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September 28, 2013

Charles Swartz Honored at SCA

Professor Richard Weinberg Installed as Charles S. Swartz Endowed Chair in Entertainment Technology

By Desa Philadelphia

Charles Swartz enrolled in the master’s program in the cinema school in nineteen sixty two because he loved movies. During those two years he fell in love with fellow student Stephanie Rothman, who later became his wife. He also became enamored with the technology of cinema.

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, Richard Weinberg and Stephanie Rothman

Charles spent the ensuing decades advocating for and promoting cinematic arts technology. His work culminated in his contributions to a textbook Understanding Digital Cinema: A Professional Handbook, and his input in establishing the Entertainment Technology Center, the SCA think tank that brings industry professionals together to discuss important technology-focused issues.

In commemoration of his contributions to the School and the industry, Rothman established the Charles S. Swartz Endowed Chair in Entertainment Technology at the School of Cinematic Arts. On Thursday September 26, the chair was dedicated at a reception and ceremony in the new Interactive Media Building (SCI). Dr. Richard Weinberg, Research Associate Professor at SCA, was installed as its first holder. Weinberg’s career has focused on discovering and advancing the next technological steps in creating, distributing and presenting moving images. Recently, he has been creating digital short films that are then live streamed in 4K projection from SCA to venues around the world. For more about Professor Weinberg’s work, click here.

“The creation of this Chair really crystallizes the importance of entertainment technology,” Weinberg told a capacity-crowd in the SCI screening room. “In our field and in our school, with the ETC, our new campus, our close ties with industry and now this Chair, entertainment technology has really found a home here at USC.”

Describing her late husband as “a futurist” Stephanie Rothman said she donated the Chair to the School because it was where Charles Swartz was happy. “USC gave so much to Charles, USC was his true home and I wanted to bring him home again,” she told the gathering of friends and industry leaders. “He experienced some of his happiest work years here.”

“It means so much to endow the Charles Swartz chair at the School,” said SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. “As head of the ETC, he felt honored to be advancing the digital revolution and he did it with an open heart and an open mind. In return, we are honored to have his name linked with the School of Cinematic Arts in perpetuity.”

Following the Chair dedication a panel of industry experts discussed The Future of Digital Filmmaking. The discussion was moderated by Ken Williams, President and CEO of the Entertainment Technology Center and included panelists writer/director Stephen Sommers (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Van Helsing, The Mummy), SCA professor and visual effects pioneer Michael Fink (Life of Pi, Avatar, The Golden Compass), industry technologist Spencer Stephens, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (Leaves of Grass, Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland). The panelists discussed the rapid pace of innovations in digital filmmaking and where they thought the industry was heading. Sommers said that a little over a decade ago directors had to model their digital effects aspirations on things that were real, that already existed in the world. Things have changed drastically since then. “Whatever we can think of, Mike (Fink) can make,” he concluded. Digital Effects specialists now have a place in every stage of the filmmaking process, Fink said. “For years people like me were the guy you called when you got into trouble and now we are true collaborators,” he said. He also told the crowd that digital advances have skewed the creative process. Today, he said, “there is no pre-production, production, and post-production. There’s just production.”