Star Wars visual pioneer recognised with honorary lifetime achievement Oscar
Michelle Clancy
| 06 March 2018

Jonathan Erland, a pioneering visual effects technologist responsible for bringing the original Star Wars from concept to screen, has been awarded the Gordon E Sawyer Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

During the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation in Beverly Hills, Erland was presented with an honorary Oscar recognising his technological contributions to the industry.

The SMPTE Life Fellow studied both theatre and film as a young man and helped build the Charles Eames-designed audio-animatronic puppet theatres for the IBM pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. He went on to work at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), where he applied his knowledge to ILM's visual effects work for Star Wars.

Erland subsequently served as director of research and development for Apogee Productions, and later founded Composite Components Company with his wife, where he pioneered green-screen technology.

Erland was also a founder of the Visual Effects Society (VES), for which he has served as director, membership chair, and member of the Technology Committee; and has authored some 20 technical papers for SMPTE.

Erland's latest endeavour is the non-profit Pickfair Institute for Cinematic Studies, which, among other things, is working on the return of the silent era's creative frame rates and for their addition to the artistic palette of today's cinematographer.

"Through his ongoing leadership and his extensive R&D work, Jon has had a tremendous impact not just on visual effects technology, but on the motion-imaging field as a whole," said SMPTE executive director Barbara Lange. "We congratulate him on yet another well-deserved honour from the Academy."