Bringing Animation to the Courtroom Alexandria Company Wins City Technology Award
March 18, 1999
By Patricia Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Ken Lopez makes his living helping juries and judges more easily understand the complex cases before them, whether they are about a complicated surgical procedure or a multi-vehicle traffic accident. But you won't find him in a courtroom.
Lopez works out of his office in Alexandria, where he creates computer-animated presentations for use in court. Since his business started in 1995, "Animators at Law" has helped lawyers make their cases in courtrooms all over the country.
Last week, Lopez's company received another favorable verdict, this time from his own business community.
In a ceremony at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Old Town, Animators at Law won the "1999 Alexandria Technology Achievement Award."
"Wow!" Lopez, 30, told the crowd, which included Alexandria Mayor Kerry J. Donley (D), Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) and the state's deputy secretary for technology, Michael Thomas. "It's great to be honored by this city I grew up in."
The awards program, which was established two years ago, is sponsored by the City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership Inc. and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the award is to showcase the city's businesses and to promote the development or application of innovative technology, said R. Mark McLindon, chairman of the program.
The city is better known as a port city or an "association destination," he said.
"The emphasis is that Alexandria is a technology city," McLindon said, noting that the city is celebrating its 250th birthday this year. "I don't think we can rely on being a port city for the next 250 years."
Kathy Snyder, president and CEO of the chamber, said the city's 200 technology firms have made it
the largest industry group, employing more than 10,000 people.
Thomas, keynote speaker at the awards luncheon, said the state has become a leader in the race for new technology.
"Virginia is at the forefront of the development of the Internet," Thomas said. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We need to look for new ways to encourage more businesses to come here."
The award program is part of a concerted effort to encourage just that and to help the technology firms already here become aware of what others like them are doing.
As part of the competition, five finalists were selected from 28 entries, officials said.
The other finalists were Cyveillance; Commonwealth Scientific Corp., Dimensions International Inc. and Alexandria YMCA.
One of the judges and last year's winner, Lou Scanlan, president of UUcom, said Animators at Law, which creates visual impressions similar to those seen in the movies "Toy Story" and "Titanic," is an especially creative company.
Lopez said he picked up computer animation as a hobby during law school.
Although he had plenty of job offers when he graduated, he wondered if there was a way to make a living using both his computer skills and his law degree.
His business has taken off, with larger law firms and patent attorneys particularly eager for his services, Lopez said. He employs both lawyers and artists in his company on Powhatan Street, as many as 10 or 20 at a time, and much of their work deals with scientific issues, he said.
"We try to make complex points easy to understand," Lopez said. "That's it."
"I've never seen anything like it before," said Scanlan, one of the judges. "It's a very exciting company."