Friday, September 24, 2010

I Am A Cheater, Too!

Thanks to this CG Society article, I discovered the following "Making Of Tron" video on YouTube:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

The video is beyond awesome, but the most striking part of it, even more than the behind the scenes footage and image material, was THIS SENTENCE by Steven Lisberger:

"The Motion Picture Academy refused to nominate Tron for special effects because they said we cheated when we used computers..."

While I point at Star Wars as the main influence for me to end up in the visual effects industry, Tron has a very special place in my heart, too. Unlike Star Wars, Tron was not shown in communist Bulgaria's movie theaters back in the early 80s. But the magazine for international journalism "Parallels" ("Paraleli" in Bulgarian) had a large article with images about the making of the "first computer generated film" which I used for a school project about "an art form of my choice" (film is considered the Seventh Art Form, so I went with Science Fiction Movies as my theme).

For 6 years, I could only dream about seeing the actual film. My dream came true thanks to "Perestroika" on February 14th 1988, a Sunday. It was 3 days before my birthday and it happened to be a weekend. I was in my first year of army service and my girlfriend came to visit me so I got a two days leave. We went to a so-called "Cinema Video Club" - these were coffee shops with video projector that were showing private (read: illegally copied) VHS records of western movies that could not be seen or obtained through any other channels. Copyright law did not extend beyond the Iron Curtain, and thankfully the idea that western movies were "capitalist propaganda designed to brainwash the youth" was not so popular anymore, so we could finally see films we had missed originally. And they were showing Tron that day!

Of course, I was completely blown away by what I saw then. A year later, during my second year of military service, I was in a computer center and had the opportunity to play with simple computer graphics. This led to getting a PC home with me for another two years after I finished service as I continued working as consultant to one department of the military academy. Then, in the first year as student of architecture, I presented a design project that was made and printed on a computer. Guess what the reaction of my professors was? "This is not fair to your peers, you cheated by using a computer".

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I never intended to turn computer graphics into profession, mainly because it was impossible in the current political climate. But for some people who were living in a different environment, Tron turned out to be the actual inspiration for working in the visual effects industry.

There still is an original Tron coin-op game in one of our offices. This is because the company previously known as Frantic Films was started by Chris Bond who was one of those people who were inspired by Tron and actually went into the visual effects industry because of that inspiration. With Tron Legacy less than three months away, it is both a wonderful and curious feeling to look back at where things started and realize how far we, the industry and the world have come...


  1. That's book material you got there! Epic story. I was lucky enough to be able to travel just when I needed it, but for the people before, it was tough.

  2. I too had a professor give me a bad grade for using the computer to draw frames for an animation. Whatever... I figure if it works, use it!

  3. As Glaclerise wrote: very epic story. Maybe you should start a new profession as a scenarist...