Friday, September 21, 2012

TRW Commercials, Robert Abel & Associates and the Origins of Computer Animation

[Updated 3/6/2013   I am now quite sure that other companies also did TRW commercials, I remember explicitly one that Digital Productions worked on.  It did seem as though RA&A did get a lot of them, however]

The origin of computer animation lies in part in the very high end advertising production that was done by such companies as Robert Abel & Associates, R/Greenberg, Digital Productions, MAGI and so forth. Among these, highly prized were the very expensive and generally quite abstract  TRW commercials.

TRW was a major defense contractor, originally created to be the project lead on the secret space program of the United States after Sputnik. Their commercials were more about raising awareness of their name among the public and associating the name with cool technology than it was about selling product.  We would recognize their goals today using terms like "brand identification and management".

A typical TRW commercial might have a computer screen with CAD program, the wireframe design of a butterfly which then comes to life and flies off the screen with a voice over that says "A company called TRW". They were always hits at the SIGGRAPH Electronic Theatre back when that event, the so-called film show, was important.

These commercials seemed to be done at Robert Abel & Associates exclusively as far as I could tell.  If there were other high-end TRW spots done by other companies, I probably was just not aware of them.  I thought it was amusing, sort of, that my peers at RA&A did not have a clue what TRW did whereas I, coming from the RAND Corporation, had a pretty good idea what their business was: spy satellites and related technologies.

So I wrote a fake TRW commercial in my head and now, many years later, I present it to you here.

The logo for TRW itself was slit-scanned, but I have not found an image or copy of it yet, so for now the basic artwork will have to suffice.

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