George Grigg and John Carnochan Papers
Scope and Content
This collection includes documents related to the production and dissemination of George Grigg's and John Carnochan's computer-animated film, produced while students at Virginia Tech from 1969 through 1970 using FORTRAN. The papers also relate to a computer class Grigg taught after creating the film and include printed slides for a presentation about the film at VT for the 50th anniversary of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS). There is a DVD and 16mm film reels of the animation, along with story boards, 3D models, photographs, correspondence, and more. The first folder of box 1 contains Grigg's and Carnochan's history of the film and description of the process.
- Majority of material found within circa 1960s-2015
Language of Materials
The materials in the collection are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. The 16mm film reels are not available for viewing, but the DVD of the restored film is available for viewing.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.
Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (email@example.com or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.
Biographical and Historical Note
From 1969 to 1971, George Grigg and John Carnochan made animated films using computer-drawn images, while students at Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) in the Inner College. The Inner College was a program for invited upper level architecture students in which the students got to choose their own area of interest for study under Professor Olivio Ferrari.
In 1969, Carnochan began sketching ideas for using a polygon on many scales for multiple potential uses, such as for housing. The polygon developed as an elaboration of the space surrounding a cube, which in turn enlarged into a a solid polyhedron with 26 faces. This conceptual polyhedron design was referred to by the Inner College students as "The Element".
Carnochan started with a cardboard model, held together with tape, that over time he manipulated to change its size and shape as well as dimensions. Additional models of different materials, including balsa wood and Plexiglass, were made and photographed. Grigg came up with the idea of creating a computer drawing, enabling a view inside the space.
Before transferring to VPI in 1967, Grigg majored in physics at a university in Ohio, where he learned FORTRAN programming. While at VPI, Grigg also took a computer graphics class and independent study with adjunct professor Waltner Messcher.
Using Virginia Tech's IBM 360 computer, the largest in Virginia at the time, Grigg programmed in FORTRAN using punch cards. Grigg and Carnochan filmed the drawings on a 16mm camera, shooting one frame at a time and moving the drawings one degree of rotation per frame. At 24 frames per second, the first film required approximately 1440 individual drawings. Actual filming required shooting one computer drawing at a time. They filmed at night in the basement of the High School Building, and a small lab in northern Virginia developed and edited the film. In the first movie, the module rolled forward rotating on all three axes, beginning far away and ending in the foreground exactly in the middle of the screen.
After viewing the first film, Professor Ferrari asked Grigg to teach students to program and draw as part of their design class. In order to program, the College received its own punch card machine.
George and John continued making computer movies. Later movies became more complex. The film "Finite State Machines" was the longest and most challenging. As part of exploring and researching the geometry, a whole family of more complex forms was computer animated demonstrating not only the deformation but the geometrical packing. The computer animation was making possible views that were simply not possible to achieve any other way. John had modified the original cardboard model by making the square faces open instead of solid. That led to the discovery that if the square faces were not solid, the model could collapse onto itself. The edges of the rectangles could be made to touch each other to form four prism "legs" extending from a solid tetrahedron in the center. If the proportions of the sides were 1: 1.41: 1, the triangles of the diagonally opposite corners would come together, forming a collapsed "crown" that could form a joint between two other non-collapsed modules.
In January 1969 George joined the Society of Amateur Cinematographers and he and John entered the movie in a computer film competition in Los Angeles. This was the first showing of the film outside of VPI. The film did not win a prize, but Grigg and Carnochan also learned about the Association for Computing Machinery and entered their 2nd Annual Computer and Music Exhibition in August 1969. (This exhibition has now become ACM Siggraph, the largest computer graphics exposition and conference held annually in California.) The movie was shown at the 1970 annual convention of the Virginia Society of Architects. It was also shown to several mathematics clubs at various Virginia state colleges and one in Kentucky. The same year the Inner College also built a large scale module out of aluminum angles to serve as the notice board for Tech Festival, an annual showcase for interested businesses and students to get acquainted with each other.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Grigg taught in the Foundation Division of the College of Architecture for one year and then went into the practice of architecture (with occasional detours into teaching). The majority of his architectural projects focused on healthcare facilities. He retired in 2010.
Carnochan pursued a film career, editing a number of documentaries, live action features and TV shows. He returned to animation during the renaissance at Disney, where he edited The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Subsequently, he edited the computer-animated films Ice Age and Robots. He lives in Los Angeles and continues to work in the U.S. and internationally, primarily in animation.
An extended history and information about the film is in Box 1, Folder 1.
3.52 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)
This collection includes documents related to the production and dissemination of George Grigg's and John Carnochan's computer-animated film, produced while students at Virginia Tech from 1969 through 1970 using FORTRAN.
The collection is arranged according to the creator's original order and size.
Source of Acquisition
The George Grigg and John Carnochan Papers were donated to Special Collections and University Archives in 2016.
Rights Statement for Archival Description
The guide to the George Grigg and John Carnochan Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your- work/public-domain/cc0/).
The preliminary processing, arrangement, and description of the collection was completed in February 2017.
- Architecture -- Computer-aided design
- FORTRAN (Computer program language)
- University History
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1944-1970)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (1970-)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. College of Architecture (1974-1978)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute. College of Architecture
- George Grigg and John Carnochan Papers, circa 1960s-2015
- LM Rozema, Archivist
- 2017 (CC0 1.0)
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository
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