One of my favorite online light cycle racers (Cybermonkey’s SWRON) is still available on Cybermonkey.org .
Tron was a breakthrough film in the history of 3D computer graphics and animation. And the 1982, when the film was initially released was a jaw dropping year in the history of science fiction. I was 17 years old and preparing for my senior year in high school when that summer rained down science fiction masterpieces. Tron, ET, Blade Runner and of course the greatest Star Trek film of all time, The Wrath of Khan.
Tron was the vision of a zealous animator Steven Lisberger, whose small production company was known primarily for ‘Animalympics.’ In 1976 surrounded by ‘Pong’, Star Wars and the arcade game explosion is it any wonder that he was inspired to do such a film, but his vision was absolutely at the edge of the technical capacity of the day. In the end it would require cutting edge evolution from most of the major 3D special effects companies in the industry to realize Lisberger’s vision.
There is a solid documentary on the making of Tron on the 20th anniversary DVD if you want to get a deeper understanding of the players and process. One of the most compelling bits of evidence that it would even be possible to do the film was the now famous Triple i demo reel. Another player was Robert Abel and Associates. You can get a sense of their state of technology from this You Tube video of a 1980 AT&T ad.
At that time three computer engineers (Jamie Fenton, Marc Canter and Mark Pierce) were working together at Bally in Chicago. 18 months later the trio would found Macromind (later Macromedia) and create Macromind / Macromedia Director. I spoke to Jamie (via email) yesterday and learned that she’s hard at work inventing video and RAM analysis artware, and spoke to Marc a few months ago discovering that he’s very seriously embedded in the social networking space. Mark is running a mobile games company, Super Happy Fun Fun,today.
It would be more than a decade before Macromedia codenamed a project designed to bring 3D to the Internet in honor of this legendary science fiction classic, and ironically – the pair now stand to each see sequels synchronize. I couldn’t help but admire the universal synergy – and pay homage to Tron.