2020 turing prize winners

Pixar has been dominating the animation field for years with its beloved Oscar-winning films, but it’s taken over 25 years for the computer industry to acknowledge the animation studio’s contributions on the technology side of things. Luckily, Pixar Animation’s Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan are being acknowledged with the most prestigious award in the computer industry: the Turing Prize.

Catmull and Hanrahan have been with Pixar since the studio’s early days and are considered two of the company’s earliest employees and tantamount to building the technology that would earn Pixar its reputation as the leading studio in CGI animation. Now, they’re being awarded for all they’ve achieved with the prestigious Turing Prize, awarded in the computer industry to individuals who have made contributions “of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field.”

According to Variety, Catmull and Hanrahan will split the $1 million cash prize that comes with the Association for Computing Machinery’s A.M. Turing Award, which is sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing. The prize is named after British mathematician and computer scientist Alan M. Turing (aka, that guy that Benedict Cumberbatch played once).

“Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan have fundamentally influenced the field of computer graphics through conceptual innovation and contributions to both software and hardware,” ACM said in the announcement of the award Wednesday. “Their work has had a revolutionary impact on filmmaking, leading to a new genre of entirely computer-animated feature films beginning 25 years ago with ‘Toy Story’ and continuing to the present day.”

ACM are awarding Catmull and Hanrahan for their developments in 3D computer imagery, which have been central to the video game industry, as well as virtual and augmented reality.

Hanrahan, who was a founding Pixar employee hired by Catmull, pioneered a new kind of graphics system with the help of Catmull and other Pixar employees. The system, later named RenderMan, allowed curved shapes to be rendered with realistic material properties and lighting. The RenderMan system would prove instrumental in Pixar’s inaugural feature film, 1995’s Toy Story, and its many succeeding blockbuster hits. The software has also been used in 44 of the last 47 films nominated for an Oscar in visual effects, including Avatar, Titanic, Beauty and the Beast, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Star Wars prequels, according to Variety.

ACM said it will present the Turing Award to Catmull and Hanrahan at its annual awards banquet on June 20 in San Francisco.

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