Rocket Science takes aim at ILM

SILICON VALLEY RAID: Although it’s not uncommon in Hollywood for talent agencies to raid one another trying to pick up talent, it seems the practice is spreading to Silicon Valley, where Rocket Science Games recently just cherry-picked a number of top visual artists, game designers and producers from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, including Mark Mullen, Brian Moriarty, Richard Cohen, David Fox and David Nakabayashi and Mark Sullivan.

The new team, which also includes Apple’s Sean Callahan and former Marvel Comics illustrator Frank Cirocco, has worked in various capacities on numerous groundbreaking effects-laden films such as “Jurassic Park,””Terminator 2: Judgment Day,””Total Recall” and “The Hunt for Red October,” as well as the games “Loom” and “SwampGas” among others.

“They gutted ILM,” says one Silicon Valley observer.

“What’s happening is that the smart guys after several years realize that it’s one of the best places in the business to work, but they are still servicing other people’s ideas.”

And on the subject of Rocket Science, the buzz on the street is that they are about to enter into a deal with a major studio, most likely Sony, Paramount or Turner, as an equity partner to develop game properties.

ANAHEIM NEWS: Word out of the Western Cable Show is that computer chip giant Intel and General Instrument Corp., a world leader in cable technologies, are joining together to develop high-speed modem technologies that will enable home PC users to access a range of services via cable at speeds that are 1,000 times faster than present modems. This cable-modem technology will begin laying the groundwork that will allow the cable industry to participate in the rapidly growing home PC market.

There are technological roadblocks, however. Granted, the performance of the average home computer has improved dramatically during the last several years, communications technology has lagged far behind, a fact which many industry observers note is hurting the industry. For instance, downloading a typical software package by modem can take as long as 30 minutes, while a single graphic image can take a minimum of 20 minutes to transmit.

The Intel/General Instrument modem technology will seek to solve this problem. Unlike a conventional PC modem, which connects to a phone line, the new cable modem will connect to a cable TV line — the same line that delivers the TV pic. The new modems will be able to deliver information close to 1,000 times faster than what is available now — a 1 megabyte software file could be downloaded in less than 30 seconds, a color graphic file in less than a minute.

And although experts have been predicting that interactive services will be coming to televisions for years, the PC now has a large enough base to compete — there are more than 130 million PCs in homes and offices around the world. While this number is substantially below that of TV viewers, the base is rapidly growing.

Two major cable system operators, Comcast and Viacom Intl., are planning to field-test the technology at certain locations. About 500 homes in Viacom’s Castro Valley cable system will allow users to connect their computers through cable access. Two on-line service providers, America On-Line and Prodigy, have agreed to participate in these trials.

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