Craig Barron (born April 6, 1961) is an American visual effects artist, currently Creative Director at Magnopus, a Los Angeles media company that produces augmented and virtual-reality experiences.
|Born||April 6, 1961|
Berkeley, California, United States
Visual effects supervisor
|Years active||1979 – present|
|Awards||Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Emmy, VES Founders Award, Doctorate of Letters|
Working at Industrial Light & Magic on such films as The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and later at his own VFX studio, Matte World Digital, on Zodiac, Alice in Wonderland and Hugo, Barron has contributed to the effects on more than 100 films. He is an Emmy Award recipient for By Dawn's Early Light and received an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects on Batman Returns. In 2009 he won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Over the course of his career, Barron has become a film historian, author, lecturer and University educator with a focus on the history of visual effects produced in classic films, before and after the digital age.
Visual effects supervisorEdit
Industrial Light & MagicEdit
Barron began working at ILM in 1979, hired at age 18 by Richard Edlund to work with Neil Krepela and Ralph McQuarrie in the matte painting department. Then the youngest person at the studio, he eventually worked in the camera department, compositing matte-painted effects for scenes in landmark visual-effects films including The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. From 1984 to 1988 he was matte photography supervisor, working to combine matte paintings and miniatures with live-action photography. This included going on far-away locations often with matte painters Michael Pangrazio or Chris Evans to design and photograph matte shots requested by various productions. On Willow (1988), Barron's last film at ILM, he was credited as director of matte photography.
Matte World DigitalEdit
Barron co-founded Matte World with Michael Pangrazio and executive producer Krystyna Demkowicz in 1988. The company, based in Novato, California, produced seamless matte-painting effects for film and television productions. Soon after formation, Barron and Pangrazio's work won an Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects for HBO's By Dawn's Early Light (1990). Barron and his crew initially worked on traditional effects shots with matte paintings on glass and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects for Batman Returns in 1992.
Matte World Digital was renamed in 1992 to reflect the new technological tools available to matte painters. The company produced digital-matte environments for feature films, TV commercials, cable productions, computer games and IMAX projects, serving the artistic visions of directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Alfonso Cuaron, Gore Verbinski, Ron Howard, Tim Burton and David Fincher, among others. Barron contributed to the visual effects of more than 100 films during MWD's near-25-year run, creating innovative techniques for the digital effects of Zodiac, Captain American: The First Avenger, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 2009. MWD closed in 2012 after 24 years of service. The company's last project was for Martin Scorsese's Hugo.
Director and producerEdit
While heading Matte World Digital, Barron independentaly co-produced and directed the science-fiction short, The Utilizer, broadcast on Syfy (then called the Sci-Fi Channel) in 1996. The film won the best special effects award at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Growing up watching classic films, Barron was inspired by and curious about how special effects were created. He sought out and interviewed retired Hollywood studio-era visual-effects cameramen and matte painters who revealed the formerly secretive world of visual-effects techniques used in films such as Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz. This oral history of movie-making, along with a growing collection of visual-effects film clips, movie stills, and behind-the-scenes photographs, led Barron to co-write with Mark Cotta Vaz the first comprehensive history book of matte painting, The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting, published by Chronicle Books. The New York Times called the book "eye-opening…increas[ing] our wonder at this heretofore 'invisible art.'"
As a public-programs lecturer for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Barron presents public screenings showcasing the art and technique of visual effects in classic studio films. Often partnering with sound designer Ben Burtt, the duo have also guest-hosted on the TCM Network. The pair have done extensive research to find the hidden history of classic film production. For a presentation on Gunga Din (1939), they visited the Lone Pine, California Alabama Hills location where the film was shot, and found pieces of the set buried there. Using camera drones, they then recreated the film's locations as CGI environments. In addition, Barron is an adjunct professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His "World of Visual Effects" course focuses on the history of visual effects in film and how visual effects have influenced narrative in filmmaking from its inception to today.
- Techno Chaplin – Modern Times (1936) with Ben Burtt and John Bengstson, 2008, Hollywood/San Rafael, CA – Digitally restored 35mm print with behind-the-scenes photos and multimedia tour showing how Chaplin used mattes, process shots, miniatures and rear projection within industrial settings of 1930s Los Angeles.
- Mysteries of the Krell: Making Forbidden Planet (1956) with Ben Burtt, 2011/12, Hollywood/San Rafael, CA – Breakdown of the film's visual effects and innovative sound design alongside collection of rare miniatures, production designs, props and analog source tapes from the electronic soundtrack, featuring the original Robby the Robot.
- Hollywood Takes to the Air – Lilac Time (1928) with Ben Burtt, 2014, Hollywood, CA – Model-plane miniatures and rare 1920s stunt-flight footage compiled by flier Dick Grace, featuring Grace's stunt work, crashing the plane on mark for the camera.
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Ben Burtt, 2017, New York, NY – Matte paintings and sound design with recreation of archery tests from the film.
- 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival featured Barron and Burtt demonstrating the Oscar-winning visual effects of George Pal in The War of the Worlds.
Barron is featured in interviews demonstrating 3D effects in a number of Criterion's Blu-ray documentary supplements for classic films.
Selected documentary filmography
- Modern Times (1936) / A Bucket of Water and a Glass Matte (2010) – Barron and Burtt demonstrate Chaplin's use of miniatures and sound effects in the film's factory and roller-skating scenes.
- City Lights (1931) / Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design (2013) – Interview with Barron about Chaplin's studio and the large sets he created to give the illusion of outdoor locations.
- Rebecca (1940) / Constructing the Eerie World of Rebecca (2017) – Barron demonstrates the large-scale Manderlay miniature that Hitchcock’s crew built and filmed onset, which included a miniature car and destruction by fire.
- A Matter of Life and Death (1946) / Documentary supplement (2018) – A detailed account and 3D rendering of how Michael Powell conceived of and carried out the seemingly endless “stairway to heaven” scene with the use of set design, miniatures and camera angles.
In 2014 Barron became creative director at Magnopus—a visual research and development company based in downtown Los Angeles, where he specializes in virtual and augmented reality experiences created for new media platforms. At Magnopus, Barron directed the VR tie-in to 2017's Blade Runner 2049. Entitled Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab, the 30-minute VR production is set in the world of the film where users act as replicant android hunters. A review in UploadVR said the experience, "...manages to contribute somewhat to 2049's story without stepping on it, shedding more light on one of the film's central characters that gives the entire piece an even deeper sense of purpose." Memory Lab was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program in 2018.
Matte World Digital was the first in the industry to apply radiosity rendering to film in Martin Scorsese's Casino. Collaborating with software company, LightScape, the MWD crew was able to simulate reflective effect of millions of neon lights from the 1970s-era Las Vegas strip. Radiosity rendering provided a true simulation of bounce-light reflectivity in a computer-generated environment.
Another 1970s-era film, David Fincher's Zodiac, needed shots to establish the grittier San Francisco of that era. Barron shot digital images of existing city-building textures and then added painted period details in the computer. One such shot features the Embarcadero Freeway alongside the Ferry Building and San Francisco Bay. The freeway had been demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake so MWD digitally rebuilt the structure, viewed from an overhead computer-generated "helicopter-shot" to introduce the City and timeframe. CG lighting techniques were applied for an sped-up animated sequence showing the Transamerica Pyramid being built, establishing the passage of time. Barron researched archival photographs and architectural drawings for the shot.
Barron worked with Fincher again to build several digital matte and CGI environments for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The interior of the film's New Orleans train station had to change and deteriorate throughout 29 shots representing different eras. MWD built one CGI station model using Next Limit's Maxwell rendering software—software that was generally used as an architectural visualization and product-design tool. MWD revamped it to mimic real-world lighting as seen from multiple angles and light sources.
Awards, honors and affiliationsEdit
Awards and nominationsEdit
- By Dawn’s Early Light – Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects, 1990
- Batman Returns – Academy and BAFTA Award nominations for Achievement in Visual Effects, 1992
- The Utilizer – Gold Plaque for Best Special Effects, Chicago International Film Festival, 1996
- The Truman Show – BAFTA Award nomination for Achievement in Special Visual Effects, 1999
- The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting, with Mark Cotta Vaz – Theatre Library Association of New York Outstanding Book on Film Award, 2003; Theatre Technology Golden Pen Book Award, 2004
- Greece: Secrets of the Past – VES Award nomination for Outstanding Visual Effects in a special venue project, 2006
- Zodiac – VES Award nomination for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Motion Picture, 2007
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Academy and BAFTA Awards for Achievement in Visual Effects, 2009
- VES Founders Award, 2013
- Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab – Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Interactive Program, 2018
- VES Fellows Award, 2018
Honors and affiliationsEdit
- Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Ph.D, Academy of Art College, San Francisco, 1979
- Associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers
- Founding member of the Visual Effects Society
- Academy Board of Governors member, representing the visual effects branch
- Co-chair of the AMPAS Science & Technology Council.
- Hugo, 2011
- Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011
- Alice in Wonderland, 2010
- My Sister's Keeper, 2009
- Terminator Salvation, 2009
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008
- The Golden Compass, 2007
- Zodiac, 2007
- The Green Mile, 1999
- The Truman Show, 1998
- Titanic, 1997
- Star Trek: First Contact, 1996
- Independence Day, 1996
- Casino, 1995
- Clear and Present Danger, 1994
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
- Batman Returns, 1992
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
- By Dawn's Early Light (television), 1990
- Willow, 1988
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986
- Labyrinth, 1986
- The Goonies, 1985
- Return of the Jedi, 1983
- Poltergeist, 1982
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
- Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981
- The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
- According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at MyHeritage
- Craig Barron Biography Magnopus - Who. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- May 17, 2017. "Star Wars 40th with Craig Barron," Athena Studios. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- Rickitt, Richard. 2007. "Special Effects: The History and Technique," pp. 202-203, 209. Billboard Books, New York, New York. ISBN 0823077330.
- Cotta Vaz, Mark & Barron, Craig. 2002. "The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting," pp. 197, 207, 209-213, 244-248. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. ISBN 081184515X
- Outstanding Achievement In SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS - 1990, By Dawn's Early Light HBO. Emmys. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- 1992. Nomination for Visual Effects: Michael Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak -- Batman Returns. Archived 2012-02-16 at WebCite The Official Academy Awards Database. Retrieved in search on November 26, 2018.
- 2008. VISUAL EFFECTS: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron. Archived 2012-02-16 at WebCite The Official Academy Awards Database. Retrieved in search on November 26, 2018.
- Failes, Ian. August 27, 2012. “End of an era: Matte World Digital and Fuel,” fxguide. Retrieved on November 13, 2018.
- 1996 Awards. Winner - Best Special Effects, The Utilizer. Chicago International Film Festival. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- Braun, Cassandra. March 2, 2002. "In the spotlight – Book explores movie magic," Contra Costa Times. Walnut Creek, California.
- "Nonfiction Book Review - The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.
- Benfey, Christopher. December 8, 2002. "Art." The New York Times. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.
- "The Science of Movie Co-hosted by Ben Burtt & Craig Barron," TCM Academy Conversations. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- King, Susan. "TCM Classic Film Festival: Oscar winners discuss making of Gunga Din," Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2015. Retrieved on December 20, 2015.
- Craig Barron, Adjunct Faculty, USC School of Cinematic Arts
- Wolff, Ellen. February 10, 2019. "Learning from the Masters: Must-Take US Animation & VFX Classes." Animation Magazine. Retrieved on February 15, 2019.
- "Techno Chaplin: Modern Times." AMPAS Events. Retrieved on November 15, 2018.
- June 30, 2008. "Academy to Visit Modern Times with Techno Chaplin." Webwire. Retrieved on November 15, 2018.
- "Mysteries of the Krell: Making of Forbidden Planet." AMPAS Events. Retrieved on November 15, 2017.
- King, Susan. August 14, 2014. "'Hollywood Takes to the Air' explores aviation's long history in film." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on December 19, 2015.
- Giardina, Carolyn. August 15, 2014. "Star Wars Visual Storyboard Highlights Academy Program." The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on December 19, 2015.
- May 20, 2017. "The Adventures of Robin Hood with Oscar winners Ben Burtt & Craig Barron." Film Forum. Retrieved on November 15, 2018.
- "Academy Conversation: The War of the Worlds (1953)." TCM Classic Film Festival, Hollywood, 2016. April 28 - May 1, 2016. Retrieved on June 27, 2016.
- Galloway, Chris. November 25, 2010. "Modern Times Blu-ray" Criterion Forum. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.
- Weber, Bill. November 24, 2010. Modern Times DVD Review. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.
- Christley, Jaime N. November 29, 2013. City Lights Blu-ray Review. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.
- Galloway, Chris (November 28, 2013) "City Lights Dual-Format Edition Review." Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design, featuring Craig Barron Criterion Forum
- September 6, 2017. "Constructing the Eerie World of Rebecca." Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- July 27, 2018. "Across the Great Divide: Creating Powell and Pressburger’s Stairway to Heaven." Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- Roman, Jules. January 31, 2013. "Barron Meets The Tippett." Tippett Studio Newsletter. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- 2018. Grand CLIO – Disney-PIXAR’s Coco VR. CLIO Awards. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- Abramian, Alexandria. January 23, 2014. "New VFX Firm Magnopus Sets Up in Downtown L.A." The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on November 26, 2018.
- Feltham, Jamie. October 25, 2017. "Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab Is A VR Tie-In That Does The Series Proud." UploadVR. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab. Magnopus. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- Awards & Nominations 2018. Emmys. Retrieved on November 16, 2018.
- Barron, Craig. 1998. SIGGRAPH "Matte Painting in the Digital Age - 3-D Lighting Techniques."
- Robertson, Barbara. March 15, 2007. "Memories of Murder: VFX for Zodiac – Recreating 1970s San Francisco for Director David Fincher." Studio Daily. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Duncan, Jody. January, 2009. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Cinefex No. 116, pgs. 94–96.
- Awards Database. BAFTA. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Awards Database. BAFTA. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Wall Award Winners, 1974-Present. Theatre Library Association. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Oscar G. Brockett Golden Pen Award Past Winners. Association for Performing Arts & Entertainment Professionals. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- 5th Annual VES Awards. Visual Effects Society. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- 6th Annual VES Awards. Visual Effects Society. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Awards Database. BAFTA. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- VES Honors. Visual Effects Society. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Giardina, Carolyn. September 26, 2018. "Oscar Winners Craig Barron, Mike Fink Among New Visual Effects Society Members." The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on November 14, 2018.
- Robinson, Anna. October 26, 2010. "Caleb Deschanel & Randal Kleiser Join Academy's Science and Technology Council." Alt Film Guide. Retrieved on November 30, 2018.
- Wolfe, Jennifer. May 2, 2013. "Academy Honors Matte Painting and Digital Environments." Animation World Network. Retrieved on December 3, 2015.
- 2015-16 Council Members, Sci-Tech Council, AMPAS. Retrieved on December 3, 2015.
- SIGGRAPH 98 Animation Sketches - Invisible Effects. Retrieved on November 29, 2018.