Pixar’s deadly peak

From 1986 to 1992 the company was once nominated for the American cinema Academy (Oscar), and twice got it (in the nomination “technical achievements”), she turned into hits TV commercials, and bear the losses.

The sequel, start here.

I wanted to skip this period in the history of Pixar, but… As it turned out, it could not be. Without it, the narrative has lost its meaning, and miracles happen by themselves, like magic. As if it is necessary, differently simply cannot be.

But it could. From 1986 to 1992, experts were arguing only about how soon Pixar will finally go bankrupt. The inevitability of this was not even discussed. Huge amounts disappeared into her as into a bottomless barrel. Everything produced by Pixar, whether it’s short cartoons, commercials, software for computer graphics and animation, or computers, was impressive – but judging by the results, the idea was too insane.

Commercials Pixar have always admired these is viewers, which never happened never and nowhere, neither before, nor after. The Life Savers candy is even on this background was allocated: millions of viewers were still watching television during the commercial breaks, hoping to see this movie again.

What the General public did not know, was not less spectacular: the Pixar contribution to the development of medicine, meteorology and seismology, it is impossible to overestimate. A supercomputer company designed its software allows you to convert a 3-dimensional image of high resolution just about anything, real or fictional.

These 3-dimensional images (models) were able to move, to face obstacles, they were realistic and alive. Aliens, animals, spaceships, lightsabers, buildings and palaces, models of human organs and tsunami.

But, despite the fantastic achievement, the company was bleeding. And reputation of Steve jobs, in the eyes of potential investors and evaluators of human capital, were hopelessly ruined. It is no longer considered a magician, capable almost of anything to extract hundreds of millions of dollars. Especially that of his other company, NeXT, was not brilliant.

The Pixar Imaging Computer

Previously I wrote that the name Pixar came up with Steve jobs, and mentioned an unnamed super-computer at a cost of 135 thousand dollars, the world’s only device that can embody the most fantastic ideas.

The computer, developed in the Department of computer graphics computer division of Lucasfilm, from the beginning, was called the Pixar Imaging Computer, and decided to withdraw from the Lucasfilm division from the beginning called themselves the Pixar.

On the title pages of the first business plans of the company non-existent even two logo, Lucasfilm and Pixar at the top at the bottom. March 1985, April 1985. Jobs acquired Pixar February 3, 1986. From this moment on the title pages of the documents refer only to Pixar.

Back to the computer. According to indirect data (the exact is not found), its development began in 1979 or 1980, and it was not a whim of Lucasfilm. No computer that time just wasn’t up for creating special effects and computer animation.

In 1983 the world’s first Pixar Imaging Computer was almost off, working round the clock, seven days a week.

Steve tried to make a Pixar Imaging Computer in a commercial product. Areas in which the graphics supercomputer indispensable, was.

Computer with a set of unique software, estimated at 135 thousand dollars in 1986. That’s not all, to control the computer needed a workstation from Sun Microsystems, which cost 35 thousand dollars.

A total of 170 thousand dollars in 1986.

In early may 1986, sales of the Pixar Imaging Computer was started. Its main purpose was considered as medicine, Geophysics, meteorology, and the like. That is, serious consumers of three-dimensional computer visualization.

“The idiot who would buy this insanely expensive thing to create the cartoons, there will be never and nowhere,” said Steve jobs to the Board of Directors of Pixar. The Board of Directors disagreed with him, and introduced computer animation to the list of the most important goals. Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pixar was Steve jobs.

Computer bought. Sometimes two or three. An average of ten cars per month.

The idiot, dreaming of the cartoons, found. But more on that later. First I will tell you about one of the most important employees of Pixar, John Lasseter.

John Lasseter, animator disney school

John was interested in cartoons since early childhood, what is not strange, but most of all he was interested in how they are made. In 9 years, he learned that these people are doing, not the wizards, that it is the same work as his mother (he taught drawing in school) and my father (was in charge of the warehouse of one of the Chevrolet dealers), from that moment he decided what to do as an adult.

At the end of the animation faculty California Institute of the arts (CalArts), John was invited to Walt Disney Animation Studio.

Walt Disney Studios became interested in computer animation. Still, everything is new and the most advanced in this field came from her, from the late 20-ies of the 20th century, and to concede the leading position the company is not wanted. Experiments with the unknown phenomenon was entrusted to John. Speaking in 2011 about the first years of Pixar, John said that never before 1986 have not dealt with computers isn’t real.

The first experiment was a cartoon adaptation of the tale by Maurice Sendak “where the wild things are”. The computer was used to create interiors, stairs and other background elements. The characters were drawn by hand. Experiment report John presented in the form of the documentary (after all, a film Studio), with this report several years ago (2009 or 2011) was classified as “top secret”, so here it is:

On continuation of the experiment is fully computer-animated film “The Brave Little Toaster” (brave little toaster), John worked for 8 months. The head of the Studio (ed Hansen or Hanssen, information about him could not be found), watched a movie, and asked only two questions – how long the film is created by means of computer animation and how much a film could cost.

Knowing that any advantage in price and speed of creating digital animation does not, ed Hansen informed John that the experiment is over, the novelty would make sense if it allowed you to make movies faster or cheaper, and that John fired.

At SIGGRAPH’83 John met with ed Carmela, who led a group of Lucasfilm special effects and computer animation, and shortly thereafter became the first professional cartoonist in the company.

Of the forty men who were employed by Pixar in 1986, only four were related to computer animation. It was important but not the main direction of the company.

Animated film Luxo Jr, nominated for an Oscar, was filmed Lasseter even before the acquisition of Pixar by Steve jobs, and, on behalf of ed was Carmela, President of the not-yet-existent company, shown at SIGGRAPH’86. John and ed talked about how to create computer animation, the supercomputer, about the company and its prospects.

Even medosmotre Luxo-Jr to the end, the audience gave a standing ovation. Jim damn, a programmer and mathematician, was the first to ask a question, which, after asked hundreds of thousands of viewers: “the elder Luxo Luxo dad a little, or his mother?”.

P-II (Pixar Imaging Computer second generation)

In 1987, Pixar brought to market a radically updated model of the supercomputer, P-II. On technical characteristics is not inferior to the first model, but cost only 30 thousand.

Two specialized 4-channel processor (Channel Processor, or Chap). Channels of the processor intended for the transmission and processing components of the color pixel (r, g, b, a), i.e. (red, green, blue, alpha). The alpha channel is a factor of “transparency”.

The color value was represented by four channels for 12 bit, and some not as it is done nowadays. 12 bits were stored a fixed number, with 10 binary digits after the decimal point. In the first two bits were kept “whole” part, from 1.5 to 2.5. Very unusual.

The chassis housed the four slots for expansion cards and a very fast bus, for exchanging data between peripherals and processor, the transfer rate was 80 megabits per second, and in the exchange the graphic memory 240 megabits per second. The performance of P-II was 40 MIPS (millions of operations with pixels per second), for those times, these data have been incredible. With a clock frequency of 10 MHz.

As before, P-II needed the services of a management workstation (SPARCstation from Sun Microsystems), since no other means of managing them (no keyboard, no mouse) I P-II is not supported.

One of the goals of P-II was medicine, and Steve organized the attack on this market all the rules: he presented ten P-II major funds and medical companies, members of the marketing service of the company, is able to speak the same language with the doctors, was sent to instill in them the idea of buying P-II.

The biggest success on the medical front was the contract with the manufacturer of the scanners, “sold” 30 P-II. Under this contract (in the hope that it will continue) on Pixar software was developed to visualize results of tomographic studies.

The largest buyer of P-II was the “idiot” in the apt definition Steve jobs. Animation Studio Walt Disney, was fired in 1983, John Lasseter, has acquired “several dozen P-II”. Perhaps jobs was right: P-II with a companion over 65 thousand less than P-I + a management workstation for 170 thousand.

Total has sold about 300 P-II.

In 1988, was developed by P-II-9, which I will discuss in the next section.

To be continued

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