Meher Gourjian and I made a short film in 1997 about a guy who spent his entire life plugged into a virtual reality machine. It was groundbreaking stuff at the time — we shot actors with 35mm film on blue screen, digitized and processed them to look cartoony, then composited them into CGI vehicles and environments. We had to write a bunch of our own tools and code to make it work. I begged for favors from every company in the phone book to get the equipment we needed. Meher lived in the USC Computer Animation Lab for almost a year. We got a huge break when Randy Thom from Skywalker Sound agreed to do the sound design and mix — this was his first animated film! Dolby Digital encoded our sound and half a dozen other companies provided the film scanning and camera gear.
We called our process “Plug-O-Vision,” and though it can probably be done with an iPhone today, it’s still pretty cool.
We premiered our film 6 weeks before The Matrix came out. It won some awards and got a lot of attention at SIGGRAPH, ResFest, Slamdance, Ottawa Animation Festival, Animation Celebration, Skywalker Ranch, and dozens of other festivals around the world. Meher and I became flavor-of-the-month in LA, signed by the William Morris Agency and then woo’d over to UTA and Lou Pitt Management. “Plug” was one of AtomFilm’s first acquisitions, earning a pretty impressive license fee at the time. It’s now on YouTube.
Here’s a 3-minute version of the film:
Yeah, that’s me on screen. Back when I had hair. Here are some production stills:
If you want to see the full 12-minute version: