CLEVELAND, Ohio - A Case Western Reserve University grad and employee who left his computer coding job to follow his dream of working in film has won an Academy Award.
Geoff Wedig received an Oscar for technical achievement, recognizing the impact of software that animates faces, which he co-wrote.
Wedig's film credits include "Maleficent," "TRON: Legacy," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Night at the Museum 3."
His software was also responsible for one of the most talked-about pop culture moments of 2012, when a hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur performed songs at a music festival in California, CWRU said in a statement.
The award was presented to Wedig and fellow software engineer Nicholas Apostoloff at a ceremony on Feb. 11.
Wedig's path to Hollywood
Wedig, a native of Marietta, graduated from CWRU in 1994 with a bachelor of science in mathematics and a bachelor of arts in English and creative writing.
He earned a master's degree at University of California at Los Angeles and returned to CWRU, where he spent 12 years writing computer code to identify genes linked to diseases for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatics in the School of Medicine.
"Around the early 2000s I wanted to do something else," Wedig said in a statement.
Wedig had been fascinated with computer graphic imagery since he was 10. Using an educational license (thanks to his CWRU job), Wedig bought a $40,000 visual effects program for a just few hundred dollars, CWRU said.
On evenings and weekends, he taught himself animation. The result was a trailer for a non-existent movie--Invasion from Beyond the Galaxy!.
"I worked on it every minute I could, and it still took me 18 months to make something 90 seconds long," he told CWRU. "The process helped me try everything, but people thought I was nuts."
In 2007 Wedig, his wife Kathy and three children moved to southern California when he was hired by Digital Domain, a studio founded by James Cameron.
Kathy Wedig, who has a doctorate in computer engineering from CWRU, was hired as a software engineer at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
His career in Los Angeles
Within a year, Wedig was writing code to help animate Brad Pitt's hair, as the actor played a man aging in reverse in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
A year later, he was making Jeff Bridges appear to be in his 30s in "TRON: Legacy." Along the way, Wedig co-authored the software that won him the Oscar.
His software was used heavily in "Deadpool" and the upcoming remake of "Beauty and the Beast."
"It's thrilling that we are always getting closer to blurring the line between animation and reality," said Wedig, who now works at Magic Leap Inc. "We are going to crack it."
The televised Oscars ceremony, which will include a segment about Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Technical Achievement awards, will air live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26.
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