The Technology Circle
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The talented Richard Taylor.

Been There, Done That
Richard Taylor of Tropix Films, a Santa Monica-based production company, was one of my favorite directors at Robert Abel. He is also a well-versed industry veteran. Starting at Robert Abel's in 1973, he did all the miniatures on the first Star Trek the Motion Picture. He was one of Tron's visual effects directors and did the original 7-Up bubbles un-cola commercials. Along with the Duracell battery campaign featuring CGI toys and an arm-length list of other credits, his Cowardly Baskets for Reebok won three Clio's with Rhythm & Hues. His talents have enabled him to maneuver forward through analog and jump to digital. I recently sat down with him and we reminisced about the past and speculated about the future.

Bruce Manning: What's the future for software/hardware companies?

Richard Taylor: I think that it's pretty infinite depending on how you look at it. If you're talking about the visual arts it gets faster, better, more accessible to everybody and easier to use. I use all the latest stuff. I happen to be an effects director so I do a combination of media -- effects animation and live-action all put together. Digital matte painting, total character animation, 2D animation -- you name it. They all get blended together through the software whether you're using Photoshop or After Effects, Maya or Lightwave. Different companies have different tools, but you need to speak those languages. All the software companies are making things easier to do for more people.

View an enlarged image of Richard Taylor's XLR8. Courtesy of Richard Taylor.

I look at my dailies with the special effects companies that I work with over the Internet. I get QuickTime movies played down to me over the Internet at very high-res. I talk to them by phone and we work through media. I shoot film and do my own matte paintings. I send it to them, and they send me back a composite. Or I make a composite. The walls are burning down.

BM: Have the glory days passed for hardware?

RT: The revitalization of Apple with Steven Jobs jump started that hardware company. Sony PlayStation 2 is a renovation. There are companies that are plugging together Sony PlayStation 2's that will do incredibly complex animation. Rather than going out and buying big mainframe computers, you can plug 10 of them together and you've got an incredible rendering machine for graphics and visuals.

BM: What's your favorite store bought software?

Adobe Photoshop 6.0, a must have for every animation, visual effects toolbox. © 2001 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved.

RT: Photoshop. The new Photoshop 6 has the ability to send sound and can do all kinds of other things. It's not just graphics anymore. That's for sure. When I do a high-res print presentation, I use Bryce by Corel, which is an incredibly simple program to operate. That program is so easy for a novice to use it's unreal.

BM: Do visual effects studios need all these new software packages?

RT: Some of them have their own software, and/or some combination. Certain companies like Rhythm & Hues have their own proprietary software like Voodoo. It's very cumbersome, but very versatile.

How many people know Maya vs. Lightwave vs. whatever? Do people need to know all three? Everyone kind of learns Photoshop. When it gets into 3D programs or into animation programs, do you need to know Flash? The question is, can all these different programs be homogenized? The closer they come to each other the better.


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