Historical Note - Alias | Wavefront
Wavefront Technologies was founded in 1984 by Mark Sylvester, Bill Kovacs, and Larry Barels. There were no off-the-shelf options for animation software available at the time of the company’s founding, which drove the founders beyond a development and service model to actively market their software. In their first year of business, Wavefront released the software Preview. One of their first customers was Universal Studio. By 1987, Wavefront had set up offices in Brussels, and the Belgian government had become an investor. In 1988, they began expanding into the desktop market with the Personal Visualizer. Next to come was the Data Visualizer, a year later, which was geared towards the scientific market and industrial design. In 1991, Wavefront released Composer, which has since become a staple in 2D and 3D animation for the feature film and broadcast/video arenas. Wavefront expanded again, this time into the video game market, and released GameWare in 1994, which quickly became the exclusive game graphics and animation development software for Atari. In the same year, Wavefront software was used in creating the effects for “Outbreak,”“Aladdin,” “True Lies,” and “Stargate.”
Silicon Graphics bought Wavefront Technologies in 1995 and merged the company with Alias Research, another computer graphics company. Now called Alias | Wavefront, their software was used by NASA, as well as large motion picture companies like Industrial Light and Magic, which had received an Oscar in 1993 for the effects created for “Jurassic Park” using PowerAnimator, an Alias program. In 1996, Alias | Wavefront expanded their reach to the Pacific-Asian region, setting up offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. That same year, Chris Landreth’s short film, “The End,” was nominated for an Academy Award. He had made the film using the still under development Alias | Wavefront software, Maya, to test its motion capture and facial and hair animation capabilities. Maya was released to the public two years later, in 1998, and Industrial Light and Magic invested in it heavily. The next year Maya was used in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” as well as “The Mummy.”
By 2000, Alias | Wavefront continued to refine their software and received recognition for the work they were doing. That year, all three of the nominations for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars used Alias | Wavefront software. In addition, Maya was used to create the top four best-selling video game titles for the new PlayStation 2. In 2001, Maya was used in the creation of the video game “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader” for the Nintendo GameCube. The GameCube was still in development at the time that the game was being created, and its designers used Alias | Wavefront technology specifically because it would be able to expand and adapt as the GameCube system was finished. The same year, Maya was also the primary 3D modelling software used in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, which boasted 570 shots with digital effects, including the environments, creatures, huge armies, and photorealistic digital doubles of nine of the main cast members. 2002 saw the release of Maya Personal Learning Edition, a free, fully-enabled version of Maya that was made available to download from the company website. By the end of the year, there had been 225,000 unique downloads. Customer Support services were also expanded in 2002, including the creation of learning tools that included two books and six DVDs. In 2003, Alias | Wavefront won an Oscar for Scientific and Technical Achievement, for the use of Maya in so many movies.
Biographical Note - Mark Sylvester
Mark Sylvester is a co-founder of Wavefront Technologies. Mark’s responsibilities included support, marketing, training, technical marketing, public relations, strategic planning, user interaction design, feature planning, product management, and anything else that needed to get done. After Wavefront Technologies was merged with Alias Research, Mark took on the title of Ambassador. Under this title, he became the face and voice of the company, and had a hand in all public relations activity. He was the direct liaison with the company’s high-profile client base, and traveled to almost every country where there was a client.
After leaving Alias | Wavefront, Mark has continued to work in the computer graphics world. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of introNetworks, which is a social software company. Here, Mark is responsible for all activities of the company, and specifically those related to business development, sales and marketing, and product development. He is also the ambassador of 805connect, a project of introNetworks. 805connect is a 50,000 member business-to-business network in the region that comprises Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties in central California. He is also very committed to community and education, both through this project, and his various contributions to Santa Barbara schools. He has been a member of the Executive Board of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, a member of the Presidents Council at the Art Center College of Design, a member of the Chancellors Council at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the President of the Partners in Education. Additionally, he co-founded ASPIRE, the After School Program for Interactive Research in Education, in 1994. ASPIRE is a non-profit for Santa Barbara’s youth that operates year round, and partners animation students with Science and Art partners who lend their knowledge and expertise to focus on team projects.