Scott Robertson oral history interview, 2019-02-08

Georgia Institute of Technology Library
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: VIRMANI: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

Segment Synopsis: Scott Robertson was born in Arkansas and grew up in Stone Mountain, GA. He attended Georgia Tech for undergrad in Information and Computer Sciences from 1988 to 1992. Upon graduating, he entered the PhD program here in computer science; however, he ended up completing a Masters instead due to difficulties in securing an advisor. Throughout his time as a student he worked at GTRI and the IMTC (where he still works today).
Mike Sinclair has always served as a role model to Robertson. He hired him right out of grad school to continue working at the IMTC. He has been the motivation behind Robertson's continued pursuance of his passions including photography and videography. He is also the reason behind his involvement in a Georgia Tech project partnered with the Atlanta Ballet, in which they used motion capture technology and 3D animation to create real-time effects.

00:11:05 - 1996 Atlanta Olympics Model

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Partial Transcript: VIRMANI: Where did the concept and idea for this project originate?

Segment Synopsis: Robertson is not completely certain where the concept of this project originated. He assumes much of it came from Mike Sinclair and his crew, and they began about two years before Robertson joined their team. In this period, they did many landscape fly overs to chart land and architecture. Official Olympic model production in about '88-'89.
To compare this project to other softwares of the time, some other technologies around included Apple and Macintosh equipment, Amigas, laser disks, and programming languages including Hypercard. There was not yet a unified hardware-software system to build a project of such caliber; instead the team had to create custom pieces.
Such pieces included Apple hardware, Amigas for sound design, and four-five laser disk players. Additionally, custom user interface devices were built, etc.
Robertson himself was drawn to the initiative because he associated it to film making and artistry, but still involved a lot of computing.

00:18:45 - Collaborators

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Partial Transcript: VIRMANI: Who were others who collaborated in this project.

Segment Synopsis: Ed Price, who passed away about a year ago was heavily involved in the project. Additionally, many Georgia Tech workers and students were also involved. Frank [...] was from Hollywood's visual effects industry. He worked as a consultant on the project, and he helped in building an animated character that would serve as an intro to a lot of the Olympic video footage. This involved a lot of motion capture and 3D animation concepts.
IMTC gifted many of the video materials and film aspects to the Georgia Tech library, and therefore, currently the project resides in the ownership of GT.
Upon its creation, smaller aspects or similar interactive displays that were created in the process were used as exhibits in museum to be shown to the public; there was no real effort to patent, license, or profit off this system as a whole. Instead, this system motivated the construction of many other artistic and interactive computing systems that would go on to be displayed in museums around the world.
The final system was debuted in Tokyo around 1992 as part of Atlanta's final bid to get the '96 Olympics. The system was received amongst a lot of press and received a lot of praise and good press.

00:29:27 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: VIRMANI: So how did the creation of this project affect your personal growth?

Segment Synopsis: Becoming involved in a project at the caliber of the Atlanta Olympics Model kept Robertson at Tech. He has remained involved in technical but creative and artistic projects. Though Robertson describes working on projects this large is challenging and frustrating, he reveals that ultimately, it's rewarding. He developed a bond with coworkers and spent long weeks working in group or team-based settings.
Additionally, Robertson had many photographs and artifacts from the time that he and other team members were working on the model. The artifacts consist of scripts to accompany film productions that were meant to display the model and its appearance. It included information on other technologies such as dance technology programs, old fashioned digital design, and even a project proposal and initial budget.