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Pixar and PDI/DreamWorks co-founders to dissect the evolution of CG on ACM webinar

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As people around the world pass time in self isolation due to COVID-19 watching classic films like Toy Story and Shrek, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) will host a free webinar on April 14 with two of the technological visionaries behind these and many other animated classics. 

Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and Richard Chuang, co-founder of Pacific Data Images (PDI)/DreamWorks, will be featured guests in an online discussion about the “Past, Present, and Future of Computer Graphics,” put on by the educational and scientific computing society.

In addition to re-watching these classic films at home, the organizers invite computer enthusiasts and movie fans alike to join the webinar to learn more about the evolution of the computer graphics technology behind beloved characters like Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Donkey, famously voiced by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Eddie Murphy, respectively. 

Ed Catmull. Credit: University of Utah

Both Mr. Catmull and Mr. Chuang have had long, storied careers in the film industry as well as in computing. 

Mr. Catmull was the president of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd. (the studio behind the Star Wars franchise) before it was bought by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in 1986, and renamed Pixar. 

His postdoctoral thesis, A Subdivision Algorithm for Computer Display of Curved Surfaces, was integral to furthering the capacity of computers to recognize curved surfaces, helping to give birth to 3D animation that is commonplace in today’s animated children’s films. 

He’s had a hand in such youth classics as Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles and Frozen. 

To honor his career achievements, Mr. Catmull was recently awarded ACM’s Turing Award, often regarded as the “Nobel Prize” for computer science. 

As another early pioneer in the field, Mr. Chuang joined Pacific Data Images in 1981 with co-founders Carl Rosendahl and Glenn Entis. The computer graphics company was later bought by DreamWorks studios and contributed innovative CG effects to over 70 feature films including Shrek, Minority Report and Batman and Robin. 

Richard Chuang. Credit: UC Davis

Mr. Chuang is the recipient of two Academy Awards for technical achievement and was a leader in expanding DreamWorks’ production efforts into India and China, as well as many other countries around the globe. 

Old friends as well as colleagues, Mr. Chuang credits Mr. Catmull as a teacher and inspiration for his career. Their familiarity and friendship, coupled with their vast expertise, could lead to some personal reflection and great anecdotes from the early days of the industry that these two computer scientists pioneered. 

Moderating this journey through the past, present and future of CG will be Juan Miguel de Joya, artificial intelligence expert and Project Officer for AI for Good at the International Telecommunications Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Juan Miguel de Joya. Credit: Siggraph.org

Mr. Joya is also a member of ACM’s Future of Computing Academy, the ACM Practitioners Board and was a former engineer at Facebook/Oculus, Google and Pixar animation studios.

ACM, which is organizing the free webinar, is the largest educational and scientific computing society in the world.

Since its inception at Columbia University in New York in 1947, the association has grown to over 100,00 members across 190 countries, with influential leadership in academia and the private sector. 

For more information about how to register for the webinar on April 14 at 12:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time visit this website.

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Sam Brake Guia
Sam is an energetic and passionate writer/presenter, always looking for the next adventure. In August 2016 he donated all of his possessions to charity, quit his job, and left the UK. Since then he has been on the road travelling through North, Central and South America searching for new adventures and amazing stories.