AWARDS SIGGRAPH 90 Academy 96 Academy 98 Doctorate 99 CSG 04 NGS 04 CRN Fame 04
NAE 06 ASG 07 Washington 10 ASG 10 Mundos 11 DiMe 12 NMSU 12
AAAS 13            

 Technical Academy Award 1998

  Academy Award 1998

Tom Porter   

Alvy Ray Smith   

Dick Shoup   

Ashley Judd   


Ashley and Alvy

Ashley Judd and Alvy Ray Smith

Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Scientific and Engineering Award

To Richard Shoup, Alvy Ray Smith and Thomas Porter for their

pioneering efforts in the development of digital paint systems used

in motion picture production.

Presented February 28, 1998

Dick Shoup, Tom Porter, and I received a technical Academy Award on February 28, 1998 in Beverly Hills from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for "pioneering inventions in Digital Paint Systems". A brief synopsis of our contributions is presented below.  For a more complete historical treatment, please download memo Digital Paint Systems, Historical Overview ("paint"), which I prepared for AMPAS and from which this is excerpted. [Ceremony hosted by Ashley Judd]

Digital Paint Systems

Alvy Ray Smith

January 8, 1997

Dick Shoup: SuperPaint

[1972-73]  Dr Richard G Shoup creates SuperPaint, the first complete 8-bit paint system, including hardware and software, at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center [1-3].

Dick Shoup’s SuperPaint was a revolutionary program—simple and intuitive, the parent of all modern paint programs—with 256 colors selectable from 16.7 million, a palette, a colormap, video in and video out, a tablet and stylus, variable paintbrush size, animation, video magnification, image transformations, image file input and output, all the basics of a modern paint program—eventually earning Dick (and Xerox) an Emmy in 1983.

I began using SuperPaint in February, 1974. My small contribution to it was the RGB to HSV (aka, HSB) color transform, for more intuitive color choice by artists. I used the system to create my first digital animation videotape, Vidbits, in 1974.

Alvy Ray Smith: Paint and Paint3

[1975-76] Alvy Ray Smith creates 8-bit paint system Paint at the New York Institute of Technology, also for an Evans & Sutherland framebuffer, later for the Genisco framebuffer. Paint is sold to Ampex in late 1976 [4].

[1976]  Alvy Ray Smith creates an 8-bit paint system BigPaint, the first for pictures larger than video resolution, on Evans & Sutherland and Genisco framebuffers [4-5].

[1977]  Alvy Ray Smith implements first 24-bit (RGB) paint system Paint3 at the New York Institute of Technology, for three Evans & Sutherland or Genisco framebuffers in parallel [4].

[1978-79] Alvy Ray Smith creates BigPaint3, the 24-bit version of BigPaint, and hence the first 24-bit paint program for higher than video resolution.

Paint (and its high-resolution extension, BigPaint) is clearly described in [4]. Of more pertinence here is the full-color, 24-bit version, Paint3, that was only briefly described in Appendix B of [4]. It was the first paint system to have 16.7 million colors. This permitted airbrushing and full compositing of any image over any other, and these were both implemented. In fact, using the notion introduced in Paint, that any image can be used as a "brush" to paint on any other image, Paint3 allowed brushes of any shape, including the "shape" of its transparency. Airbrushing fell out of this observation by easy default: simply choose a brush that is opaque in the center and drops off gradually to transparent around its edges. BigPaint3 was the high-resolution extension of Paint3.

Paint3 featured 16.7 million colors, airbrushing, tablet and stylus control, variable paintbrush size and shape (any shape, with any pixel-by-pixel opacity variation), image save and restore (of either 8-bit or 24-bit images), a disappearing palette (it disappeared after color selection), color selection from anywhere on the screen (not necessarily the palette), video magnification, palette selection (for convenience only) from palettes of arbitrary colors, tint and value adjustment of colors, color mixing (or smearing, as I called it), 24-bit color fill, and other functions. There was a button that allowed any other 24-bit program in my system to be run from within the paint program (hence my definition of system). This included a full-featured image restoration program that handled (after 1977) alpha channels (called Getpa) and an anti-aliased geometric rendering program (by Malcolm Blanchard) called Sketch (extended by me to 24-bits as Sketch3).

I conceived of doing Paint3 while lying bored in a motel room in Redwood City, CA, after completing installation of Paint at Ampex in December 1976. I wrote it immediately upon returning to NYIT in December 1976 to January 1977.

Tom Porter: Paint

[1981-82] Thomas Porter implements first complete 32-bit (RGBA) paint system Paint at Lucasfilm Ltd, using a 32-bit Ikonas framebuffer. It is used in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [6], the first use of digital paint systems in theatrical release films [7-9].

The Lucasfilm Paint system was designed to be suitable for motion picture use. Hence Tom paid a great deal of attention to problems of image resolution, color fidelity, and anti-aliasing [7-9]. He began the system development during 1981, and completed it in January 1982, in time for use in the production of the Genesis Effect sequence for the Paramount movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Matte painter Chris Evans of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) used the paint system in early 1982 to create the ground and soft-edged clouds that were texture mapped onto the receding planet. The movie opened in June of 1982. See [6] for details of the production, including reference to Tom’s system.

This was the first use of digital paint systems for movie production at Lucasfilm. I believe it was also the first use of them in theatrical release motion pictures. I believe Paint was also used in the production of the special effects for "the stained-glass man" in the 1985 Amblin Productions film The Young Sherlock Holmes.

Major features of the Lucasfilm Paint system were: arbitrary resolution, creation and manipulation of the alpha channel with every stroke (ie, it was a full 32-bit system—the first, I believe—with 16.7 million colors and 256 levels of transparency for each one of them), and careful attention to anti-aliasing and compositing. Tom Porter reports the existence of a March, 1981 Lucasfilm technical memo about the proposed architecture. He says there was a surprising amount of planning regarding the handling of large (movie-resolution) images.

[1] Shoup, Richard G., Old Software on the Color Video System, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center memo, February 4, 1975.

[2] Shoup, Richard G., SUPERPAINT Program, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center memo, February 5, 1975.

[3] Shoup, Richard G., Some Experiments in Television Graphics and Animation Using a Digital Image Memory, SMPTE Journal, 1979, pp. 88-94.

[4] Smith, Alvy Ray, Paint, Technical Memo 7, New York Institute of Technology, July 20, 1978. Also issued as tutorial notes at SIGGRAPHs 1978-1982. Reprinted in Tutorial: Computer Graphics, edited by John C. Beatty and Kellogg S. Booth, IEEE Computer Society Press, Silver Spring, Maryland, second edition, 1982, pp. 501-515. See Appendix C in particular.

[5] Negroponte, Nicholas, Return of the Sunday Painter, The Computer Age: A Twenty-Year View, edited by Michael L. Dertouzos and Joel Moses, The MIT Press, 1979 (first paperback edition 1980), pp. 21-37.

[6] Smith, Alvy Ray, Special Effects for Star Trek II: The Genesis Demo, Instant Evolution with Computer Graphics, American Cinematographer, Vol. 63, No. 10, October 1982, pp.1038-1039, 1048-1050. Mentions Tom Porter and his paint program.

[7] Porter, Thomas, Picture Coding and the Paint System, Lucasfilm memo, San Rafael, CA, February 13, 1981.

[8] Porter, Thomas, Picture Handling Using Staging Areas, Lucasfilm memo, San Rafael, CA, February 17, 1981.

[9] Porter, Thomas, The Paint System Design, 1st Pass Technical Memo, Lucasfilm memo, San Rafael, CA, March 18, 1981.