Harold Cohen influenced Tron, Zayn Malik

Director X, Zayn Malik’s ‘Like I Would’ Video Honors Algorist Art, CGI Pioneers Like Harold Cohen

Zayn Malik released a video for his song “Like I Would,” created by Director X, and it is generating a lot of focus on the early days of computer generated images (CGI). Interestingly, one of the pioneers in CGI, Harold Cohen, died about two weeks before Zayn Malik released the “Like I Would” video on May 9.

While “Like I Would” may not be a direct homage from Director X and Zayn Malik to Harold Cohen, the timing is interesting.

For example, in a review for “Like I Would,” Elite Daily says that the new Zayn Malik video reminds them of one of the first CGI special effects movies, Tron.

Zayn Malik must love lazers because they are in his videos and concerts.
Lazers may be a new theme for Zayn Malik’s videos and concerts. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for iHeartRadio / Turner)

Adding to this, Director X was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly and asked if he was influenced by the movie Tron for Zayn Malik’s video and he said “Of course. I’m a nerd. Of course I’m a Tron fan.”

Tron was released in 1982, but Zayn Malik’s video with Director X does seem to evoke the types of images found in Tron. However, what is interesting is that Tron came about due to computer generated art pioneers like Harold Cohen.

Although many people will define CGI as being images drawn by humans by using computers, Harold Cohen was known for creating AARON, a computer program that controlled a robot that drew pre-programmed drawings.

AARON was created in 1973, and this makes Harold Cohen a pioneer Algorist artist because he uses algorithms to create art, according to Algorist.

As far as Harold Cohen’s direct influence on Tron, no online evidence exists that makes this connection. Alternatively, it could be said that some of Harold Cohen’s influence is found in Tron because they used computers to create a lot of the precise drawings for the animation in the movie’s special effects. To clarify, Front Effects elaborates with the following.

“With the advent of CGI, the technique evolved in Digital Matte: the environments are no longer hand-painted but recreated using computers. At the time, computers were able to generate only static images and not animations: the camera coordinates of the lightcycle sequence were inserted by hand for each frame. It has been estimated that 600 coordinates were necessary to obtain four seconds of movie.”

Does all of this mean that Director X (formerly known as Little X and Julien Lutz) and Zayn Malik had a plan all along to honor Harold Cohen? While Harold Cohen may not be listed in the credits for Tron or “Like I Would,” he likely gave Tron‘s special effects the ability to exist in the first place in 1982.

On the other hand, Tron may have piqued America’s interest in the idea that computers could be human-like. For example, his obituary in the New York Times states that in 1983 (soon after Tron was released), Harold Cohen’s drawing computers were put on display at the Brooklyn Museum. The public could buy one of his computer generated drawings for $10.

Ultimately, one of Zayn Malik’s ultimate uses of Harold Cohen’s CGI program could be used to help him develop his career in one key way. As UnReality TV points out, one of the ways Director X teased Zayn Malik in an interview about “Like I Would” is by pointing out Zayn has a problem with dancing.

Alternatively, by using Harold Cohen’s drawing machine, animation could be created to make it look like Zayn Malik is dancing.

Although there is no evidence online that Harold Cohen was a fan of Zayn Malik or Director X, Cohen did have something to say about his favorite creative people in his final years of life.

Harold Cohen influenced many CGI makers including Director X
Elements of Harold Cohen’s CGI work has indirectly influenced an array of video makers such as Director X. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

In one of his last interviews for Buffalo News in February, 2015, Harold Cohen stated the following.

“And I think art is a projection of the human being… and all the people that I knew and respected in the arts were emotional yo-yos.”

Harold Cohen died just four days before his 88th birthday on April 27, 2016. His original obituary can be found at Kurzweil AI. A recent analysis of his work was published in Technology Review in their February, 2016, edition and they stated the following.

“[I]n the late 1980s Cohen was able to joke that he was the only artist who would ever be able to have a posthumous exhibition of new works created entirely after his own death.”

[Picture by Rich Polk/Stringer/Getty Images]

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