Clemson Professors Contribute to Academy Award-Nominated Films

Clemson Professors Contribute to Academy Award-Nominated Films

By Molly Collins

CLEMSON — The Academy Awards will be presented this week and two Clemson professors have reason to cling to the remotes just a little tighter when the winners are called.

Jerry Tessendorf, director of Clemson’s Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts program (DPA), and Robert Geist, co-founder of the DPA program and professor in the School of Computing, both developed software used for visual effects in Academy Award-nominated films.

Tessendorf’s water simulation software was used in  “Life of Pi,” and Geist was credited in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” for developing digital map-filtering techniques. Both films are nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for “Best Visual Effects.”

Tessendorf began the development of water simulation software while working in the defense contracting industry, and the software became widely used in filmmaking. He worked in the entertainment industry as chief graphic scientist at award-winning visual effects and animation company Rhythm and Hues before arriving at Clemson in 2010.

Geist spent part of his fall 2011 sabbatical in Wellington, New Zealand, working on digital map-filtering techniques for use in such films as “The Hobbit.”

“It’s a technique to prevent sequences of digital images (as in film) from flickering,” said Geist. “I had a wonderful time, and they gave me a film credit in the Research and Design section of ‘The Hobbit.’”

Clemson’s Digital Production Arts program is a leader in the training of technical directors and technical artists for the film and electronic games industries. More than 50 Clemson graduates currently work in the entertainment industry for such major companies as Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light and Magic and Pixar.

“The DPA program has sent people into the (visual effects) industry for 12 years,” said Tessendorf. Over a dozen alumni work at DreamWorks and Rhythm and Hues, and to date, DPA alumni have worked on over 130 feature films and work on 15 to 25 feature films each year.”

The Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast on ABC Sunday, Feb. 24.