Thoughts on 3-D

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Excerpts from letter from Tom DeWitt,  1995

I have become involved with 3-D imagery. It started back in '76 when Vibeke was working on a residency at WNET. She started a stereo-pair video called Hot Wax. We transferred it to film and showed it at Anthology in 1978. Then I took some key frames as stills and made them into auto-stereoscopic parallax barrier stereograms which we exhibited at SUNY Albany. I had just received a Guggenheim grant and approached the theater department looking for a project. (The Department was not interested). If a breakthrough in 3-D was going to be made, it was as likely to be by me as anyone.

In 1984 I discovered a diffraction phenomenon that was not in the textbooks. It allows the recording of 3-D pictures without two cameras. It took me years understand how the phenomenon worked, but in time I had a patent. Last year the National Science Foundation gave me a grant to further study the phenomenon.

Before all this, I was stationed at RPI. At first I was under the aegis of the student radio station where we set up a video facility. It's administration was transferred to the School of Humanities where I served as an adjunct for a couple of years. ... I enlisted myself with the School of Engineering and worked as an adjunct in the Image Processing Lab through 1987. It was there that I was able to learn how to program computers to produce 3-D images. My focus was on a programming technique now called particle systems.

Vibeke (Sorensen) left Albany in 1980. At first she taught at the Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond. I commuted from Albany for a five to ten day stay each month, and she would meet me for production sessions in New York City whenever we could get in the back door of Teletronics. Under the rubric of WTV (the W was for Dean Winkler who made the facility available to us and worked as an integral partner) we produced 35 minutes of stirling video over two years. However, none of the relationships survived, and Vibeke took off for Southern California in '83. ...

The computer programming I did at RPI produced static imagery. To make it move, I started producing laser light shows to popular music. From time to time I would work with music of my own choice. This led to problems with my partners in the laser light show business who felt they should make all musical selections. ...I left Troy in 1987 and moved onto 120 acres of pristine Columbia County land as a caretaker. A couple of years ago I was joined by the other animator from the same laser show, Bev Botto.

The Rolling Stones gig I mention in the application to X TV Center came down in 1990. 1 put together some computer graphics for Gerry Marks who otherwise produced the pieces. The first tune he gave me was "2000 Light Years from Home," which I happen to like a great deal. Using my Hearn, Apple 11, a Serge, and a Rutt Etra, I was able to meet his needs for stars and galaxies in Pulfrich 3-D. He had so much money, I got him to rent an Aspex PIPE (a supercomputer for image processing made on Broadway in the Soho!) for a couple of weeks for which I wrote some particle system programs to process camera recorded footage of the band. This was used in "Paint It Black". The experience was good, because it combined my work in 3-D with the video medium from whence I had come.

About this time I started teaching as an adjunct at Dutchess Community College which gave me access to Amigas. In many ways the experience was a step backwards, because I couldn't program them from the ground up as I had with the Apple 11 and the computers at RPI. I found the applications programs for 3-D very awkward, so I played mostly with DeLuxe Paint, which was the primary vehicle for my students. They also had a Toaster, although I only had regular access to it for a semester.

Best test cement,
Tom Ditto