Profile : Karl Sims, Gen Arts

Karl Sims is the founder of Gen Arts, who’s Sapphire Sparks are perhaps the most popular Discreet plug-ins. Karl is well known throughout the industry, we caught up with Karl and spoke to him about Sparks, computer art and life in general.

FXG: Karl you have just released plug-ins for Shake, how many systems does that make that GenArts supports?

KS: I guess it depends how you count them. We support Discreet’s systems family of products – Flame, Inferno, Flint, Fire and Smoke, Avid’s AVX products – DS, Symphony, Media Composer, Xpress, Xpress DV, Quantel’s Infinity, Henry, Editbox, and Hal with Masher, the since end-of-life’d Avid Media Illusion and Alias|Wavefront Maya Composer products, and now Nothing Real, I mean Apple, Shake and Tremor.

FXG: Who is GenArts? Is it your company ?

KS: Yes, I founded it in 1996.

FXG: Sapphire have been hugely successful, did you expect such an amazing repsonse when you produced your first sparks for Flame?

KS: To be honest, no I didn’t.

FXG: How many people are now coding sparks and plugins at GenArts?

KS: There are 2 of us writing code. Gary Oberbrunner and myself.

FXG: Prior to this you were involved with parrallel procesing and evolution computer art, is that correct ?

KS: Yes. I worked at Thinking Machines Corporation as an “Artist in Residence” in the early 90’s. I was expected to show off their parallel Connection Machine with computer graphics research.

FXG: Do you still do any of that?

KS: Not regularly, although we have continued some of the evolutionary work while at GenArts. We had an exibit of “Galapagos” a few years ago.

FXG: Can you tell us more about the computer art exhibitions?

KS: “Galapagos” is a media installation which allows museum visitors to interactively evolve 3D animated forms. “Genetic Images” was a similar exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris that allowed evolution of abstract still images. Links for more info:

FXG:Is there a web site where people can see you non-plugin personal work ?

KS: Yes, go to

FXG: IS Genarts working with Discreet on their new Toxik technology ?

KS: We have been reviewing their new plug-in interface carefully and trying to provide helpful feedback on that.

FXG: Have you been tempted to move into production yourself, I am sure many major studios would jump at the chance to have you join them?

KS: I’ve enjoyed doing some production work in the past, but for now I prefer providing tools that can help lots of artists who are doing the actual production (and dealing with clients).

FXG: Are Spark and plug-in developers treated differently now from when you started?

KS: It does seem like manufacturers now see that plug-ins are an important part of a successful effects environment. So yes, we notice more efforts from them to support plug-in developers like ourselves.

FXG: What new Sparks are coming? what new areas interest you ?

KS: Nothing specific that I can say, sorry, but we’re always open to hearing about what users have a need for…