Photoshop and After Effects Honored with Sci-Tech Awards

On February 9, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Scientific and Engineering Awards to the teams behind Adobe’s After Effects and Photoshop. David Simons, Daniel Wilk, James Acquavella, Michael Natkin and David M. Cotter accepted the award for After Effects for motion graphics. Thomas Knoll and John Knoll accepted the award for the original architecture, design and development of Photoshop, and Mark Hamburg for its continued development and engineering. Both tools are a mainstay in the film and television industry.

The Academy noted that, “After Effects’ pioneering use of consumer hardware to host an application that is extensible, efficient and artist-focused has made it the preeminent motion graphics tool in film production, allowing motion designers to create complex animated elements for title design, screen graphics and fictional user interfaces.”

It added that, “Photoshop’s efficient, extensible architecture, innovative virtual-memory design and powerful layering system introduced a new level of user interactivity, which led to its adoption as the preferred artistic tool for digital painting and image manipulation across the motion picture industry.”

Photoshop got its start in 1987 when brothers Thomas Knoll and visual effects pioneer John Knoll (above with Mark Hamburg) collaborated to create software, then called Display, that was “a pixel imaging program.” Adobe bought the nascent software and released it on February 19, 1990.

Photoshop 1.0 and the first several versions weren’t really tools for photography, not only because there wasn’t appropriate hardware available in digital cameras but, more importantly, because there were no digital printers,” said Thomas Knoll. “The only real way to get a photographic-quality output from Photoshop back then was to create four-color separations on film and take them to a printing press, where the first copy of your photograph might cost you $2,000,” which meant a roll of 35mm film would cost nearly $40,000.

The publishing industry was the first to take advantage of Photoshop, but inkjet printers and digital cameras quickly changed the paradigm, opening up its use to the film/TV industry. At the time, John Knoll was working at Industrial Light & Magic, which was working on its own experiments on digital processing. Both Photoshop and After Effects have been used on a very long list of prominent movies from “Jurassic Park” and “Avatar” to “The Bourne Identity,” “Coco” and “Bladerunner 2049.”

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