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.

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