Richard Hollander

What were some of the technical challenges you faced working on "Blade Runner", and other films you worked on during that timeframe.

You asked about “"Blade Runner"”. If you want to talk about that, you will want to include other motion pictures I worked on like “Star Trek the Motion Picture” and “"Brainstorm"” because they're all done at the same facility and they all have a common thread.

Richard Hollander

I was one of people working at Robert Abel who came into work on a Friday and fired the following Monday after that. On the following Thursday and I was hired by Richard Urisitch who was Doug Trumbull's partner at their company working on the Star Trek the motion picture. Paramount gave most of the picture to them. Probably wasn't clear responsibilities or hurdles was given to me at that moment. This was a great opportunity to create a motion control camera system for Doug that satisfied what he wanted for Star Trek. This also allowed me to and in a few other features that would be included in a system that I wanted to see materialized.

So I designed and programmed a machine which at the time was called COMPSY. I think it for stood for computer multiplying system. Doug was a graphics guy and Robert Abel and Associates was a graphics place. I was mixing graphics, camerawork, and 3-D miniature work in one motion control system. So at that time you could not take a machine and do graphics type things to miniatures. Graphics things were streaks, multi-planing, slit scans, all the photographic special effect techniques that came out of the '80s and
'70s that were reknown. I needed to apply them onto the miniature work that we were about to do.
So I built that system which was put together by Greg McMurray, and a
bunch of other people. So I worked with Don Baker, who was the cameraman on the set and I learned a lot more about miniature photography using that
system. It was a great experience. Subsequently we finished that show doing
all these weird effects working in 70 mm with this huge camera system. Doug would go from show to show there was never this big group or a continuing group of people. The next show I remember was "Blade Runner", and there I was checked in for a very minor role. David Dreyer who was visual effects supervisor at that time, said I did not have a minor role. There were many layers required for each shot that movie and I contributed many layers. My layers were usually far off freeways or cars floating in the air
around the pyramids or looking down and seeing a far off craft going down the street, or many craft going down the street. And we did that using various techniques all of which I was given a fantastic opportunity to use the camera
system that developed on my stage to develop these elements for David Dreyer and Ridley Scott. I had a blast.
I produced a lot and there were a lot of elements. The big effect that I created was three-dimensional freeways so when the camera moved in on the miniature set the perspective of the freeways was visible to the camera. If we would have done it today I would have done on the computer and we can easily programmed the computer to do it. I programmed that computer to simulate it and one to roto, because the camera was a roto device as well, it was then programmed to take the light sources and do hundreds and hundreds of passes on a single piece of film. I had control and I got to understand how the camera systems worked and graphics photography and miniature photography and I got to work in
70 mm film. I had autonomy and I got to use the camera system that developed. It was a wonderful job.

"Blade Runner" Spinner Image

Same thing goes for the challenge out of working on “"Brainstorm"”. There was better imagery it was the last slit scans that I ever did and never to do a slit scans again afterwards. I learned a lot about optical printing. On “Star Trek” and "Brainstorm", the challenges were to create specific imagery that was not easily done before that time.
We were pushing some of the techniques pretty far. Probably were pushing it too far. My hatred of opticals had hit a peak by that time, and I did not like opticals. In doing this
experience and understanding how opticals worked was not enthused and did not want to do any more optical worked at that time.

In all my previous experience including my work at Robert Abel and associates I was involved with opticals. There were terribly difficult, and it doesn't get any easier it only gets more complex. Nothing converges about it and it's not artistic. It is just so restrictive. That was the beginning of the digital world.
The early beginnings at that time, there were no film scanners, there were no film printers. At companies like triple I and digital productions some people were making inroads. There were doing amazing things

new question: could you give a brief history of the series events that took you from being an engineer to the president of your own company, VIFX.

I spent many years working on projects for both Robert Abel and associates and
Douglas Trumbull studio. When Douglas Trumbull finished a project I would bounce over to Robert

Abel and associates. I was with Robert Abel three
or four times, by bouncing back and forth I
increased my experience and my perspective on the business. Each time I went back to Robert Abel and associates I was doing
something completely different, really different. The first time I walked and I was
just a technician, and actually ended outbuilding motion control systems for them. The next time I came back I was a technical director and worked on a couple commercial spots and one of them was a big 3-D stereovision production. I took on a much bigger role.
The next time I walked into Robert Abel and associates I was writing code. This was the beginnings of the digital world for Robert Abel and associates. This was the beginnings of several other packages which were soon to become famous like Wavefront. This all grew from code that three or four people wrote at Robert Abel

Robert Abel

and associates a long time ago. So I bounced back and forth, gaining experience, and eventually had an opportunity with several other partners to start company. We started by creating screen graphics that would play back at 24 frames
per second for motion pictures. We built that company for 16 years starting from these graphics and working our way
into doing three-dimensional visual effects again.
The place where I entered in doing visual effects was when I built my own film scanner. I was not interested in doing opticals anymore. It was easy to understand the gain in doing

things digitally. If you have a script, or a set of instructions, and the computer operates them, the computer doesn’t make any
mistakes. Whereas the optical technicians when they operate their devices and are going to their instructional list are going to
make mistakes, and each time you do it, you’re going to have some new error. Computers don’t work that way. Computers are
a much better artistic medium for having control over what you’re doing and experimenting.
So we built that company and started doing more and more
visual effects work, got some reputation, and sold it to Fox. This was pretty much the end of that company. We started with the name of Video Image, and then it turned into another name,

VIFX Became BlueSky/VIFX, then


VIFX. And that company was purchased by 20th Century Fox, then two years later, VIFX was sold to Rhythm and
So I ran a company for quite a while before I came to Rhythm and Hues to do what I do now, which is serve as president of the film division.

New Question:

Could you please give a breakdown of the series of events that took place, as you see them, that facilitated the merger between your company and Rhythm and Hues?

When Fox bought our company, VIFX, they thought they had over $100 million in visual effects work. A month after they purchased us most of the work fell through, the projects we were bidding on failed to get greenlit. Almost from the start, they knew there are going to have to do something different with VIFX.
I knew John Hughes from Robert Abel and associates, and I thought it made sense, and he thought it made sense to consider a merger. The combination of the two companies was a fairly good mix. There were some overlap but not a lot of overlap. Each company had its own niche in the marketplace that it had become known for.

New Question:

While you were at VIFX, it seemed like you did quite a bit of film work as opposed to commercial work. Is this something you did intentionally or was this just the way things worked out?

I think it’s just the way things worked out. We started by doing screen graphics that would play back at 24 frames per second on the set, that puts on the set for film. We were paid to do graphics on the shooting set in the studio. And we had some previous visual effects experience so we started merging ourselves and picking up some jobs in the visual effects world for film. And are dominant place was the film industry.
We did do commercials, but we were certainly not as big as the other facilities in doing commercials.

New Question:

What was the most difficult project you worked on prior to the merger with Rhythm and Hues?

The most difficult project is not necessarily the largest. There was X-Files, End Of Days, there were some fairly large projects going through during the time of the merger. Those projects were not the most difficult projects. Usually a difficult project would be a project like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, or Delores Claiborne.

Delores Claiborne was difficult because of the communication between the producers and their expectations vs. our expectations. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a hard job to do because we weren’t the original contractors. We wanted to work on the show because we had no work, we’re very upfront about this. As time went on we began getting more and more of the work. As other parts of the effects began to fail, we got more and more work that was originally slated to be done a more traditional way. Before
we knew what we were doing most of the effects. It was hard because we didn’t have enough time. If we had just been awarded to do it in the normal way it would have been fine, but the way we got to work produced severe time constraints and logistic problems.
If we had the same job here under the same conditions it
would still be problematic. It was a lot of work, and a lot of tricky three-dimensional animation, and the integration of the animation into the sets that were shot in Australia.
No job will go down as the biggest challenge in the world. Even the work I did on Titanic, the engine sequence, was not the hardest. That was one of the smoothest projects have ever done. The director knew exactly what he wanted, I knew exactly what I needed, we built that and had a blast doing it. It was one of the largest things we did it was not the hardest. It was a good project.

New question:

What was the biggest production disaster that you’ve been involved with and what could you have done differently to change the outcome?

Dolores Claiborne. The disaster was a lack of communication. In setting up an expectation from the producer of the film who happened to also be the director of the film. It would be hard for me to overemphasize that you have to be there and you have to make sure your client understands what is being delivered every step away. This is still important even when you’re on good terms with a client.
On Dolores Claiborne, it was not manage well by me and my producer in terms of what I was doing at what the client thought was going on as far as the effects we were doing. Most disasters occur because of some management failure.
Did it happen because of some technical failure? Did all technical things that you needed fail? No you never start project based on 20 new technical things that you need. You’ll start project with one or two things that you need but usually not of the technical things you need will fail.
It’s usually the communication about what they’ll get and what they think they’re going to get that will cause most of the problems.

New Question:

Since you came to Rhythm and Hues, you have been involved with many projects, and you have a vast background in traditional special effects. Can you describe what the differences are between the two mediums? What are your

favorite and least favorite things about each medium?

I cannot overemphasize how the world is a different place than it was ten years ago because of visual imagery. Were not dealing with the photooptical process to combine imagery. The image is dealt with digitally, we’re dealing with wonderful compositing programs. The technology is still growing and changing. The tool sets that you have available to you in the digital world, while not infinite, are able to be flexible enough accessible enough so that no tool you can describe cannot be accessible given enough programming resources. It’s just a wonderful wide-open medium. I would like to be able to say that there is something bad about the digital effects world, but they’re really isn’t.
There are some common elements that will retain themselves throughout the process, like lenses. Lenses are filters and they see the world differently than our eyes see the world. People have grown accustomed to that. The definition of “what is a film” is because of the lenses. I would certainly like to have a camera that would record exactly what our eyeballs see, but these things will always be there.
It’s hard for me to say bad things about visual effects in the digital world. It still growing and still going, it’s
becoming easier and easier. What it becomes easier and easier to get to focus more on the content. You get to focus on how good it is and how creative it is. You get to add something that is more related to the idea instead of the limitation of the technique that you are using. That is a wonderful place to be.

New Question:

What is your favorite project that you were involved with at Rhythm and Hues? Why?

Harry Potter. My role as president of the film division usually necessitates that I get involved with projects when there is something wrong with them. So most of my involvement with projects is when I have to get heavily involved with problem solving in one way or the other. Usually there is a problem with the client or there is internal stress or one thing or another.

For me Harry Potter was a project I was put on as a visual effects supervisor. I was not acting as president but as the visual effects supervisor. It was different from the very beginning which made it different than all other productions that I’ve been involved with at Rhythm and Hues.
As president, you never get to see the good projects. I have other things I have to do so I only see the bad stuff. Harry was not a bad project, it was just a normal project. On top of that it was a good project with good clients. That made it even nicer.

New question:

What you consider your dream project?

Dream projects usually require that you love the script that the effects are in. I don’t want to sound brutal, but most of projects we work on are certain types of films that we’ve done hundreds of, and our certain types of films that we’ve seen go by.
Sometimes it’s not the script but the effect and that you fall in love with. But dream projects never seem forced and you just cant stop working on them. You are always coming up with new ideas and you are always thinking about it because the project is good.

New question:

What you see in the future of computer graphics?

Computer graphics will be present and dominant in the filmmaking industry, In all sorts of different ways. Right now computer graphics only relates to the post production process.
As digital cameras are used more and more than the filmmaking process, the entire process will become digital. This will make the entire process of making a film cheaper and easier to make. On top of that other overall rules of the notion of ”what is making a film”. Because computer graphics continues to show that there are no bounds.
It always comes down to people saying things like “will there be a digital human in the film?” Sure there will be! Is that good or bad? You just don’t ask that question. It’s like asking if someone write a book and if there is a human in it, is that good or bad? You’re making a judgment on artistic piece of work. Whether there is a computer-generated human or not should not be the question. The question should be whether the screenplay is worthy or not.
We have seen many reasons to have digital humans. Computer graphics are an integral part of computer animation, as in Shrek and Monsters Inc. square developed a final fantasy which is another medium almost. What you like final fantasy or not it did provide things should never seen before. And that was a good thing for a production value. Those things are tools that people will use to tell stories.