Three-dimensional computer animation could play a part in helping Utah secure its Olympic bid.

Shaun Oborn, a computer scientist at the Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University, started it all when he wrote a three-dimensional computer animation program for his master's thesis.The end product, a video titled "Utah: the Movie," caught the attention both of researchers at the Space Dynamics Lab and the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee.

The video takes the viewer on a high-altitude flight over the state's landmarks: Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, the Uintah Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

The same technology likely will be used to show the proximity of Utah's Olympic facilities to the International Olympic Committee.

"It . . . helps demonstrate the beauty of the mountains and the closeness of the city to the mountains," said bid committee spokesman Bob Hunter. "We were very, very impressed."

Oborn is working with Dean Garlick, SDL data processing manager, in producing a three-dimensional overview of the Olympic sites, which will be marked with burning Olympic torches.

The bid committee cannot pay them for the work but does want to use it.

For now, both Garlick and Oborn work on three-dimensional animation programs on their own time. Someday, however, the two hope to get paid for their endeavors.

Their product may be used as early as January, as part of a video package to be presented in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Lausanne meeting will narrow the potential sites competing to host the 2002 Winter Games from nine to four.

The program could help give Utah an edge by showing committee members how convenient a place it is to hold the Olympics, Hunter said.

The sites planned for the Salt Lake games are all within roughly an hour's travel from downtown Salt Lake City - and some are in the city itself.

"It's just such a great overview, and it shows how close our venues are together," Hunter said.

If Salt Lake City makes the cut to the top four contenders for the Winter Games, the program would also figure in another presentation next June in Budapest, Hungary.