Michael Sterling, Academy Sci-Tech Council Associate Director and Digital Pioneer, Dies at 61

Courtesy of AMPAS
Michael Sterling

Among his achievements, he created the first encrypted digital delivery system for the release of 'Star Wars: Episode II.'

Michael Sterling, associate director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council, died on Dec. 18. He was 61.

At the Academy, Sterling was charged with technology initiatives advancing the state of the art in motion picture stage lighting, next-generation display technologies and long-term archiving of digital motion pictures.

In his earlier role as director of client services for Technicolor Digital Cinema, he was a pioneer of digital cinema, instrumental in developing standards for studio-to-theater digital cinema delivery. Sterling created the first encrypted digital delivery system for the release of Star Wars: Episode II  Attack of the Clones. He also is the holder of key patents in digital cinema for color accuracy, theater ID and high-speed digital recording. Sterling also consulted on entertainment technology for the National Film Board of Canada, Telic Global and National Teleconsultants. 

Sterling, who was born in Chicago, held a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois. He was a member of SMPTE and a journal author, also serving on the standards committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), as well as the British Kinomatagraph Sound and Television Society (BKSTS), Society of Information Display (SID), Society of Photographic and Imaging Engineers (SPIE), Optical Society of America (OSA), European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF) and the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA).

Among Sterling's varied interests were antique and modern watches and cameras, and he was devoted to his dog, Cinnamon. The burial was held at a private service at Mt. Sinai on Dec. 26. A memorial service will be held on Jan. 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

He is survived by his mother, Min Sterling, and his sister, Lianne Sterling Swanson.

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