Information International Inc (III, or Triple-I)

 

While at CalTech, Gary Demos was made aware of the work of John Whitney, Sr. who was teaching classes there, experimenting with early CG images. Whitney's work, and that of the University of Utah, prompted Demos in 1972 to go to work for Evans and Sutherland. E&S used DEC PDP-11 computers along with custom E&S hardware, including the Picture System and a variation of the UofU frame buffer. At E&S, Demos began discussions about filmmaking with Ivan Sutherland, and together they started a company in LA called the Picture/Design Group. Demos met John Whitney Jr. at P/DG, and they started to work on some joint projects with Information International, Inc. Founded in 1962, III was in the business of creating digital scanners and other image processing equipment. Jim Blinn developed software (TRANEW) for III, which ran on a modified DEC 10, called the Foonly F1, which came out of the Stanford Research group and was originally used for OCR.

The III graphics effort was founded as Motion Pictures Product Group by Whitney and Demos (with Art Durinski, Tom McMahon, and Karol Brandt) in 1974. Early software was written by Blinn, Frank Crow, Craig Reynolds, and Larry Malone.They did some early film tests and broadcast graphics work for the European market. Motion picture work included Tron, Futureworld, Westworld, and Looker. They also produced Adam Powers, the Juggler as a demo of their capabilities. They marketed their services as "Digital Scene Simulation", and did several spots for Mercedes ABC and KCET. III hired Richard Taylor, an art director at Robert Abel, to handle the creative director efforts there. He brought a sense of film production to III, which in his words were lacking. He directed "Adam Powers" and was assigned as the effects supervisor for Tron (III produced the MCP, the Solar Sailor, and Sark's Carrier). Other projects included tests for Close Encounters, Star Wars, The Black Hole and the Empire Strikes Back, a stereo production called Magic Journeys, and many groundbreaking television promotion sequences.

Although they defined much of the early view of CGI, disputes regarding the computing power necessary to continue in the business prompted Whitney and Demos to leave to establish Digital Productions in 1982. They departed before Tron was completed, so much of the III contract was taken up by MAGI. Richard Taylor continued to handle the effects supervision, and was hired by MAGI when the film wrapped.

Gary Demos and John Whitney, Jr. went on to Digital Productions, Whitney/Demos, and Demos most recently founded DemoGraFX (which was acquired by Dolby Laboratories in 2003), where he works with digital TV, HDTV standards, digital compositing, and other high technology graphics related projects.Whitney founded USAnimation, which later became Virtual Magic Animation, in 1992. Demos and Whitney received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Engineering Award for the Photo Realistic Simulation Of Motion Picture Photography By Means of Computer Generated Images in 1984 for work on the movies "The Last Starfighter" and on "2010" using the Cray XMP. Demos also received an Academy Scientific and Engineering Award in 1995 for Pioneering Work In Digital Film Scanning", and an Academy Technical Achievement Award in 1996 for Pioneering Work In Digital Film Compositing Systems.

Equipment included PDP-10s, the famed Foonley F1 (a modified DEC 10), a proprietary 1000 line frame buffer, and a proprietary PFR-80 film recorder. Software included the TRANEW rendering package, developed by Jim Blinn, Frank Crow, et al, which ran on the Foonley. Animation was described using ASAS (Actor/Scriptor Animation System) developed by Craig Reynolds. Modeling was done on the Tektronix 4014 display using software developed by Larry Malone.

ABC television logo

Gary Demos with the film recorder

Gary Demos receiving the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Engineering Award

Plastic flowers

Mercedes Benz logo

Adam Powers, the Juggler

Digital Scene Simulation postcard

Dave Keller and the Digital Film Processor developed by Gary Demos and later used by Digital Productions

The PFR -80 with a film jam

The Foonley F1

Tron site

Tron overview

Name Came from Went to Comments
John Whitney, Jr. P/DG Digital Productions
Gary Demos
Cal Tech, E&S
Digital Productions
Frank Crow Utah Ohio State Consultant - Software development
Richard Taylor Abel MAGI West
Craig Upson NCSA
Art Durinsky
Jim Rapley
Jim Blinn Consultant - Software development
Tom McMahon
Karol Brandt
Craig Reynolds MIT, Ramtek Symbolics ASAS
Malcom McMillan UCLA
Larry Malone
Bill Dungan
Jeremy Swartz