of you remember the
incredible commercials with that camera effect. I was
stunned by the look achieved with such a simple trick, -
but, you needed a computer controlled camera. of
course there was no such thing in germany at that time.

then TRON happened in 1982, and a lot of the stunning
visuals were done by ABEL.
I had no idea what they were talking about. but the TRON-
world was so incredible, I could not even imagine how it
had been produced.

the same year in sept. there was a special issue of the
MILLIMETER magazin about special effx in commercials.
it gave me a lot of information about the latest develop-
ments. all that, ABEL, TRON and the new tv-station logo-
look got me hooked on this new w o r l d of design.
back in germany nobody understood what I was talking
about. but I could do a lot of new program-titles copying
that CGI-look with primitive own invented camera
tricks. it was a bit depressing, because I saw this fast train
passing by, and I was still in the caves.

finally in the year 1984 all that changed. the german TV-
station 'ARD 1' needed a new logo and a new corporate
identity. because the station I worked with, WDR, was
the biggest and wealthiest in a group of 9 at that time,
they got the job and had to come up with the ideas.
I was approached by them early 1984 and did tons of
sketches. always that new CGI-technology in mind.
I wanted the new logo to be 3-dimensional, animated
and manipulated in a completely new way. it took a while
and lots of compromises. together with the head of the
design department at that station I started to make
contacts to the most promising CGI productions in the US.
I had to finish very detailed storyboards - more key-
frames -, and they had to be approved by the executives.
the production costs were so incredible high that
every little piece of animation and visual effect had to
be defined to the smallest detail to avoid expensive
misunderstandings. there was no REAL TIME checking

we finally found the right partner to translate the
design into moving CG-images in CRANSTON-CSURI
in columbus, ohio. their showreel was just mind blowing.
and so it all started again - in late summer 1984. I went
with the head-designer of the tv station to cranston csuri,
the work had to be supervised by me the following months
and finally the first CG designs showed on german TV screens
late 1984. the new 'ARD 1' design was born with the
technology possible at that time.

it's amazing what happened since then in CGI. today we
don't even notice the difference between reality and
CGI in live action movies. in animation most studios stopped
traditional 2-D animation and only produce CG-animation.
in the early days the CG-images looked not as perfect as
today. but you could feel the d e s i g n , that is what I am
missing today. all I see is a copy of the real world, realistic
textures and shapes. hopefully that will change within the
n e x t 20 years!

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