I started learning 3D animation at the University of Southern Mississippi 7 years before Toy Story debuted. In that day there was no one to teach 3D so I taught myself how to operate a system called a Cubicomp Picturemaker. Few people would remember what that is anymore but in a nutshell it was a Compaq PC with 8MB Ram, a 40MB hard drive, one SD image buffer and  one SD texture buffer.  Everything was created through a monochrome menu monitor and displayed to a massive RGB monitor. It took roughly 5 minutes to build a cube by hand. It had raytracing but was impractically slow and bug ridden. A single sphere and grid with Phong shading and a single light could take hours to render. Cubicomp, while just a PC, was an extrordinarily complicated product with an abundace of manuals written similar to the operational documents of a particle collider. My first really large 26 second production, a show open for USM's Curley Hallman Show, took two weeks to render and was rendered in gouraud shading output hot to a 1 inch Type C video tape machine one frame at a time. At the time the effort seemed like a monumental achievement, little did I know however that one of the texture maps I used, a photo of a young quarterback with the number 4 on it, would one day grow up to become Brett Favre. My most fond moments of that experience comes from the hours spent cutting and hacking render macros, to isolate a single frame, rerender that frame and spend hours tediously painting small black render bugs out of the image. The task rivaled in enjoyment to the follow up process of taking that image, recently modified with an application called TrueImage Paint Software, and performing complex timecode math adjusted by field dominance on non-drop SMPTE time code to accurately replace the newly painted image on a single frame of the tape, all without mucking the days of work already rendered to tape before and after that frame.

       I started my professional career with almost 7 years experience in Broadcast News, using Picturemaker again and then Softimage 3D.  During that time producing a lot of commercial advertising work and then a lot of news promotional work. I used Picturemaker, in one form or another for almost 6 years, 3 of which Cubicomp, the company, was out of business and the software defunct. But in the early 90's I was so excited just to be able to create 3D animation I didn't really notice.  At WDAM I had two Cubicomp systems. I could work on 1 while I rendered with the other. When I fired both up to render at the same time, thats all you could do was render. Yep, no multthreaded CPUs, no windows, no account shells or any of that. All DOS all the time. Renders for large newsopen projects could take days, and days, and well....days. I used to beg the master control operators to swap disks for me during the morning, to keep the renders going. Besides they needed something to do anyway seeing as how they got paid to watch tv all day and hit the "run commercials" button every so often. The were living the good life, at least when they werent struggling to keep the 2 inch pneumatic cart decks running. The disks? Oh yeah, we rendered everything to 20 MB Bernoulli disks, hot swapping the disks as they filled up as it could take 40 of these 8 inch floppy cartridges to complete a large production. Scripting had a meaning all of it own back then, writing DOS batch files to automate the Bernoulli file management and using an archaic text based tool called Sequence to produce compositing.

       Enter a new job in Memphis, Softimage 3D, Eddie, and Matador about 1994. All loaded on a small but extremely expensive SGI Indigo Elan with a MIPS 4400 processor and a 2GB hard drive. Wow what a difference a day makes! We were cooking with gas and the quality of my work increased dramatically within just a couple of weeks. Oh, by the way, did I mention I agreed to operate a weather camera at 5, 6 and 10 to get the Softimage gig? Yeah, the things we would do back then to get our 3D fix. So this was strictly a "news" gig, promos, news opens, topicals, IDs, and all that. The work was more art than technical and I was cranking out tons of stuff in such a short time with only about half of the day to work on it. My style was ahead of its time in 1995, creating large virtual environments for backgrounds as opposed to the traditional flat layered look so popular in the 90's. Pushing this to the limits I could muster, I finished up my time at WREG by creating a 30 second animated spot promoting a news channel called the Mid South News Network. The spot, an attempt to illustrate " hey Memphis , meet the information superhighway..." won me an Emmy.

       From there I came to NASA where I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the technical illustration and animation of large NASA projects and programs like the Hyper-X, SATS, or retro projects like Viking. I started at NASA using Wavefront TAV, but managed ro get Softimage 3D in place soon after that. Still working with SGI when I arrived at NASA the CGI world was soon to change, embracing PCs yet again and bringing my world full circle. Since 2000 the CGI world has been in dramatic flux with software prices plunging, hardware easy to obtain, a massive influx of books and literature, the web, and nVidia.  No longer were we, as animators, struggling to find our way in the wilderness as it was a decade earlier.  Hollywood had embraced our trade and it was here to stay, altering the Film landscape forever. For me the number of tools I wanted to learn grew quickly, but as new software arrived like Softimage XSI, the old disappeared. Names like Gig, Digital Arts, Alias, Vertigo, Wavefront, Crystal Topas, Aurora, the names go on and on, all a shadow of their former self or gone forever. I had embraced Maya early on with version 1.5, largely because it was so well suited for the scientific environment.  I transitioned back to Softimage, using XSI for production, 5 years ago. I have produced animation for a number of projects including the Air Traffic Operations Lab, UAVs, Hypersonics, Mars Exploration, Earth Observations, General Aviation, and JPDO's Nextgen.

      Today the SGI is gone, IRIX but a distant memory, yet CGI lives on, better than it was, faster than it was, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. CGI has become so mainstream that I currently teach 3D animation to high school students on a FIRST Robotics FRC Team. Regional winners they were, two years running. In recent years I've ventured into visualization using AGI's STK to convert simulation data into visual presentations of Air Traffic experiments conducted at NASA. As for the software side of the industry, today Autodesk is the name at the top of the hill and the industry itself has eased into a state where the luster is worn but not faded. Last year, in Vancouver CA, I gave my first presentation accepted by Siggraph.

        I anxiously look forward to what comes next.......