fxpodcast #320: Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, the Godfather of CGI


It was our great pleasure to once again sit down with Dr. Alvy Ray Smith for an in-depth interview as part of a joint effort with Sydney Universities Sydney Business Insights. Dr. Alvy Ray Smith was visiting Sydney University to give a keynote speech at the Engineering school, and prior to that lecture, we got to sit down for an incredibly rewarding talk.

We had previously interview Dr. Alvy Ray Smith for fxpodcast #222, seven years ago. Dr. Alvy Ray Smith has had an incredible career, having worked at, or helped start-up, many of the key companies that make up the landscape of animation and visual effects.

For example, as we discuss in the podcast:

  • He invented the alpha channel and helped invent the first paint system
  • We worked at Xerox PARC before leaving as they did not believe in color (!)
  • He worked with the original University of Utah and NYIT teams, who virtually invented CG
  • A close friend of Ed Catmull and together they helped form the Lucasfilm’s Computer Division.
  • He directed the Genesis sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Worked on the original stained-glass sequence in the Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Co-founder Pixar
  • Helped hire John Lasseter from Disney
  • Founded another company and sold it to Microsoft
  • Winner of multiple Sci-tech Oscars and Emmys
  • He has worked closely with George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates

Also see our written fxguide story from 2012, with links to many of the videos and images mentioned here: Dr. Alvy Ray Smith RGBA, the birth of compositing and the founding of Pixar.


Sidenote to fxguide listeners…

We have been focused on other podcasts and other articles but we do miss doing the fxpodcast. Let us know if you would like to hear more fxpodcasts by either emailing mike at fxguide.com directly or post below in the comments. Also check out our other fxguide podcasts, especially the vfxshow here.

This Interview was made possible by the team at Sydney Business Insights. A shorter version of this interview is also on their site, here.

We wish to thank the Engineering School at the University of Sydney and also SBI for their help and support in arranging and engineering this interview.

Mike Seymour with Alvy Ray Smith .  All photos by Jim Shen, Copyright 2019

1 thought on “fxpodcast #320: Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, the Godfather of CGI”

  1. This is one of my favorite interviews of all time. Alvy is such an interesting guy who has influenced the course of computer generated graphics/animation. It was great to have someone who appreciated his contributions and could ask the questions to that everyone would like to know the answers to. It would be awesome to see more interviews like this. Thank you Mike.

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