Meeting “TRON” effects whiz Frank Vitz… and a moment of pack-rat vindication

Frank Vitz and Adam Abrams

Tonight I went to see TRON, the unique 1982 sci-fi film, at the VanCity theatre. As a bonus, there was a talk by Frank Vitz, who worked on the visual effects for the film, before the screening. I not only got to chat with him afterwards, I also found vindication for my pack-rat tendencies as a TRON artifact I’ve kept for over two decades got some long-awaited appreciation!

TRON.jpgFrank had a slide show and some entertaining tidbits to share. The most memorable involved his attending to the elaborate camera/filter/screen setup required to painstakingly photograph the computer graphics (yes, this was a pretty low-tech process). Suspecting a light leak, they took no chances and “sealed” him into the room with duct tape, leaving only a flap to slip pizza into. He had to remain there, in the darkened room, for hours at a time!

After the screening, I chatted with him and his wife, along with a couple of young computer graphics/video game students who weren’t even born when he was helping create TRON’s groundbreaking effects.

And then I played my trump card of a conversation piece.

Sometime in the 80’s – I don’t recall quite where or even how – I acquired the articulated joystick handle from an original TRON arcade game. It seemed a pretty cool thing, quite the futuristic blue plastic curio, so I naturally held onto it, imagining I might work it into an art project or who knows what. It just felt too unique to toss. But basically it sat in a box for over two decades.

Tonight, I was finally viewing TRON for the first time over 25 years after its release. And I’d had the presence of mind to bring this prized artifact (OK, useless bit of debris) along. To my utter delight, said joystick made a cameo appearance in the first scene of the film (as someone plays a fictionalized version of the “TRON” arcade game). Afterwards, of course, I showed it to Frank. A big grin spread across his face and he seemed very pleased to see it! And I was even able to immortalize the moment in a photo (taken with Frank’s cel-cam).

So, in a way, I felt my pack-rat tendencies had been validated as this little castoff that I rescued from oblivion all that time ago finally had its moment of appreciation – one it had patiently waited 20 years for.

Here’s a nice photo I found of the joystick as seen on the original arcade game!

TRON joystick

One thought on “Meeting “TRON” effects whiz Frank Vitz… and a moment of pack-rat vindication

  1. Just wanted to tell you Adam, that your a cool brother to have and quite the creative one to boot. I was just admiring the websie you’ve created around yourself and your various artistic endeavors and couldn’t help but feel the need to compliment you on a job well done.

    with lots of love, Sean :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *