Fantasy Job

Hawaii's highly popular idea of "brain drain" leads many people to believe that it's impossible to find a good hi-tech job in Hawai'i. However, the truth is it's possible and University of Hawai'i electrical engineering student Anthony Higa is the proof.

Anthony, a Pearl City High School graduate, works at SquareUSA as part of their in-house software development team. SquareUSA is the sister company of SquareSoft, who is famous for the development of the popular Final Fantasy role-playing game series, which has sold over 26 million copies.

So is Anthony working on a hot new video game? Nope, he's working on the highly anticipated Final Fantasy movie. Production of the movie is currently taking place at the Diamond Head Film Studios and the SquareUSA Honolulu Studio at Harbor Court.

"Square selected Honolulu for its second site in the U.S. because of its centralized location in the Pacific. This has enabled us to maximize the most creative and experienced talent from all over the world and Japan to explore their creativity to new realms," Jun Aida, President and COO of SquareUSA, explained.

Like Toy Story or A Bug's Life, the film will be made entirely in cyberspace, except for the voices. Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin, Ming-Na, Ving Rhames, Donald Sutherland and James Woods are signed to do the voices, which will be taped in Los Angeles. The film will be distributed by Columbia Pictures and be released in 2001. The film will also be unique because it will attempt to represent emotion and movement as realistically as possible.

Anthony started at SquareUSA as a "wrangler." "A 'wrangler' is a common term in the graphics industry for someone who stays up all night and watches the computers to make sure nothing goes wrong," he explained. "Basically SquareUSA is trying to create a 100% computer-generated movie. This kind of movie doesn't use film from a camera, but uses digital information created by artists to 'render' out the individual pictures or frames of the movie. Now most people are familiar with video games as being able to do this on a smaller, much lesser scale. The typical number of frames per second for a video game is between 20-30. Now a movie on the other hand has 24 frames per second. While a video game can calculate each frame in real-time, or 1/30th of a second for each frame, movie or photo-realistic frames take much longer, half-an-hour to 6 hours per frame. A wrangler is someone whom runs these 'renders' and makes sure the programs don't crash."

He admitted that when he started at SquareUSA he knew nothing about the process. However, many of the classes he has taken at UH have helped him at his job and helped him move up in the company. Currently, Anthony works on the software for the thousands of computers that do the rendering for the Final Fantasy movie.

Anthony also says SquareUSA is not the only hi-tech company in the islands. Konami, who is known for video games like Metal Gear and Castlevania, is another famous Japanese company with a Honolulu office.

Right now, Anthony isn't sure if he will stay at SquareUSA after graduation. However, he knows that the school you go to or the major you choose isn't more important than the effort and determination you have.


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