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F/x maestro Muren still pushing envelope

VES Lifetime Achievement Honoree

“I love effects, I’ve been doing it since I was young, but I want my work to be in good films,” says Dennis Muren, recipient of the Visual Effects Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “There’s nothing like having your work scored by John Williams.”

Muren, 60, is perhaps the best-known practitioner of visual effects. In 30 years at ILM, he has worked on everything from “Star Wars” and “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” to “Jurassic Park” and “War of the Worlds,” earning nine Oscars and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

VES awards committee chairman Jeffrey Okun says Muren was the obvious choice for the honor. “He exhibits a finesse and an artistry quite outstanding in the visual effects field,” he says.

Muren began doing effects work in the 1960s, working on models in the mode of “King Kong.” “It wasn’t until I saw ‘2001’ that I said there was something else here. I had no idea what it was — it was the beginning of motion control and getting cameras to move things,” he says.

Staying on the cutting edge of technology has been a hallmark of Muren’s career, as computers have transformed the field. But it’s creating effects to suit the specific purpose of each shot that sets the great apart from the merely good. “The last thing you want to do is impose too strong a point of view onto something that may be inappropriate for the film,” he says.

Muren also is well known as a mentor and is writing a textbook to teach computer graphics artists to observe reality.

“It’s going to be funny at the VES (Awards event), looking out in the audience and seeing a lot of people there that used to be working with me and now are doing the same job I’m doing,” Muren says. “As long as I can have more good films to look at, I’m happy.”

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