The Man Who Designs 3D Environments | Conversations on the Train

Richard Fraser
Richard Fraser

I try something different on a trip home to Bristol. I sit down at an empty table and leave it to chance as to whether anyone will join me. Not long after sitting down, a man wearing a leather cowboy hat walks past.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” he asks.

“Not at all,” I say.

He puts the hat on the luggage rack and takes out a large Packard Bell computer. I make a comment about the size of the thing and ask what he does.

“I used to do website design but it became monotonous. I live and work in Glastonbury. Most of them are luddites, so they can’t afford a website.”

“Could they build their own?” I ask.

“No, they’re 30 years behind.”

“So, sorry, what do you do?” I ask again.

“I design 3D environments…Like Ringworld,” he explains. I stare at him blankly.

He shows me his screen. There’s a virtual image of a grassy landscape. He flicks through some more images. I think I get the idea.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed, touch formica, I’ll have an interview with 422 this week,” he says.

“What’s 422 ?” I ask.

“You know when you watch a programme like Horizon and you get a digitally created image of what they think the temple/fort/ship they’ve uncovered would have looked like?”


“That’s what they do.”

“So you’re a freelance 3D Environment Designer?”


“And what was your last job?

He pauses for a second, then says, “it was for EDF Energy. They were putting up windmills in Rutland. Part of the process of putting them up involved public consultations. They wanted to produce a virtual image of what the landscape would look like once the windmills were up. People could type in their postcode and see a computer generated image of where the nearest windmill would be. So if you saw a windmill planned for right in your back garden, you could point it out to them.”

“How were you involved?” I ask.

“Well the landscapes were real images, I had real digital terrain maps and real photographs – it was just a case of matching it all up. Just editing reality a bit.”

“And what do 422 want?”

“The 422 guys want real guesswork – I think they’re working on something at the moment that’s like; if you removed all the ocean in the world what would it look like? And if you think about it, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge would make the Grand Canyon look like a little trough.”

I notice a tattoo on his arm, “what’s that?” I ask.

Richard's Tattoo

“It’s the seven-antlered stag. It comes from the Mabinogion (eleven ancient Welsh romances). The line is ‘I am a stag of seven tines.’* The Welsh is the closest we’ve got to what we’re all thinking now.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“The Welsh folklore is the oldest in the UK and what connects us most to our original spiritual thinking.”

“You definitely are from Glastonbury,” I say.

“This is me unfluffy – you should see me when I’m fluffy,” he says, “and I’m from London, not Glastonbury – but I came to a small festival 23 years ago and I haven’t left.”

“Ah, so as a resident you get in free?”

“I haven’t paid for a Glastonbury ticket in 23 years – but not because I live in Glastonbury, it’s only a small radius around the site that qualifies people for resident’s tickets. I get in free because I’m one of a crew of about twenty to thirty running backstage passes in the circus area. Glastonbury Festival is the most nepotistic environment.”

I consider asking if he can get me in backstage but can’t think what circus act I would perform to justify it. We talk a little about where he lives – in a cottage off a main street, where Google Street View’s tentacles do not reach. And he has a girlfriend, ‘whose brother is a wizard.’

“A wizard?”

“Yes, one day I’m going to watch all the films he gets his quotes from,” he laughs, “he hates me though.”


“Oh I dunno, he’s Italian and I’m going out with his sister.”

At this point, two people come and join us on the table. And I think both of us know the looks we’ll get if we continue talking about Italian wizards. So I look out the window and make a comment about the beautiful autumnal colours lining the railway just before Bath. He calls me a hippy.

* On looking this up it appears to be from the Song of Amergin, translated by Robert Graves in The White Goddess.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. AnneKostalas

    Really enjoyed this post. Just goes to prove that I’m right and my friend is wrong. She says I have the all-people-are-fascinating thing and she has the all-people-are-a******s thing. Fascinating.

    1. QunoSpotter

      Thank you! Perhaps your friend should try talking to strangers on trains. I’d say some people are the former and some sometimes the latter ; )


  2. Richard Fraser

    Wow!! I remember our meeting on the train so well.
    Well I got the job with 422 for a year, now work frerlance all over the place. I got married last year and things are looking good.
    Lovely to find this blog after so long.
    Take care.

    1. Sophie

      Wonderful! You’ve brought a smile to my face. 🙂 You take care too – and congratulations!

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