People Behind the Pixels

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Image West

  • All
  • pioneer
  • scanimate
  • president
  • technical director
  • animator
  • Art Director
  • animation
  • production
  • hardware
  • analog
  • Image West was based around analog video animation equipment such as the Scanimate, which manipulated video imagery and captured artwork. Cliff Brown was president and David Sieg was Chief Engineer. Animators included Peter Koczera, Ed Kramer, Russ Maehl and Roy Weinstock. Image West Art Directors were Sonny King, Henry Kline II and Gary McKinnon.

  • Image West moved from Hollywood to Studio City, CA in 1983.

  • relocated

    Image West moved from Hollywood to Studio City, CA in 1983.

  • Digital image-making state of the art was a PDP-11 and a $50,000 framebuffer, and a bunch of assembly or FORTRAN programmers hacking away from scratch. Triple-I, NYIT, and MAGI were about the only people going that route. Image West had always had the advantage of "real time", meaning that despite the limitations of the analog rescan technology, it could run right before your eyes, and be adjusted on the fly. Its big downfall was complete lack of repeatability, due to ...

  • Realtime .. repeated

    Digital image-making state of the art was a PDP-11 and a $50,000 framebuffer, and a bunch of assembly or FORTRAN programmers hacking away from scratch. Triple-I, NYIT, and MAGI were about the only people going that route. Image West had always had the advantage of "real time", meaning that despite the limitations of the analog rescan technology, it could run right before your eyes, and be adjusted on the fly. Its big downfall was complete lack of repeatability, due to all those knobs and patch wires. (Scanimate) After reviewing all the options, Cliff Brown and I decided a good approach would be to build a system based on the analog rescan technology, but using digital computers to track and store the setups needed to repeat a job. I did not realize at the time how large a project this would be (VersEFX).”

  • This was the first facility I had ever designed that involved raised computer flooring. Half of the building was on a level two feet lower than the other half. So we used raised computer flooring to make the two floor levels equal. This gave us about 20" under the floor for cables, power and air conditioning.

  • the origin of raised flooring!?

    This was the first facility I had ever designed that involved raised computer flooring. Half of the building was on a level two feet lower than the other half. So we used raised computer flooring to make the two floor levels equal. This gave us about 20" under the floor for cables, power and air conditioning.

  • The company faced increasingly hard times competing with the trend of completely digital effects, 3D CG and digital video effects boxes like the ADO. The new VersEFX system that they had partnered with SFP on (the French TV production company) had gone to France, and they were trying to build one for themselves. But hybrid video technology was not going to able to compete with the all digital systems, so they made a deal with Symbolics to get one of ...

  • The End

    The company faced increasingly hard times competing with the trend of completely digital effects, 3D CG and digital video effects boxes like the ADO. The new VersEFX system that they had partnered with SFP on (the French TV production company) had gone to France, and they were trying to build one for themselves. But hybrid video technology was not going to able to compete with the all digital systems, so they made a deal with Symbolics to get one of their S-series systems with both paint and 3D Capabilities. Unfortunately, they could never return to the revenue levels they had been working at with the Scanimates, and in desperation, they attempted a public offering on the Vancouver stock exchange. That attempt failed and the company closed its doors in 1985.

  • Image West's highest profile feature film CG project was an animation scene created for the original Star Wars: Episode VI - A New Hope released in 1977. The film’s climactic sequence shows a huge display screen on board the Death Star as it closes in to destroy the rebel base on the fourth moon of the planet Yavin. The Death Star display screen shows a schematic diagram of the Yavin planetary system then, as the Death Star moves in, graphic ...

  • Star Wars connection

    Image West's highest profile feature film CG project was an animation scene created for the original Star Wars: Episode VI - A New Hope released in 1977. The film’s climactic sequence shows a huge display screen on board the Death Star as it closes in to destroy the rebel base on the fourth moon of the planet Yavin.  The Death Star display screen shows a schematic diagram of the Yavin planetary system then, as the Death Star moves in, graphic symbols show the fourth moon as it becomes a visible target emerging from behind Yavin. Dan O’Bannon (of Alien fame) was asked by George Lucas to oversee production of various displays and targeting devices for Star Wars VI based on their relationship at the USC Cinema School. Lucas had seen John Carpenter’s and O’Bannon’s Dark Star which made rich use of such displays.  O’Bannon contracted John Wash , another great talent from USC who also created special effects for Dark Star.  O’Bannon also contacted Jay Teitzell, a graduate of the UCLA Film School who knew John Wash from working together at Universal Studio’s Commercial Industrial Film Unit (UCIF). Wash and Teitzell created flat drawings and graphic source materials which the team at Image West digitized to create the appearance of the three-dimensional diagrams and planetary forms.  They then worked together to set colors along with begin-and-end points which would map out their CG movements for the scene.  Wash and Teitzell created other displays and targeting devices for Star Wars VI which included Wash’s floor display at the rebel base (the rebel point-of-view showing the Death Star closing in) and Teitzell’s X-Wing targeting device which Luke and other X-Wing fighters used as they flew along the Death Star trench (which Luke turns off in favor of using “The Force.”)  These two and other displays for Star Wars VI were created using traditional animation, analog effects and other non-CG techniques. John Wash went on to become a major force in film special effects running his own companies providing work for dozens of high-profile feature films and television.  Jay Teitzell became a pioneer of broadcast design and motion graphics for network promotion.  Some of his work featured early use of CG featured elsewhere here in the pages of History of CG.

  • Ed Kramer was hired at Image West in January 1981, trained on Scanimate by Roy Weinstock, and became the last fully-trained analog-era Animator to use Scanimate for production work. For two years he and Peter Koczera were the primary animators at Image West, with Peter handling many of the higher-profile network jobs and Ed handling the majority of day-to-day clients. Ed's more well-known animation from this period includes openings for "The Merv Griffin Show," The 1982 Baseball World Series on ...

  • EDK

    Ed Kramer was hired at Image West in January 1981, trained on Scanimate by Roy Weinstock, and became the last fully-trained analog-era Animator to use Scanimate for production work.  For two years he and Peter Koczera were the primary animators at Image West, with Peter handling many of the higher-profile network jobs and Ed handling the majority of day-to-day clients.  Ed's more well-known animation from this period includes openings for "The Merv Griffin Show," The 1982 Baseball World Series on NBC, and the "Space Sucker" video game from an episode of the TV show "Diff'rent Strokes."