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The Art, Science and Psychology of Production Design

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Elizabeth Taylor in CleopatraThe Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present “The Art, Science and Psychology of Production Design” at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 16, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Hosted by Science and Technology Council member Bill Kroyer, the evening will feature onstage presentations by production designers Alex McDowell (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Minority Report), Doug Chiang (Beowulf, The Polar Express) and Ralph Eggleston (The Incredibles, Finding Nemo).

Also featured will be a real-time pre-visualization demonstration – i.e., the use of computer graphics to create rough versions of a planned movie sequence – by pre-visualization director Daniel Gregoire (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Spiderwick Chronicles) and a review of new technologies by art director Daniel Jennings (G-Force, Matchstick Men).

According to the Academy's press release, “the program will examine how new technologies and shifting collaborations are changing the way motion picture production designers approach their work. With the advent of file sharing, computer-generated imagery and a variety of hardware and software tools, designers now have the ability to preview sets and coordinate with other creative departments more quickly and accurately than ever before.”

To illustrate how the basic role of the production designer “has remained unchanged despite the evolution of tools and processes,” the evening will also include a brief history of production design under the studio system, featuring an onstage conversation with Robert F. Boyle. Boyle earned Academy Award nominations for North by Northwest (1959), Gaily, Gaily (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Shootist (1976). This year, he was the recipient of the Academy's Honorary Award.

Boyle will be joined onstage by Oscar-nominated production designer and Academy governor Jeannine Oppewall (The Good Shepherd, L.A. Confidential).

James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock - Rear Window

And finally, the evening will feature clips from a number of films, among them, The Little Foxes (lower photo, 1941), Rear Window (above, 1954), Cleopatra (top right, 1963), Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (top photo, 1999), and War of the Worlds (2005).

Host Bill Kroyer received an Academy Award nomination for the 1988 short film Technological Threat, a pioneering effort in the technique of combining hand-drawn and computer animation. Kroyer also directed the animated feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest and is currently senior animation director at Rhythm & Hues Studios in Los Angeles.

Tickets to “The Art, Science and Psychology of Production Design” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office, or online at www.oscars.org. Doors open at 7 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org/events.

Photos: Courtesy AMPAS

Bette Davis, Dan Duryea, Teresa Wright, Patricia Collinge in The Little Foxes

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2 Comments to The Art, Science and Psychology of Production Design

  1. Randall

    I agree. Designing costumes for cg animated features is so incredibly challenging. The proportions of characters in a film like “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” must pose new and very interesting problems in costuming. It'd be valuable to hear how these challenges are met.

  2. Marie-Jeanne

    They should have a lecture of that sort on costume designing as well.