Computer Animation Chair Terrence Masson

July 3, 2006 1:40 pm

The SIGGRAPH 2006 Computer Animation Chair is Terrence Masson. You may not recognize his name, but you are certain to have seen his work. If you giggled at the original Budweiser Frogs commercial, played SimCity 4, watched the opening titles from Batman Forever, or wondered who shot Kenny on South Park — you have been touched by Terrence’s creative genius! Not only can his name be found on under author, but his impressive filmography list graces the pages of IMDb (Internet Movie Data Base). With his love for film, art, and artists — Terrence Masson is the perfect match for this year’s Computer Animation Chair.

Please give our readers background information on this year’s SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival.

It begins approximately 18 months prior by my accepting the offer to be CAF Chair, followed by my choosing the structure and personnel for my sub-committee, choosing the location and persons for the Jury, designing a pre-show, breaking new ground in submission and projection standards, working with media and publication and conference management — and more than 100 other details. Truly it’s a massive “Executive Producer” role for me, and a gigantic volunteer commitment — for everyone involved.

Brush © Victoria Caution SIGGRAPH 2006 Animation Stills used with permission from SIGGRAPH

Since you participated your first SIGGRAPH conference in 1988, how has SIGGRAPH changed over the years, especially in regards to computer animation? How specifically does this year’s Computer Animation Festival differ from last year?

My first SIGGRAPH was in Atlanta in 1988, so in almost 20 years it’s changed dramatically indeed. Rarely do we see annual enormous breakthrough technical surprises anymore — in the past there would always be some amazing new thing every year; morphing, particle systems, a new Pixar short (The Abyss, TD and Jurassic Park), things that were never ever seen before. Now we have so many new and wonderful aesthetics in 2D, 3D, and combinations with live action and short form story telling, the variety is just amazing.

kuhfo © Bernhard Haux SIGGRAPH 2006 Animation Stills used with permission from SIGGRAPH

Here comes the impossible to answer question. With so many new and exciting things to experience this year at SIGGRAPH, if an attendee only had time to view five animation films, which would you suggest?

Oh my, I’m afraid I’d get in big trouble if I picked any five … but, truth be told there is not a single film this year that I don’t enjoy watching over and over again. The quality and variety is just outstanding.

My Date From Hell © Christian Muller {date} SIGGRAPH 2006 Animation Stills used with permission from SIGGRAPH

I am constantly recommending your book, CG 101: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference, and even after six years I still find it an outstanding resource for computer graphic information. Would you consider your new book, History of Computer Graphics and Art (that you are collaborating with Anna Ursyn), to be a sequel to CG 101?

Not a sequel per-se, but definitely inspired by. I’m self-publishing CG101: Second Edition first, that should be out (I hope) by next spring ’07. It’s almost going to be a 10th anniversary edition at this rate! It’s still a full 5 stars on Amazon and I’m so happy it has such a wide following and “fan base.” The historical book will be a “life’s work” I think, with several more years of interviewing and writing to do.

CG 101: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference

The success of your book, and your background in the film industry is very impressive, and it is easy to see why you were a first-pick to be this year’s Computer Animation Festival Chair. Of all your accomplishments, which has been your favorite?

Well, being a great daddy to my two daughters is my greatest satisfaction for sure. Professionally I think just looking back at the privilege I’ve had to meet with and work side-by-side so many amazing people. My first film Hook at ILM was certainly very special in many ways, but then so was interacting directly with “George” on the Star Wars Special Edition Trilogy. Ok, one more — working on my own to come up with the original CG animation technique for Matt and Trey to get South Park sold to Comedy Central in ’96 was pretty cool too (and no I don’t know who Phillip is … grin).

Hmm, looks like we will need to delve further into your mysterious past with Terrance and Phillip in a future interview, however, for now, how did you get your start in the film industry?

I had been flying logo in Boston and NYC for a while (Alias v2.4.2 on an SGI 3130) when one of my early short animated films (Paranoimia) was selected for the Mill Valley Film Festival (in Marin County, California), and I used that as a resume to try and get into ILM back in 1991, that (and a lot of begging) seemed to work and I was able to go out just as T2 wrapped to work on Hook and stayed through pre-production on the original Jurassic Park.

What advice can you give aspiring animators who wish to follow in your footsteps?

Ask lots of question, have an insatiable desire to improve yourself in every way, and above all be humble and helpful to all those around you at all times.

Fog (Niebla) © Santi Fort
SIGGRAPH 2006 Animation Stills used with permission from SIGGRAPH

Along with that excellent advice, do you also feel that a formal education is essential to make a living as a computer graphic animator?

This is always a tough question to answer as it really depends on the program, the instructor, and the student. Strictly speaking no — anyone who has an innate talent can use free demo software at home and create a reel to get hired … but there is an enormous advantage to getting a formal education, and that includes many, many things other then just how to use the software. I speak about this quite often in my conference appearances.

The competitive edge is evident with this year’s entrees to the Computer Graphic Animation Festival, is there a balance between the rising number of outstanding animators, and the high demand for animation in the film and gamming industries? Do you feel there are enough qualified animators to fill the industry needs? Or, do you feel there are too many animators and not enough jobs?

It’s funny I would have thought that there would have been a glut starting years ago, but it just hasn’t happened. Many folks may graduate and just not be good enough to compete, so the best of the best will always have work while the others may just move on to do something else. The numbers graduating are certainly staggering compared to even 10 years ago.

Robin Hood Flour - Memories © Ralph Quirino
SIGGRAPH 2006 Animation Stills used with permission from SIGGRAPH

If you had a crystal ball and could look into the future of computer graphic animations, what changes would you hope to see within the next five years?

I would hope that the medium would be used for more … non-traditional … story telling, more non-photo-realistic design and visualization. Just recreating reality is frankly boring to me, I’d rather just go out into nature with my camera. So I guess putting these amazing tools in the hands of more and more (and younger) people all over the world in different cultures … well I hope this would help show the similarities between cultures and the wonderful differences there are out there. The amazing turnout (submissions from 40 countries) in this year’s CAF is a fantastic example of this!

Renderosity would like to thank Terrence for taking time out of his busy schedule. We invite you to visit:

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July 3, 2006

Article Comments

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 05 July 2006

Very interesting interview. It is truly amazing that there are 40 countries represented. Thanks for the insight into Masson as well as the history of CAF.

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 05 July 2006

Excellent interview Dee-Marie and thank you Masson for sharing this information with us. Very enjoyable history of CAF.

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 06 July 2006

Very nice interview. One day I will make it to the CAF...

artisinme1018 ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 08 July 2006

Excellent work.I relly love this format of art.I'm only a hobby artist.But these pics. are great.

artisinme1018 ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 08 July 2006

You know i forgot to mention what really caught my eye was the picture "Date From Hell" it reminds me of my daughter and her boyfriend.I showed my daughter and she laughed.i usually call him Shrek when he makes me mad.Just a small story of how your art work pulls a person in.