RIT Studentís Computer Work "Goes Hollywood"
March 11, 2001
by Michael Saffran
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It was the fall of 1962: television viewers laughed at the antics of The Beverly Hillbillies, kids did "The Loco-Motion," the Yankees squared off against the Giants in a fall-classic showdown. And, with considerably more at stake, the United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of war over missiles in Cuba.
It all happened 15 years before Bill La Barge was born. But the Cuban Missile Crisis recently became a focal point for the 23-year-old La Barge who, for eight months, worked on animation and 3-D visual effects for the movie, Thirteen Days, which chronicles the tense days when the worldís two superpowers faced off to determine who would blink first.
La Barge, a fourth-year computer science major at Rochester Institute of Technology, created scenes of computer-generated aircraft, such as F-8 and F-101 fighter jets and a U2 spy plane, and computer-generated smoke and afterburners for surface-to-air missiles and jets depicted in the movie.
The opportunity resulted from co-op and full-time technical-director positions La Barge held with Cinesite Visual Effects, owned by Eastman Kodak Co., in Hollywood. The Lewisburg, Pa., native receives on-screen credit at the end of the movie.
"Itís very exciting for me to see my work on the big screen and know that millions of people have seen my work," La Barge says, adding that he has watched the movie three times. "It makes me feel even better when people tell me they didnít see any visual effects in the movie. Thatís exactly our goal: to make it look so real no one could tell otherwise."
While at Cinesite for parts of 1999 and 2000, La Barge also wrote software used in the production of the movies, Red Planet and X-Men. "It was a great experience," La Barge says.
Thirteen Days stars Kevin Costner as Kenneth OíDonnell, chief of staff to President John F. Kennedy during the missile showdown. Filmed in Hollywood, Washington and the Philippines, Thirteen Days is rated PG-13.
Note: RIT was one of the first universities to offer an undergraduate degree in computer science. The universityís undergraduate and graduate computer science programs are part of RITís B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.
Founded in 1829 and located in western New York state, RIT is internationally recognized as a leader in engineering, imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education for the deaf. RIT enrolls 14,500 students in more than 240 undergraduate and graduate programs.
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