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Tatyana Balahovskaya
The History of the Technical Development of Video and Computer Studios in Russia (1994)

Язык оригинала: русский

What is called today computer animation was born about 15 years ago, when machine graphics, that is illustrating scientific calculations curves, drawn of rolls of special paper, came to be shown on the screens of computer monitors. The first software for production of such pictures actually copied already existing plotter packages, for the first monitors were indeed “oscillograhs”, rather than TV screens, and one could move green dots on the screen as pen on paper.

In late 1970s practically usual television monitor was linked to the computer, which started the age of synthetic images. At first the new technology was used to old ends - to make diagrammes and graphics, later for visualization and processing of scientific data, which previously nobody had thought to present as a picture, and finally real images - photographs - were introduced into computer.

First systems of image processing appeared in Russia in 1980. Some research institutes contrived to acquire French machines Sitrim and Pericolor. One of them was owned by GOSNITSIPR, an institution where air-shots of the Earth’s surface were processed, the other by the Institute of Space Research, where space photographs and satellite data was visualized. A number of secret research bureaus developped video systems for various military purposes - monitoring, object identification, training etc.

In 1980 Soviet troops entered Afganistan; this event turned out to be of crucial importance for the development of computer technology in our country: the West put an embargo on export of computer technology into the USSR, and our science was forced into isolation. Meanwhile in the rest of the world the number of personal computers soared up and various graphic supplements were developed, that is why when in 1991 the curtain was slightly raised, we saw an absolutely different world.

Some echos of that world came to us even during the period of stagnation, but it was not always, that we could properly identify them. For example, after the exhibition “Communication’ 86" the Central Television purchased computer editing system Bosch FGS -4000. More and more complex effects appeared on our TV screens as the TV’s personnel got acquainted with the system’s capacities. In 1989 computer animation came to our TV screens : the programme “Detsky Chas” came out with a charming still - a game of two lamps with a many-coloured ball. Practically no one knew, that they watched one of the first works by the studio Pixar “Luxo Junior”, the clip, now considered classical.

In 1991 several events brought about a drastic change in this sphere. One of them was “Graphicon’ 91", a conference on computer animation, organized in Moscow by the Institute of Applied Mathematics with support of ACM Siggraph. It included the first in this country exhibition of image processing systems, screening of computer films and notably, a series of lectures and seminars by leading specialists from Europe and America. Two exhibitions of computer art were held within the conference’s programme: one brought from the United States and one from Russia. Thanks to Graphicon our eyes opened to possibilities of computer animation.

Soon a means to realize these possibilities turned up : through the weakening iron curtain there started to penetrate into Russia IBM PC 386 computers, together with 3D studio programmes and Animator Pro, the first animation packages for personal computers. Creation of on- screen moving three dimenisonal objects ceased to be the privilege of expensive specialized systems owners and became possible for many.

A marvellous coincidence - practically at that very moment there emerged the demand for computer graphics. After the August putch the state system changed, market economy brought about the need for advertising. It turned out, that to create a video studio is much more expensive and difficult, that to buy a 386 computer and smuggle a 3d studio package; in result small advertisement companies multiplied, and gilded logos filled our TV screens. Computer animation in Russia started with a boom.

No wonder, that in such situation a way to avoid the embargo was promptly found. Already a year later, at Graphicon’ 92 the first legally brought to Russia Silicon Graphics station was presented. It was demonstrated by the company Render Club, which became the first distributor of this technology in our country. Soon after a number of powerful soft/hardware vendors started selling animation complexes. Studios had to choose between different platforms and packages. After the embargo was finally lifted, one could find on the Russian market even the most costly specialized equipment. Several months after Graphicon’ 92, in Spring 1993 in Moscow was held the first festival Anigraph. In fact, it was the exhibition of equipment for computer graphics, animation and special effects. There, apart from various graphic stations, one could see professional non-linear editing system Quantel. By the end of the year all variants of computer studios - from the simplest amateur ones to specialized systems for big TV channels - found their distributors in Russia.

The history of computer studios in Russia was described in detail by Sergei Novoseltsev in his series of articles “Multimedia in three dimensions” (Computer press, 1993, No 1, 2, 3. He listed the most productive for the moment companies, their technical facillities, clips and other works, which they had produced. The greater part of them still actively work, although in general the situation is very dynamic. Studios collapse, merge, change names and addresses. This article is too small to itemize this area : it is a task for a reference book. The magazine “Virtual Worlds” plans such a guide, and we hope, that the relevant information will be gathered in due time.

Recently a permanent festival of computer animation TeleGraph was founded. The festival will help to throw light on the developments in this sphere not only in Moscow and St.Petersburg, but, which is of special importance, in the provinces. The festival successfully started its work, the first competition was held in March 1995. The festival’s work will be covered in a special regular TV programme and in the magazine “Virtual Worlds”.

In Russian: История технического развития видео и компьютерных студий в России

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