Lighting up Hollywood
Paul E. Debevec (Ph.D.’96 EECS) received the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award at the Television Academy’s 74th Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy Awards in September. The honor is given to a living individual whose ongoing contributions have significantly affected the state of television technology and engineering.
The award recognizes Debevec’s groundbreaking work in high-dynamic-range imaging, image-based lighting and photogrammetry — techniques used in computer graphics for visual effects and virtual production. His work enables engineers to record and reproduce the light of real scenes to illuminate virtual scenes, a technology that is ubiquitous on today’s cellphone cameras.
High-dynamic-range imaging, the subject of a 1997 paper by Debevec and Jitendra Malik, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, is considered a linchpin of computer graphics and — combined with techniques stemming from Debevec’s 1998 paper on image-based lighting — has enabled realistic integration of existing live-action lighting in computer-generated imagery. These tools and concepts are now standard within the visual effects industry. He also pioneered a virtual production technique called Light Stage, which uses lighting simulation software that allows a computer-generated image or live actor in the studio to be illuminated by the light of the scene in which it’s supposed to occur.
“I’m incredibly fortunate to have had UC Berkeley’s amazing faculty, students, environment and traditions of excellence to influence my work,” said Debevec, now the director of research, creative algorithms and technology for Netflix.
Learn more: Lighting up Hollywood