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Award-Winning Google VR Scientist to Speak at UW April 11

April 1, 2019
head portrait of a man
Paul Debevec

You might not know the name Paul Debevec, but if you’ve seen a movie in the last 20 years, you most certainly have seen his work.

Known as “Hollywood’s Master of Light,” Debevec is a senior scientist at Google VR and has been honored twice by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his work in capturing and simulating how people and objects appear in real-world illumination. The technology has been used in blockbuster films such as the “Matrix” series, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Terminator Salvation,” “Avatar” and “Blade Runner 2049.”

Debevec will speak Thursday, April 11, at 5 p.m. in Room 306 of the University of Wyoming’s Classroom Building. The talk, which is free and open to the public, will feature his work, specifically light fields and light stages for photoreal movies, games and virtual reality (VR).

“Paul has long been a leading innovator in the field of computer graphics,” says Meredith Minear, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Psychology and head of the Spatial Cognition Lab. “Now, his work on the light fields technology promises to completely transform our experience of virtual reality.”

In February, Debevec earned his second Academy Award when he was given a Technical Achievement Certificate for his team’s invention of the polarized spherical gradient illumination facial appearance capture method. In 2010, he received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award 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 his role at Google, Debevec is developing the cutting edge of VR technology with light fields, a set of advanced capture, stitching and rendering algorithms that create highly realistic 360 VR images. He will discuss the technology and production processes behind “Welcome to Light Fields,” the first downloadable virtual reality experience based on light field capture techniques that allow the visual appearance of an explorable volume of space.

Aside from Hollywood, Debevec is an adjunct research professor of computer science at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering. He has worked with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute to create hyper-photorealistic life-size digital versions of Holocaust survivors and to record their stories for future generations. He also has collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution to create a 3-D portrait of former President Barack Obama.

Debevec’s talk is hosted by the Spatial Cognition Lab in UW’s Department of Psychology, with funding from the UW College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.

For more information, call Minear at (307) 766-4327 or email

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