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Harry Marks is considered by many to be the godfather of broadcast design. More than any other individual, he changed television by doing things with graphics that had never been attempted before. Not only did he pioneer the use of emerging imaging technologies, but he did so with style and reason. His pioneering work in the field of CGI brought him into collaboration with many other industry pioneers, including Douglas Trumbull, Robert Abel, Carl Rosendahl (whose company evolved into DreamWorks Animation), and Dale Herigstad. In the early '80s, Harry had the idea of bringing together people who work in the disparate fields of technology, entertainment, and design, so he partnered with Richard Saul Wurman and the TED Conference was born. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers on a historic journey through the extraordinary career of Harry Marks.
Harry Marks: I got very interested in 3D, but the only 3D that I could figure out how to do was wireframe. But I like wireframe. I think wireframe is very exotic and attractive. This was from a commercial we did, which was all wireframe, except for the dashboard of the car, which was a trip through the city. Originally, it was for Philips in Holland. We did it and it was successful.
They were pleased with it. Then they gave us permission to resell it, resell this trip through the city, and we sold it to radio stations in this country with, instead of Philips cassette here, it was your call letters here. I do love wireframes. I always have. I really can't explain why, but I think that we probably were maybe the first people to actually pull something off graphically different using only wireframes.
I was always looking for people who were working in some area that used graphics. I mean it could be scientists who were making 3D graphs and anything. How did you do that and how do you make this thing work? Somebody said, you should go over to Northrop, I'll get you in there, because they do some really interesting things with wireframes, doing stress test on stress models on aircraft.
So I went over there and I met this fellow named Colin Campbell. Colin was a very brilliant mathematician and was fascinated with the whole idea of wireframes. I told him I have this idea of traveling through a city of wireframes and I said, do you think you could generate a sequence? And he said, I think so, yeah, I think I could do that. And then I told him the city idea and then he came to work for us.
So we planned out this journey through the city, and then we sequenced it. We hand-pasted colored gels to the back of the things, where we wanted buildings in color, and we printed it. It took weeks. It just took weeks to do this and weeks to shoot the 900 big negatives. But it looked great. It just looked right.
This was one of the first jobs we did with PDI, which became DreamWorks. They were just wonderful. I mean, you pull something off, you do something wonderful at PDI and as it was growing, Carl Rosendahl would say, oh, I have a new animator for you. You'll be, "oh my God!" And they always turned out to be terrific. Carl Rosendahl came into my office one day and it was at a time that we were trying to build our own computer graphics unit. This young, Nordic, handsome, tall guy walks in and says, I think you might like to see this.
It was gorgeous. It was like nothing. It was a digital version of Doug Trumbull. I mean, this guy was -- I mean, he puts you on the floor. So we immediately abandoned our efforts and we started giving our work to Carl. They gave us the tool that we could now design 3D with safety, we knew what we were going to get. They got better and better and better, and bigger and bigger and bigger and they did all of our work for ten years, ten full years.
It was a fantastic relationship. Carl was a visionary, absolute visionary. I mean they came up with techniques that cut the costs of exotic graphics, hastened the delivery of them. We could get them faster. Made things accessible. It was terrific. That's when we were able to start designing on the Mac and give them material that had data that they could use. I mean, it was-- we started with transferring stuff over.
I mean, we would do a wireframe and they would plug it in and they had it, and then they would adorn it. So that was a terrific relationship and it was a terrific company. I mean it was a joy to work there, just a joy. I think one of the things that I went for with scale was-- where a lot of people made mistakes, given the facility to be able to extrude objects and give them depth and heft, they always extruded too far, and the further you extrude something, the less weight it seems to have to me. If you do something that has a very thin edge, it can seem very, very large, as large as your mind wants to make it.
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