IONS Directory Profile

Biography

Loren Carpenter revolutionized the entire film industry through inventing rendering and modeling algorithms for image synthesis and visual effects. In 2001 he and two colleagues were awarded the only Oscar statuettes ever given for computer science. He recently transitioned from his position as Senior Research Scientist in Disney/Pixar’s research division to that of an IONS visiting scholar.

His groundbreaking work began at the Boeing Company where, while pursuing his master’s degree in computer science at the University of Washington, he started experimenting with computer animation as part of an effort to improve the company’s computer-aided design and modeling tools. That work inspired and led to his creation of the world’s first fractally-generated animation piece, a short film titled Vol Libre, which is available on Vimeo.

In 1980 he presented the two-minute film at the SIGGRAPH Conference, and his film career took off when the Lucasfilm Computer Division immediately offered him a job. There he further perfected his software to create the fractal planet for the Genesis sequence of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a visual effect that worked so well it was used in the next three Star Trek movies. His division at Lucasfilm eventually grew into Pixar Animation Studios, where he became the studio’s first Senior Scientist, and where his software algorithms still beat in the heart of every Pixar movie.

In addition to his award-winning work in computer animation, Loren and his wife Rachel have explored new concepts in interactivity and computer art through their own company, Cinematrix, Inc.

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