Dennis Muren, effects supervisor

Among visual effects aficionados, the veteran magician is an icon

Name a groundbreaking digital effects movie of the past three decades, and they all have one thing in common: Dennis Muren.

From 1982's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" to 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" to 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" to 1993's "Jurassic Park" -- not to mention nearly all of the "Star Wars" films -- Muren has defined the role of visual effects supervisor and attained a near-mythic status among visual effects aficionados. He has nine Academy Awards and, in 1999, became the first visual effects artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Still, the Lifetime Achievement Award, from his Visual Effects Society peers, holds special significance.

I was surprised to hear about it and really thrilled," Muren says. "This is more my peers than even the Oscars. The fact that this is from an organization started by people who love visual effects makes it neat."

Muren began his career with what quickly became the iconic film of the burgeoning digital effects industry: 1977's "Star Wars," for which he was the visual effects second cameraman. He joined Lucas' new digital effects company Industrial Light + Magic and began work on a string of films, each of which marked a new benchmark in digital effects. He most recently was visual effects supervisor for 2005's "War of the Worlds" and is currently working on a book about observation skills, aimed at computer graphics artists.

Muren marvels at what the visual effects industry has become. "In the early 1970s, suddenly millions of people became aware of visual effects and wanted to see 'Star Wars' and (1977's) 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,'" he says. "And they're still there."    

Muren will receive the VES Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Visual Effects Society Awards on Feb. 11.