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Yale University Professor Wins Oscar for Animation Simulator

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An associate professor at Yale University won an Oscar this year at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony. Theodore Kim, a computer scientist, David Eberle, Fernando de Goes, and Audrey Wong of Pixar Animation Studios received the prestigious Oscar for the Fizt2 elastic simulation system.

Kim said the Fizt2 is an animation simulator for remodeling the physical characteristics of soft materials like fabric as it moves. His animation algorithms have brought a deeper, more textured realism to dozens of films.

Kim, who is the co-leader of the Yale Computer Graphics Group, accepted his second Oscar on February 24. He won his first Oscar in 2012 for the program Wavelet Turbulence, which deepened the realism of animated explosions and fires.

The computer scientist revealed that he drew inspiration from Toy Story (1995). Kim took a computer graphics class at Cornell and landed his internship in the film industry at the special effects studio Rhythm & Hues.

“My work ended up in the first Harry Potter movie. They had just landed the Harry Potter contract, I don’t have a credit in the movie or anything like that, but the project my boss had given me was used on the Sorting Hat (a talking wizard’s hat that, when placed on student’s heads, “sorts” them into different houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry).” Kim worked hard to become a senior research scientist at Pixar.

In regards to research in the industry, Kim believes that if you’re working on a movie, research means that you have two weeks to figure out an answer to a very specific problem.

“Even at Pixar, the horizon is about a year and the motivating question is always ‘How does this help us make a movie?’”

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