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Netflix Adds Paul Debevec as Director of Research

The Academy Award-winning computer graphics pioneer joins streamer’s Data Science and Engineering team to oversee new technology development across VFX, virtual production, and animation production.

Academy Award-winning computer scientist Paul Debevec has joined Netflix’s Data Science and Engineering team in the newly created role of Director of Research. The computer graphics pioneer comes to the streamer after a long stint as a senior scientist at Google VR.

Debevec will oversee research and development around new technologies in computer vision, computer graphics, and machine learning with applications across many areas of production, including VFX, virtual production and animation. He will also build a team that brings together data and expertise from Netflix productions around the world to help creative partners develop new storytelling capabilities.

He’ll continue with his duties as an Adjunct Research Professor of Computer Science in the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California, working within the Vision and Graphics Laboratory at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies.

Debevec has for years been at the forefront of photorealistic CG production research and development, focusing on photoreal digital actors and facial scanning / digitization. Along with colleagues Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar, he was awarded a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award in 2010 for "the design and engineering of the Light Stage capture devices and the image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures." In other words, his work has led to breakthroughs in how artists capture and simulate people and objects under realistic lighting. Practical uses of his groundbreaking research have been applied by studios like Sony Pictures Imageworks, WETA Digital, and Digital Domain to create photoreal digital actors in hit films such as Spider-Man 2, King Kong, Superman Returns, Spider-Man 3, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and more recently, Avatar, The Avengers, Gravity, and Maleficent.

A frequent speaker at industry events such as VIEW Conference and FMX, Debevec sat for several AWN interviews over the years, discussing his research focus and how that work makes its way into film:

Debevec has received numerous academic and industry awards, including SIGGRAPH’s first significant new researcher award and the SMPTE progress medal. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the Visual Effects Society, and has served on the Executive Committee and as Vice-President of SIGGRAPH.

Source: Netflix

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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