Doug Trumbull, Industrial Design Department, John Dykstra discussed on Maltin On Movies

Maltin On Movies


Today is a man who if you don't know personally air by site you know his work you've just got to know his work because he's the guy who did the visual effects for Star Wars. You remember that one a couple of Batman movies a couple of Spiderman movies so much more but more importantly John Dykstra is one of the creators of the modern era of visual effects. And it's a real privilege to have you here John. Oh It's a pleasure to be here. I I like my intros. Should tell you it's not him it's a Hologram that he created sent over. Help me OBI ONE. I'll be honest. I wasn't even going Star Wars. I was just going special effects. Okay I respect your life choice. I mean it is. An amazing is amazing history and as we often say to people you know. It's not history while you're doing it. Not just what you're doing and What you thought you were going to be doing was industrial design. Now what led you into that field. Well listen I mean again. Life Choices My father was an engineer on. I was a burgeoning artist. I liked to sketch and draw and I like to take things apart. Put Them Together. So it's kind of an interesting combination if you think about engineering and design in together. It's industrial design ended up as fate would have it when. I signed up for school. I was a liberal arts major. I had no specific major and The Guy who was the head of the Industrial Design Department was responsible for people whose last names began with D. and so I was introduced to him and he says you know you ought to be in our department. I I guess he was furthering his own nest so I ended up in industrial design but it was a great fit because I like to draw and I love to think about the way things work and so a fate may have intervened but it was in a good way and was this Long Beach Long Beach State. Where did you grow up one beach? I was born and raised in you and Snoop Dogg. I like it yeah. Local local knowledge. Of what kind of things did you? Where do you think you were headed with that cars house? Of course I mean you know when I when I was growing up. What I wanted to do was to have a motorcycle. I actually built the motorcycle out of parts. It was anybody but it was that kind of stuff. This is the interesting thing about it is It would be nice to have a strategic point of view when you're that age but I'm not sure that that's necessarily available so it was mostly tactical decisions and one of the things that led to my involvement in visual effects. Is I became enamored of cameras. I really liked the idea of capturing images I like drawing but what I discovered was that I could go out. And and instead of spending a half an hour doing sketch and then developing it further. I could photograph it and I could capture lots of images and I enjoyed the mechanics of it and the business of optics so I was A had. Photography is in avocation. And you were you a darkroom guy. Yeah Oh yeah had my parents. To my much. To my parents dismay. I turned a kitchen in an extra kitchen turned into a dark room for me and it had all the attendant smells and and Paraphernalia and tape the windows up. No less time. It was great. I really enjoyed the process And so what was that next step because that was a giant step and maybe maybe I should call it a left. Turn into visual effects. How does that all again? I again I in the Industrial Design Department. I had friends who were working for a man named Doug trumbull which we all know and He was going to make a project called silent running. He was working on Andromeda strain at the time and he had pension for hiring college students and so I went to work at trumbull film facts. I had completed my college education. An actually I I had an issue with the head of my department and I ended up not graduating at that. Time so I went to work for Doug and was doing design industrial design and photography which were my two favorite things so doug we should explain for those who don't know Is One of the people who worked on two thousand one a space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick? And which was the the first modern era visual effects movie. That mattered and that pushed wasn't an envelope. There was no envelope. Sorta helped develop the idea of modern. I keep saying modern but you know new era special effects. I know modern is dated word. It's interesting modern You know it's interesting because that was one of the things that led to me becoming involved in visual effects. Even before my college I I I went to see two thousand one space odyssey and I was Totally engaged by the movie and are totally enamored of the idea of being able to create A reality such an unreal situation I think that was a turning point for a lot of people. Yeah and inspiration for a lot of people as a couple of generations earlier King Kong had been for for kids of that of what but but of course two thousand one had that perfect combination during different opinions about the movie. I think is fantastic But it's the atmosphere the Kubrick creates and the he's a spellbinding spellbinding filmmaker absolutely and so. It's not just affects perfect sake. It's part of an organic hold. That is that movie. Well it's the environment too. I mean that the whole idea of the setting it was to me. It's a subtle stuff. It was sort of an odd way. His projection of what industrial design was going. That's true to its to provide in in this Advanced World and you. I you know. Listen he's what can be said it's Stanley Kubrick an and he. You know it's that's a stew took five years to make so it's going to be very finessed and and gourmet but the choice of his ingredients and the way put the the components together made me feel as though that place existed in a way that I you know movies sort of did that. But his went beyond the telling of a story to creating a totally Believable environment so much. So that you go that place actually exists and and there's two components to this entertainment one is on seeing an alternate reality. That is absolutely real and totally down to the minutia. You know the Bush baby or whatever that kind of stuff and and at the same time a compelling story albeit confusing unless compelling and I was I was thoroughly enjoyed and visually it was just stunning art direction and the visual effects themselves and the choice of the choices that were made with regard Obviously score I mean all that stuff Yeah well it's a hell of a film and made me want to work in movies and that was before I'd even gotten to college before. I'd become an enthusiastic photographer. The Saddam trumbull is sort of like kind of ground zero away for me. Yeah for a lot of people and you see Liz. Yeah well he's alive and well thank goodness So you went to work for him. And and what what? What was the atmosphere like there? Was it like a workshop? Was it like a A think tank more like a think-tank. I mean listen I. It's hard to describe. I had good fortune of working with him in an environment. Where we're all collaborators and not to put to find a point on obviously doug ran the show but People were asked to be a common volved in the process and more limited to one particular area. We all focused on one area. We all I did model building to begin with and then photography to pursue an following that but the guy who is the would come in and make comments on the design of the miniatures and a lot of the and the model makers were designing the miniatures as we built them and the whole idea of kit bashing Picking fine detail from existing model cars and tanks and other vehicles and then applying those as surface detail to The basic substructure. I just taught me a new word kit bashing yet cash. Yeah well you know what's interesting. It's so funny. Because the contemporary the Digital Environment. It's come full circle and they now have essentially something that's analogous to kit bashing in the digital world. They go in and they have shapes and and components that are performed in the guys can go through and just pick bits and pieces in them on on models for purposes of creating You know a designs for vehicles that don't exist Wow I'm going to be saying wow a lot. I think this conversation. So so you're you're there and you're learning and you're being inspired by this think tank of humans sure and then what well we worked Let's see okay so that was trumbull film effects. Then I'm trying to remember what the how it broke up. Then he went. He signed another contract and became a tutor. General and worked we worked on is really fun because it's an rnd environment right. We were doing even in the early days of Doug's I shop. We will working with a two thousand line video. This is in what the sixties And A computer control two thousand nine video system clunky which is at a time when American television. What six thirty three lines something? Not even that European and it wasn't even it was five twenty five. Us But it was too interlaced. So it's only explain that for anybody my age. No you don't WanNa Know Okay. Touche in the pre digital era in the pre digital television era. Tv. If I get this right a television screen image was actually made up like as a newspaper photo was made up of lava little dots or used to be a television image was made up a lot of lines very very tightly. Compressed so you'd aren't aware of the lines you don't really looking at the lines if it's a good quality image and when I first went to England and saw British television which was liked wild. This is so much better than American TV. I didn't understand why and it was that they had. Yeah it just. It's basically it boils down to the component pieces that comprised the image the bigger the component pieces are the lower the resolution the image and the less fine. The detail is that you can create so if you have lots and lots of information meaning lots and lots of points you can make very high resolution images and it has an effect on the color and it has effect on the gray scale so the higher the resolution generally the closer to what we would consider to be a real experience terms of what the real world looks like. Two people thank you so so Jesse was asking what the next phase was with trouble see moved into all in all be listen. That's a long time ago so Essentially I worked with Doug. We worked on show right which was incredible. It was a it was motion based simulator with projectors and screens mounted on board discrete four channel sound and Trip through space. That was in sixty seven. And I don't know one star tours at Joe. Wow and the problem was as so many things at Doug does. It was so far behind before. Its time that nobody could fathom it and we took it to show I can't remember was Atlanta or someplace for people who buy roller coasters and things for museum parks. We had a had a display there and did marketing there and and it was a conventional ride was two million bucks. It was two million bucks and people went on our would. We don't think we want to do it. He did. We didn't have A. We had a functioning prototype but it wasn't transportable so we're selling the concept. They had to come and see it. Anyway I don't know what the the intricacies of it where I was there at the show and help I. I did the sound scape for the for the the ride and we did a lot of the programming and stuff so it was again. I got to work on lots of different things. I got to work in sound. I got to do photography. Got To design mechanical things It was just you know it was it was. It was a dream environment. It's like Aruna of a giant garage full of all the tools you've ever wanted. We had a machine shop and all of the metalworking tools and woodworking tools..

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