ACM SIGGRAPH’s Debevec and Team to Receive Academy Award for Innovative Visual Effects Technology
February 23, 2010

ACM SIGGRAPH’s Debevec and Team to Receive Academy Award for Innovative Visual Effects Technology

Los Angeles, Calif. - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is honoring Paul Debevec of the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and his colleagues with a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for innovations in visual effects technology used on the films Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Debevec, associate director of graphics research at the University of Southern California’s ICT, headed a team that included Tim Hawkins of LightStage LLC, John Monos of Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Mark Sagar of WETA Digital. The award recognizes more than 10 years of research, development, and application of technologies designed to help achieve the goal of photoreal digital actors. Debevec, a leader of ACM SIGGRAPH, and his team received the award at the Scientific and Technical Awards Ceremony in Beverly Hills.

ACM SIGGRAPH president G. Scott Owen says the system captures and simulates how people and objects appear under real-world illumination. “If you were amazed by the lifelike animations in Avatar, you have a sense of the contributions of Debevec. This achievement reflects the role of computer graphics in rendering lifelike images for the motion picture and interactive entertainment industries. The promise of this research is a measure of the powerful potential for computer graphics in changing the way we live and work.”

Debevec and his team were cited for the design and engineering of the Light Stage capture devices and the image-based facial rendering system that create believable digital actors in motion pictures. Debevec’s pioneering techniques, published at an ACM SIGGRAPH conference, were first used to create the Academy Award-winning virtual backgrounds in the “bullet time” shots in the 1999 film The Matrix, and were also used to dramatic effect in films such as the Matrix sequels, Terminator: Salvation 2012, and District 9. Known as HDRI (high-dynamic range imaging) and image-based lighting, these techniques have become a standard part of visual effects production.

In 2001, Debevec received ACM SIGGRAPH's first Significant New Research Award for "Creative and Innovative Work in the Field of Image-Based Modeling and Rendering." In 2002, he was named one of the world's top 100 young innovators by MIT's Technology Review magazine, and in 2005 received a Gilbreth Lectureship from the National Academy of Engineering. He chaired the SIGGRAPH 2007 Computer Animation Festival, and in 2009, he was elected to the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee.

Debevec is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. He received degrees in mathematics and computer engineering at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California Berkeley.