A Conversation with Ed Catmull – ACM Queue

Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith were two key figures in the history of computer animation while they worked at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic. Catmull eventually left ILM to form up Pixar with John Lasseter and Steve Jobs. And Catmull while at Pixar created the first feature length computer animated movie: Toy Story. So if you ever wanted to know a little more about the Computer Scientist behind Pixar, please read this interview.


EC: Here are the things I would say in support of that. One of them, which I think is really important—and this is true especially of the elementary schools—is that training in drawing is teaching people to observe.
PH: Which is what you want in scientists, right?
EC: Thats right. Or doctors or lawyers. You want people who are observant. I think most people were not trained under artists, so they have an incorrect image of what an artist actually does. Theres a complete disconnect with what they do. But there are places where this understanding comes across, such as in that famous book by Betty Edwards [Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain].

via A Conversation with Ed Catmull – ACM Queue.

This interview is with a computer scientist named Ed Catmull. In the time Ed Catmull entered the field, we’ve gone from computers crunching numbers like a desktop calculator to computers doing full 3D animated films. Ed Catmull’s single most important goal was to created an animated film using a computer. He eventually accomplished that and more onced he helped form up Pixar. All of his research and academic work was focused on that one goal.

I’m always surprised to see what references or influences people quote in interviews. In fact, I am really encouraged. It was about 1988 or so when I took a copy of Betty Edward’s book my mom had and started reading it and doing some of the exercises in it. Stranger still I want back to college and majored in art (not drawing but Photography). So I think I understand exactly what Ed Catmull means when he talks about being observant. In every job I’ve had computer related or otherwise that ability to be observant just doesn’t exist in a large number of people. Eventually people begin to ask me how do know all this stuff, when did you learn it? Most times, the things they are most impressed by are things like noticing something and trying a different strategy in attempting to fix a problem. The proof is, I can do this with things I am unfamiliar with and usually make some headway towards fixing a thing. Whether that thing is mechanical, or computer related doesn’t matter. I make good guesses and it’s not because I’m an expert in anything, I merely notice things. That’s all it is.

So maybe everyone should read and go through Betty Edwards’s book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. If nothing else it might make you feel a little dislocated and uncomfortable. It might shake you up, and make you question some pre-conceived notions about yourself like, the feeling you can’t draw or you are not good at art. I think with practice, anyone can draw and with practice anyone can become observant.

Author: carpetbomberz

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