I’m reading Michael Rubin’s Droidmaker, a history of Lucasfilm’s work with computer graphics and computer-assisted editing, and really, a big chunk of Bay Area history I didn’t know much about. (The book’s first section was particularly interesting. It’s largely pre-Star Wars, and Francis Ford Coppola looms large in the SF filmmaking scene.)
Here’s a detail that made me smile. I love a good you’ve-got-to-hire-me story:
Sometimes it seemed as if everyone in the computer industry wanted a job with the Lucasfilm researchers. The small team were sent resumes constantly. As soon as he was situated at Bank Street, [Alvy Ray Smith] began receiving “love notes” from a scientist at Boeing. The term “notes” was perhaps misleading. Someone was sending Alvy 8x10 prints of a mountainscape…
…almost certainly of digital origin, with no explanation. These images caught his eye. He had never seen a computer-generated mountain look so detailed, and although it was likely the result of an application of mathematician Bernard Mandelbrot’s new ideas, neither he nor [Ed Catmull] was sure how it had been done or who had done it.
In time they understood that the pictures came from someone making a presentation at that fall’s Siggraph conference in Seattle. They both made a mental note to find out more about him. Alvy pinned one of the photos to the wall.
The Siggraph presentation—set to a Beatles song—was the two-minute short Vol Libre, an insta-classic in the history of computer graphics. The Boeing scientist, Loren Carpenter, went on to join Lucasfilm and co-found Pixar.