Pixar co-founder to speak at NMSU engineering lecture

March 5, 2009 by Linda Fresques NMSU News Center

NMSU’s College of Engineering welcomes Academy Award-winning computer graphics innovator Alvy Ray Smith to campus to speak to students in Thomas and Brown Room 104 at 4 p.m. Friday, March 6. The title of his lecture is, “How to start two companies.”

An NMSU alumnus, Smith returns as part of the Verge Fund Lecture Series in Innovation, Ventures and Entrepreneurship, to speak about his expertise as the co-founder of Pixar, the former director of computer graphics research for Lucasfilm, and the founder of Altamira Software.

Smith obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from NMSU in 1965. He received his doctoral degree in computer engineering from Stanford University in 1970 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from NMSU in 1999.

In 1974, Smith went to work for Xerox PARC where he contributed to the creation of the HSV color space. He began working at New York Institute of Technology in 1975 and co-invented the concept of the alpha channel, which is the process of rendering image elements into separate passes and then combining the resulting multiple 2D images into a single, final image.

Smith took that concept and went on to be a founding member of Lucasfilm in 1980. In 1986, he co-founded Pixar and served on the board of directors and as the executive vice president. In 1991, Smith founded Altamira, later acquired by Microsoft, and became the first Graphics Fellow at Microsoft in 1994.

Smith is now president of his own company, Ars Longa, a digital photography company.

Smith has received two technical Academy Awards, for the alpha channel concept and for digital paint systems. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and he is Trustee Emeritus of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, based in Boston.

He retired in 2000 to devote time to the emerging art form of digital photography and to scholarly genealogy, to which he has contributed two books and several journal papers.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Alissa McDowell at (575) 646-7505 or malissa@nmsu.edu.

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