Two Of Pixar’s Earliest Employees Win The ‘Nobel Prize’ of Computing
For those of us that grew up with Pixar, it is so easy to take for granted the incredible innovation, technology and genius minds required to bring these big doses of magic to life. That’s why we here at MickeyBlog are delighted to hear that two of Pixar’s original pioneers, Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan are being acknowledged for there achievements with a Turing Award.
Dubbed by BBC News as the Nobel Prize of the computing world, the Turing Award acknowledges “lasting and major” contributions in the field of computing. It’s given by the Association for Computing Machinery and comes with a $1 million cash prize split between the winners!
Dr. Catmull was one of the original founders of Pixar and Dr. Hanrahan one of the company’s earliest employees. The pair were notified that they had won the Turing Award in early March.
In order to create the magic of films like Toy Story, Dr Catmull and Dr Hanrahan along with their teams had to develop new ways to get computers to create three-dimensional objects.
As the BBC points out, during Dr. Catmull’s postdoctoral studies he worked on ways to make computers recognise a curved surface. Once that was achieved animators could play around with other features like texture and depth.
“Step by step you figure out what kind of lighting should be applied. Then you begin to put in the physics of it, because plastic reflects light one way and metal reflects it in a very different way,” Dr Catmull explains.
After earning his doctorate degree, Catmull went on to work in a graphics lab in New York eventually leading to the impressive role of head of the computer division for Lucasfilm. George Lucas, the BBC points out, was one of the first to see the potential of computer animation in films.
In a testament to how far we’ve come, Catmull says that out of college the dream of a full-length computer-animated film felt “wildly impractical.’ He added, “Most people dismissed the idea as an irrelevant pipe dream.”
In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm’s computer division and Pixar was born. During this time Dr Hanrahan was brought on board to create a standard for the way computer code was used to describe images. “Pixar was a magic place,” says Dr Hanrahan who now teaches at Stanford University.
Hanrahan would go on to supervise the creation of RenderMan – the software Pixar uses to create its 3D animations – working with teams from across the industry.
While Catmull was hard at work on creating curved images, Dr. Hanrahan was coming up with a way to visualize how light reflects off different surfaces. It was this degree of perfection when it comes to light and shading that was responsible for giving images a realistic look.
It is Hanrahan’s Renderman project that was the force behind many of Pixar’s most popular animated films including Toy Story and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
During the history of the Turing Award, this is only the second time that the award has been given for advancement in computer graphics. The official awards ceremony is slated for June 2020.
This is a story we’ll be following closely and readers are encouraged to keep following along with MickeyBlog for the latest news and updates.
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Source: BBC News