SIGGRAPH 1993 Steven Anson Coons Award: Catmull

  • ©1993, Edwin (Ed) Catmull



    Steven Anson Coons Award


    This year ACM SIGGRAPH has selected Dr. Edwin E. Catmull to receive the Steven A. Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics. Over the past twenty years, Ed Catmull has made many and noteworthy advances in computer graphics as an individual researcher, as an inspiring leader in the field, as a director of organizations, and as a mentor for many.

    Ed has made important direct contributions to the field of computer graphics. With his doctoral dissertation at the University of Utah, he introduced the notion of subdivision to pixel level as a display method, added a fast adaptive subdivision method for bicubic surface patches , and provided the first published description of the ubiquitous z-buffer visibility algorithm. He also developed the Catmull -Rom interpolating spline and an early system for generating animated articulated figures. At the New York Institute of Technology, he wrote the first spline inbetweening animation program. At Lucasfilm, with Alvy Ray Smith, he invented a two-pass image warping algorithm.

    In addition to his own research contributions, Ed has founded and led three important and influential centers of computer graphics research and development: the Computer Graphics Laboratory at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), the Lucasfilm Computer Division, and Pixar. In each of these organizations, he attracted and developed some of the best talent in the computer graphics business. These organizations rose quickly to become leading centers of research in our field. The common ingredient in these three organizations is Catmull and the talented people he attracts and develops; wherever Catmull goes, exciting things seem to happen.

    Engineers at NYIT developed the first RGB painting program, were pioneers in the use of computer -controlled video equipment, invented mip-maps, and wrote the Tween and Bop animation programs. People working for Ed at Lucasfilm/Pixar made many contributions to image rendering, including particle systems, the first shading language, distributed ray tracing, stochastic sampling, and the Reyes/RenderMan software. They also developed volume rendering software, digital compositing, the Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) developed with Walt Disney Pictures, the Pixar Image Computer, laser input/output scanning, and video and audio editing systems. The group produced a number of special effects such as the “Genesis” effect in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and the stained glass man in “The Young Sherlock Holmes,” short animated films as exemplified by “Andre and Wally B.,” “Red’s Dream,” “Luxo Jr.,” and “Tin Toy ,” and numerous commercials.

    Four of SIGGRAPH’s first five Achievement Award winners (and six of eleven overall) have worked for Ed at one time or another. “Luxo Jr.” was one of the earliest computer animated films to be nominated for an Academy Award and “Tin Toy” was the first to win one. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year awarded a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for the development of CAPS to Disney employees and Pixar employees who reported to Catmull. This year the Academy gave a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for the RenderMan software to Catmull and his collaborators’.

    Ed Catmull earned the BS in Physics and the BS in Computer Science (1969) and then the Ph.D. in Computer Science (1974), all from the University of Utah. We note that his doctoral dissertation committee included Steve Coons and Ivan Sutherland, the first recipient of the Coons Award. As noted above, his career spans three positions as Director of the Computer Graphics Laboratory at the New York Institute of Technology (1974-79), Vice President and Managing Director of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm , Ltd. (1979-1986), and now as President of Pixar.

    It is impossible to know how many of us have aimed higher and worked harder because Ed encouraged us by collaboration or by being an important figure in the field. It is impossible to know how many of us have taken our research a little further out on the fringe because we thought it was something that Ed might do. His influence at the person -to-person level is magical, and though difficult to describe in words, it continues to affect the practice of computer graphics in subtle and important ways.


    ACM SIGGRAPH Citation