Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A VIEW OF THE CITY FROM HIS COMPUTER; Boredom and Talent Have This Video Editor Building a 3D Jacksonville

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A VIEW OF THE CITY FROM HIS COMPUTER; Boredom and Talent Have This Video Editor Building a 3D Jacksonville

Article excerpt

Byline: JESSIE-LYNNE KERR

A computer and a city skyline. These are Howard Lawson II's tools.

He wants to build his own Jacksonville, at least a scale version, and has been working on creating 3D versions of downtown buildings. The designs are accurate and almost-to-scale computer models of the real-life version.

Why? Mostly boredom, but also to illustrate the uniqueness and beauty of some of downtown's landmarks.

Lawson, 32, has a full-time day job as video editor for The Church of Jacksonville in Deerwood Center, so his work on building a digital downtown is limited to his time off.

Lawson came to Jacksonville in 2005. He was trained in computer graphics at the International Academy of Design and Technology in his native Tampa.

"I found the downtown area pretty photogenic," Lawson said, "and I was looking for something interesting to do, something that would be a personal challenge, like the most complicated thing I could think of."

He started the project a year ago by taking photographs of the same structure from different angles. Then he paced out the footprint of the structure to get rough dimensions, sometimes finding information about a particular building on the company's Web site.

Although he didn't have the money to hire a helicopter to take him up for aerial views, he tried for unique angles from the city's bridges.

"I can have a camera go where a plane or helicopter can't go," he said.

He also found aerial views of downtown and Southbank buildings on a government Web site.

He started his 3D project on an older Macintosh computer, but it couldn't keep up with the work he was doing, so he built his own computer and networked the two machines - the Mac and the PC - together.

He spent four months just researching the computer parts he would need and sought out advice from 3D creators before settling on using the application LightWave 3D. …

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