When UC Berkeley alumnus Paul Debevec got the call that he was being recognized for his contributions in television technology and engineering, he was surprised — especially when he learned that this recognition was in the form of an Emmy statuette.
Debevec will be recognized as the recipient of the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award at the 74th Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy Awards taking place in September.
According to the Emmys announcement, the award honors a living individual whose contributions have “significantly affected” television technology and engineering.
“I have had some specific technologies recognized by the industry but I’ve never been specifically recognized myself, so this took some effort to process,” Debevec said in an email. “I asked them ‘so, this is a big deal?’ and they happily confirmed, ‘yes, this is a big deal!’ ”
According to a statement by the campus department of electrical engineering and computer science, Debevec was recognized for his work on dynamic-range imaging, image-based lighting and photogrammetry, which have become an integral part of the VFX industry.
According to Debevec, the award recognizes some of his favorite efforts in computer graphics.
“It’s significant for me since it’s a tangible acknowledgement – an Emmy statue no less! – that the research I’ve been involved in has been noticed and has made a difference in the shows that millions of people enjoy today, especially the streaming shows which use LED volumes for virtual production,” Debevec said in an email.
Debevec added that in his application to graduate school, he wrote about his desire to turn real scenes into photorealistic ones using photography, as well as how he ended up in the “perfect” research group to achieve this.
In a press release from campus’s College of Engineering, his doctoral adviser, Jitendra Malik, called Debevec’s doctoral thesis “outstanding” and said the image-based modeling and rendering it pioneered made its way into “many practical systems” in Hollywood.
According to the press release, the system Debevec developed in his thesis was used to make the short film “The Campanile Movie,” which inspired the virtual background technology used in the famous “bullet-time shots” in “The Matrix.”
“My office in 545 Soda hall was full of inspiring students doing computer vision work, all of whom are famous researchers around the country today,” Debevec said in the email. “I was in an environment where we were encouraged to pursue our passions and try to do amazing things.”