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Pixar's Ed Catmull: Steve Jobs 'Believed in the Vision and Protected Us'

Ed Catmull
Deborah Coleman/Pixar
Ed Catmull

Catmull and Douglas Trumbull were among the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineer's honorees.

Ed Catmull, president and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Walt Disney Animation Studio, received the SMPTE Progress Medal, the Society’s highest recognition, Thursday evening at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers’ awards ceremony, which capped its conference at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.

Accepting the award, Catmull acknowledged George Lucas and Steve Jobs. “When I first got into this industry it was because of George Lucas. … when I showed up at Lucasfilm, I was introduced to the people at ILM, but we were never part of ILM. They were very nice and they were the best in their field at the time — and it was very clear that what I was doing was totally and utterly irrelevant to them. What I had was protection from George — protecting the new.

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“After Lucasfilm, pursuing this dream of making the first computer animated film, we had Steve Jobs, who believed in the vision and protected us, when it was not obvious that it this was going to go anywhere. It was crude at the time.”

Looking back at animation's history, he said: “When you are doing some new and the technology is changing, you just kind of wish it would stop for a while so you can make the movie. … (But) I believe what took place in animation’s early days, was they had this incredible vitality because the technology was part of the creativity.

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“Technology keeps us off balance and keeps the creative juices flowing at every level. This is our job is to keep technology changing.”

Also during the evening, Douglas Trumbull — whose VFX credits include 2001: A Space Odyssey and whose invented the large format system ShowScan -- accepted the 2011 SMPTE Presidential Proclamation for his work in visual effects photography and innovation in motion-picture technologies.

IMAX founders Graeme Ferguson and Roman Kroitor were awarded the John Grierson International Gold Medal for technical achievements in documentary film.

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Joshua Pines received the Technicolor/Herbert T. Kalmus Medal for developing improvements to film scanning and recording technology at ILM and Technicolor, and for his oversight of color science and image processing on new and restored films. Pines is vp, imaging R&D at Technicolor Digital Intermediates.

The Samuel L. Warner Memorial Medal was awarded to Max Bell of Bell Theatre Services for contributions in design and development for motion-picture sound. Bell was instrumental in developing a stereo sound system for the 70mm prints of Superman and Apocalypse Now.

The David Sarnoff Medal was presented to Bruce Devlin, CTO of AmberFin, for his contributions to the development of SMPTE’s ‘MXF’ standards.

Director of photography Linda J. Brown received the Kodak Educational Award for her commitment to teaching the art and science of cinematography.

SMPTE Journal Awards were presented to Regunathan Radhakrishnan and Kent B. Terry; and SMPTE Journal Certificates of Merit were awarded to Sean McCarthy and David Wood.

The Citation for Outstanding Service to the Society was presented to David Horowitz, and the Excellence in Standards Award recipient was Michael A. Dolan.

Five were named to the rank of SMPTE Fellows: Catmull, Todd Brunhoff, Gary Demos, Michael Karagosian, and Paul Michael Stechly.

Robb Weller served as master of ceremonies.