Tell us about Cube3.
Cube3 was me and Designer Alex Shamson’s company we started in 1990. We were the early NYC evangelists, VARS, demoguys for all things 3D Design and Multimedia. We created and gave monthly seminars on 3D design and Presentation at Apple NYC, as well as many trade shows. We got all the cool toys, wrote some cool articles, and made a lot of the cool demos for the time. We formed a few early SIGS, and sponsored/created the NYVRMLSIG. Many who first learned about 3D /VR or computers as design tools in NYC back then, heard it at one of our meetings or seminars. We pushed the tech as far as we could; always as designers and creators “first.” We never desired to allow the technology or medium to lead the intent of what we created.
25 years later I think others are finally getting what we saw early about how this medium actually works. Eventually Alex (the ‘smart one’) went back to more traditional Art mediums. I moved out to California, then Florida, and I continue to use the [Cube3] name, as much as for a Virtual Avatar Tag as anything else; for all these years working on projects immersed with tech issues. So today online, I’m the OG Cube3, and [the website] will be there into the future.
How did you get involved in ‘The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers?’
‘The Rangers’ was my first ‘fulltime’ job out of college. I was known in my class as the ‘futurist designer guy’ who couldn’t help but draw spaceships and robots even as I learned about the bauhaus. A few months out of school, while I was freelancing in exhibit /museum design, I got a call from another older ex-Pratt student who asked me if i was the guy who ‘drew the spaceships.’ I said I was, and he then introduced me to the producers of the project he had worked on creating – ‘The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers.’
It was an animated show that would also include CGI graphics inserted into some scenes. Very much a first for a daily episodic cartoon show. I was hired and then spent the next six months, six days a week in a loft in NYC making thousands of drawings of all things sci-fi that would be traced over and animated in Japan. Then I got canned because I wanted to be paid for the sixth day worked. That was that.
Eventually someone put my credit into IMDB. Post production, which a few made it too, was done back in the US, where the CGI wireframe elements were made. The entire experience was ‘startup’ like not very different from tech startups today. 30 of us all under 30 in one big space, drawing, creating, fighting, not sleeping, eating chinese food, and making sometimes some really good shit. I think about 60 episodes got made. No major toy deal in the US though, and it died. Though I hear it was big in France, go figure.
What was the “SnowCrash CD-Rom”?
So as I mentioned in NYC in the early 90’s I was the ‘go to guy’ for all things 3D, Futurism, Design, Shopping, Computer New Media. A producer at Paramount who wanted to make Neal Stephenson’s book Snowcrash into a CD-ROM game and gave me a call to asked if I was interested in directing it. I thought the book was great comic book graphic novel material and said sure. He set up a meeting with Neal, himself and I.
At that meeting I learned the irony that Neal had intended the story to be a hypercard based graphic novel, but that his “artist friend” got behind in drawings and another friend had suggested he just sell it as a novel; and so it all came from that. I spent a few weeks making some early pre-production design rendering in 3D of the bar fight, and the rat thing as well as constructing the Black Sun Bar as a realtime 3D VR model in Virtus VR. We all met again. Everyone said “cool” but in the end I think Neal wanted a movie deal, not a CD-Rom deal, and it never went forward.
One VR caveat is that a few years later I would meet the German company named “Black Sun” later change for legal reason to “Blaxxun” and we would plop that VR Model of the BLACK SUN BAR into their VRML based Multiuser software for the web. The Black Sun Bar actually existed in cyberspace that day. It ran online at cube3.com until the software maker stopped supporting the format; decades later.
You mentioned on Twitter that you once learned early on that the VR revolution of the 1990s would not amount to the hype at that time. How did that story go about?
I had a “bathroom hand drying” chat with the “product manager” or “marketing manager” from Sega for the upcoming Virtual Boy. We were both at the same lunch table at the now remembered “Mekler VR Show” in NYC in 1992. I was there with my partner John Gallagher as we were on the panel for “Marketing using VR.” We had just done the first white paper on record for Miller Brewing about using the VR LBEs etc for Promotions.
Anyhow, the BIG KAHUNA in the room that day was SEGA and this guy who represented them for the yet truly unseen Virtual Boy, at least unseen in NYC). Everyone wanted that deal, whatever that deal was. Later that day I ran into the guy in the men’s room and while we dried hands, I asked some targeted questions. I left the restroom that day with the knowledge that the VR revolution would not be happening that year, and not from SEGA.
Continue Reading on Page 3 – topics include the virtual world Cybertown, Scientology’s interest in VR, and more.
UploadVR’s “Flashback” series is an ongoing effort. We are looking for virtual reality pioneers who worked with VR in the 1990s and before. If you are one of those people or know someone who is, email Matthew Terndrup at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an interview.