••VR.Master-768

When the above shot appeared on the cover of a special edition of the LA Times we were in the midst of the Beige era. Computers were slow, RAM was expensive, graphics monitors weighed almost 100 pounds each and everything seemed to come encased in ubiquitous beige plastic.

So now we wait for Moore’s Law to polish off the sharp edges of true VR, and for virtual characters to crawl up out of the uncanny valley. It is evolving faster than it ever has before but to make VR commercially viable, it needs to deliver a compelling reason why we should put some goofy gear on our face and become actively involved in something that has stood as a passive diversion throughout the timeline of human history.


Fi.Technicity1.PD.6–27: Scott Billups (with impish grin), cinematographer/director/computer special effects whiz (maybe the ONLY one), in his home office. He is a using 3–D drawing machine called the MicroScribeÑ you draw in 3–D, watching the drawing throught the virtual reality goggles. On the screen is a 3–D wireframe model. LATphoto: Patrick DownsMandatory Credit: Patrick Downs/The LA Times

From 1984 to 2003, I maintained a small office on the Universal Studios back lot that was used for development on the Apple Computer. Lew Wasserman was the head of the studio and in addition to being one of the last true movie moguls, he was also a closet geek. He took particular interest in the early development of QuickTime (then called Road Pizza) and believed that it would become a major distribution medium. One day he dropped the blue-lines (press proof) of an upcoming Michael Crichton book on my desk and ask if I could make a “Pizza” trailer that he could use to explain the unpublished book that they had just purchased for Steven Spielberg. The “Pizza” trailer later became the original pre-visualization for the initial development of that ground-breaking motion picture.

Twenty Five years later I found myself working on another dinosaur movie as Visual Effects Supervisor and CTO of the production company. Unlike Jurassic Park which had 6 minutes of CG dinosaurs, Walking With Dinosaurs has them in nearly every frame. I’m not complaining, but it does seem a bit serendipitous.


Fi.Technicity1.PD.6–27: Scott Billups (with impish grin), cinematographer/director/computer special effects whiz (maybe the ONLY one), in his home office. He is a using 3–D drawing machine called the MicroScribeÑ you draw in 3–D, watching the drawing throught the virtual reality goggles. On the screen is a 3–D wireframe model. LATphoto: Patrick DownsMandatory Credit: Patrick Downs/The LA Times

High-level media production is grueling work that has a tendency to bond relationships beyond the convention. Location work, especially in hostile or dangerous locations pushes this to the extreme. It forms somewhat eclectic, sometimes dysfunctional temporary families that often reappear reformed for each new expedition. I was lucky enough to start my career working for National Geographic and regard the greater family with familial warmth.

I eventually worked my way to Hollywood where I have had the immense good fortune to work with many of the luminaries in the industry; good fortune that continues to this day.


What I do When I’m Not Working

DCIM100GOPROI’m a huge fan of Sailing. Here is a shot of Zephyr and me temporarily out in front of a single-handed race that I eventually pulled a respectable third in. I purchased this off-shore racer (Beneteau First 10 meter) from Charles Devanneaux who had just won the Pacific Cup (San Francisco to Hawaii) with it. While I doubt that I’ll ever reach his level of seamanship, it is nice to know that the boat has that potential.


DCIM100GOPRO

One of the prettiest boats in Marina del Rey, Whoa Nellie is a super-sleek, J-100 coastal racer that I purchased from a famous Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Although I’ve won many races with her locally, this is a shot of us pulling a rather embarrassing 8th place in the annual Long Beach Race Week. Not only did we blow out the spinnaker moments after this shot was taken, but one of my veteran crew members had too much to drink the night before and hurled all over the cabin when he went below to haul the sail.


Fi.Technicity1.PD.6–27: Scott Billups (with impish grin), cinematographer/director/computer special effects whiz (maybe the ONLY one), in his home office. He is a using 3–D drawing machine called the MicroScribeÑ you draw in 3–D, watching the drawing throught the virtual reality goggles. On the screen is a 3–D wireframe model. LATphoto: Patrick DownsMandatory Credit: Patrick Downs/The LA TimesWhen the Sierra’s get a good season of snow the resulting Spring melt turns the normally placid waters of the Kaweah River into the most dynamic whitewater in California; and 2016 was epic! I joined up with 25 year veteran river outfitter, Frank Root, and while he and his guides took hundreds of people on the ride-of-their-lives in rafts, I guided the kayak trips. At the peak of the season we were running a ten mile section as it left Sequoia National Park, with its 49 class 3, 4 and 5 rapids twice a day. And then, just like that, the snow melted and the river went back to its mellow ways. The guides drifted off to other rivers, kids headed back to their swimming holes, anglers flogged the riffles for trout and I’m going back to work. (L to R: Kevin, Brian, Frank, Rocky, Gina, me)