Master of His Domain

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Scott Ross wanted to be a jazz musician. "But I kept having a dream that I'd wake up and be 40 years old, wearing a black, shiny suit, stinking of cigarettes and playing 'Hava Nagila' at bar mitzvahs," he says. So Ross opted for a career in special effects instead. Things have worked out pretty well: Ross is cofounder of Digital Domain, a special effects outfit. He may not be available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, but his special-effects gig gives Ross, who bought his first Mac in 1984, a front-row seat for the technology revolution sweeping moviemaking.

Q: How does Digital Domain use Macs?

A: We have a smattering of Macintoshes that sit on our lead creators' desktops. They act not only as administrative computers, but as creative work environments where staffers can take images and do rough composites, storyboards, and small animations in a preproduction environment. I would say every executive, every head creative person, every administrative person has a Mac on their desk.... Unfortunately, we have not really used Macintoshes in creating special effects. What we use Macintosh platforms for is e-mail, the Internet, editing, storyboarding, some rough compositing, and some preproduction material and graphic art, such as single-frame graphics we'll produce.

Q: What additions to the Mac would make it more special-effects friendly?

A: In terms of what the Macintosh does today as opposed to the other platforms available, it does [special effects] better than anything else. It's not really an issue regarding hardware. It's an issue regarding software applications ported to the hardware. Today in the high-end visual-effects area, there really isn't [much] software available on the Mac platform--and a lot of it is legacy software. I hope that people like Discrete Logic, Soft Image, and Houdini start porting their products to a Mac platform. And I'd like a better interface. I'm tired of clicking and pointing.

Q: What would you change?

A: How wonderful it would be to build an object in virtual space, wearing some sort of 3-D glasses and using tracking software to actually walk around the object and see what it looks like in the same way that a sculptor models a lump of clay.

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