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Edwin Catmull

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Edcatmull

Edwin Catmull, president at Pixar Animation Studios

Dr. Edwin Catmull (born 1945 in West Virginia) was a vice president of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd. He is a computer scientist and the co-founder and currently the president of Pixar Animation Studios. As a computer scientist, Catmull has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics.

Early in life, Catmull found inspiration in Disney movies such as Peter Pan and Pinocchio and dreamed of becoming a feature film animator. However, he assessed his chances realistically and decided that his talents lay elsewhere. Instead of pursuing a career in the movie industry, he enrolled in the physics and computer science programs at the University of Utah. It was there that he made three fundamental computer graphics discoveries: Z-buffering, texture mapping, and bicubic patches. While at the university, he invented algorithms for anti-aliasing and rendering subdivision surfaces and created, in 1972, his earliest contribution to the film industry, an animated version of his left hand for Futureworld, the science fiction sequel to the film Westworld and the first film to use 3D computer graphics.

After leaving the university, Catmull founded the Computer Graphics Lab at the New York Institute of Technology. In 1979 he went to work for George Lucas at Lucasfilm. It was at Lucasfilm that he helped develop digital image compositing technology used to combine multiple images in a convincing way. Later, in 1986, Catmull founded Pixar with Alvy Ray Smith. At Pixar, Catmull was a key developer of the RenderMan rendering system used in films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

In 1993, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Catmull with his first Academy Award "for the development of PhotoRealistic RenderMan software which produces images used in motion pictures from 3D computer descriptions of shape and appearance." Again in 1996, he received an Academy Award "for pioneering inventions in Digital Image Compositing". Finally, in 2001, he received an Oscar "for significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar's RenderMan."

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