Q&A: Michael Fink
Visual effects supervisor, WarGames
The game screens in WarGames are reminiscent of Missile
Command. Were you influenced by videogame culture? The screens you saw in WarGames were designed by Colin Cantwell, a brilliant graphic artist, programmer and innovator who preceded me on the film. What we – Colin and me – drew on was our familiarity with how computers updated and displayed data on screens. Our reference was primarily from what it really looked like when data scrolled across the screen leaving lists of terms, and not from how a game might do it… The look drew from whatever we felt would tell the story best and still evoke the sense of a game. In a way, it was one of the first games – if not the first – built keeping in mind that we must tell a story.
What tools did you use?
In those days, everything was baling wire and bubblegum… The actual screen images were generated by Colin and his team on HP 9845Cs, and output to HP vector displays and then to film. There were 125 monitors on the stage of the war room that displayed 24fps videotape of the large screens, but 60 of these monitors could take a live 24fps computer graphic feed from two CompuPro S-100 machines in the control room on stage.
Why did that matter?
They drove 60 keyboards at those monitors that could display, live and in-sync, what was typed onto the screens. The difference was that Steve Grumette, who designed the entire 24fps computer system for these displays, also programmed the computers so that when an actor pressed a letter, any letter, the proper letter would appear onscreen. So Matthew Broderick could type rapidly on camera, not worrying about typing accurately, knowing that when he hit a key the right letter would appear.