I come to the world of Visual Effects from a different angle than most artists in the industry. Although I enjoyed Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and other pioneering VFX films of the time, it was never the “effects” in particular that enticed me more than, let’s say, the story, or a chance to stuff my face with Ju-jubes.
I had no interest in computers or video games and vividly recall arguing with a professor in first year University circa 1984 that the “only use for computers is storing recipes.” The following year, 1985 brought us Dire Strait’s Money for Nothing and its groundbreaking video, and my first twinges of interest in computer animation. Unfortunately, the next few years of my life resembled more the blue-collar workers featured in this short, not the rock stars.
After graduating university, I spent many a year wandering the job moonscape, not sure what I wanted to do. This included stints as a brakeman for the Canadian National Railway, a vacuum cleaner salesman, a duty-free shop cashier, and an English teacher in Japan. And no, these jobs are not made up for comedy effect.
It wasn’t until I finally broke down and got my first computer in about 1994 at age 29 that computers began to vaguely interest me. I then happened to discover via a newspaper article that people were creating visual effects, actually making images, using computers, and being well paid for it.
I enrolled in an early and primitive 6-week computer graphics course in Vancouver, and after graduating with a reel so ugly it actually caused brain damage, I sprayed North America with about 100 VHS demo reels. I got some bites, but these were in Japan.
I was offered a job at Satelight in Sapporo so back to Japan I went. Imagine my surprise to be sat in front of my Irix workstation and being told, through the fog of cigarette smoke in the studio, to use Prisms (the precursor to Houdini) NOT Maya. Although all of the manuals were in Japanese, I likened Prisms to an airplane cockpit, but one where the GUI items were shot out onto the dashboard from a shotgun. It was not until about six months later that I realized that yes, there were English versions of the manuals. YouTube tutorials? Forget about it! Not only was there no tutorials, there was no YouTube. Barely any internet, no SideFX forum, only a “listserve.”