p. 9 p. 10
The television monitor flickers briefly, then comes to life. On the screen, a young man races madly through a buzzing maze of pure energy, pursued by electronically animated computer bugs. No longer merely the figment of some programmer's overactive imagination, these bugs are in hot pursuit. They look like mutant water-spiders hatched from integrated circuit chips. And they sound like . . . Wait a second. Something's missing. It's that feeling you get when you're sitting in the theater and a cold finger runs down your spine 'cause you can hear the monsters getting closer, closer. These big scary computer bugs aren't making any sound at all. The screen flickers again as Frank Serafine taps out a few nimble keystrokes on his ATARI 800 Home Computer. The video tape recorder beneath the monitor rewinds, a 16-track audio recorder across the room whirs to life, then stops. With a few more deft keystrokes, the audio and video tapes start rolling at the same time. [img]Light cycles flash across the video game grid in the electronic fantasy world of TRON.[/img] The bugs once again bear down on our hero. But now their eerie cries screech from the monitor speakers. It's a weird, ominous cry, realistic but surreal — the sound of live crickets electronically manipulated and mixed with some piercing computer generated chirps and bleeps. This time we feel the cold fear of the hero's desperate race, the danger of these electro -beasts. An icy chill runs down the spine. The scene ends, the sound fades. Frank Serafine, sound effects expert extraordinaire, has just made a perfect "take", using some extraordinary film and audio equipment and a standard ATARI 800 Home Computer. Frank's sound effects project is the latest effort from Walt Disney Studios, a computer-age fantasy entitled "TRON." Capitalizing on the current popularity of video games, TRON takes us inside the guts of a computer, where the games are larger than life — and the computer bugs are real. TRON uses computer-generated graphics and sound effects, plus state-of-the-art optical effects to bring to life a fantasy world where characters made of pure light and energy defy the laws of physics. This fantastic landscape is governed by a demonic Master Computer Program (MCP) who puts master programs to death on a video game grid. Into this electronic Oz comes the human Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a god descended from Olympus — a "user", as humans are known to programs. Frank Serafine and his SFX Studios in Los Angeles were the natural choice to create sound effects for this high-tech adventure movie. Frank's a trained musician, an expert on digital synthesizers, and a well -published proponent of computer applications for music and film sound tracks. At SFX, he's worked hard the last few years creating effects for some of the more interesting movies recognized for their excellent sound tracks such as Star Trek and The Fog. "The ATARI 800 is perfect for a movie like TRON," says Frank. "I can recreate all the same sounds or make up new ones of my own. In TRON, we wanted to create an impression with sound images as well as visual images. To do this Frank and his two sound editors recorded the real sounds of army tanks rumbling, missiles firing, and crickets chirping. By combining these "organic" sounds, as Frank calls them, with sounds generated by the ATARI Computer, then enhancing the mix electronically, Frank created the hyperreal sounds you'll hear in TRON. Part of the task for any sound editor is to search through reels and reels of 35mm sound stock for just the right effect. Then the sound effect must be cut and spliced together by hand on a film editing machine called a Movieola. Using this technigue, sound editors may take several days to assemble just one effect. But over the past two years, Frank has used his ATARI Computer to revolutionize that process. "I've assembled a collection of over sixty reels of sound effects tapes. The filing program I'm using with the ATARI 800 allows me to enter every effect and cross reference each of them under several different categories," says Frank. Now, when he wants a sound, he asks his ATARI 800 for a listing of each category, and can get the sound he wants in minutes instead of hours or days. While sound generation and file management are tasks the ATARI Computer handles daily for many users, Frank has one use for his ATARI Computer that's completely unigue. Using an interface that allows the ATARI Computer to control both audio and video recorders, Serafine is able to edit sound effects super-precisely — right from the keyboard of his ATARI 800 Computer. "You've got to understand what this means for the industry," Serafine emphasizes. "As much as one-third of the sound budget for a film could go into looking for the right effects. And the actual editing process could take several days per effect." The Future of SFX Frank is very enthusiastic about what he's doing with his ATARI Computer. And his enthusiasm carries over to those he works with. "Producers come in and say x Oh, I have one of these things at home. I love the games.' But when I show them what I'm doing with it, they just shake their heads in amazement — and ask me how to make theirs do the same thing." "The ATARI 800 is a natural for this kind of creative work," Frank sums up. "What it comes down to is this," he points to the racks of equipment around him, "here is some of the most powerful state-of-the-art gear being used in the film industry. And the ATARI 800 is able to tie into it and make it all work. I guess that's the bottom line for me." A Talk With a Computer Whiz Kid Seventeen-year-old Laurent Bassett has only had his ATARI Computer for two years, but he has already managed to land an exciting part-time job that puts his skills to good use. Laurent, a high-school senior at the Ecole Francaise in Los Angeles, has been working for the past six months at SFX Studios, writing programs that help generate and edit sound effects for the new Walt Disney movie "TRON". We caught up with Laurent at the studio and asked him some questions about how he got into the movie biz. CONNECTION: Have you always been interested in computers and electronics? Laurent: No, actually all my life I've been interested in art. That was what attracted me to the ATARI Computer, the graphics and sound capabilities. I do a lot of drawing, painting and that sort of thing. But when I discovered the computer I kind of abandoned paper. CONNECTION: How did you get started on the ATARI Computer? Laurent: Well, a couple of years ago, my father was working on a report on computers. Several people told him about the ATARI Computer, that it was the best available. So he brought one home. When I got it, I went through the ATARI BASIC manual and learned how to program. I started writing little games, little business programs. I thought the sounds were pretty amazing. I followed the sound effects that came in THE ATARI CONNECTION, then started writing some sound programs of my own. I've got one program that uses just a few lines of BASIC to demonstrate all the sounds in the ATARI Computer. CONNECTION: Are you looking forward to a future in sound effects? Laurent: Not really, no. What I want to do is get heavily into computer graphics. I'll be starting at UCLA next year. I'm planning to major in computers and art. I don't know if anybody's done that before, but those are the two things that interest me most right now. In fact, the thing I really want now is a GTIA chip for my ATARI 800. [img]SFX Sound Studios. Laurent Bassett and Frank Serafine.[/img]