“Avatar” creator James Cameron couldn’t do what he does without them — the science and technical guys, that is. Lake Highlands’ BRAD WALKER and his team are the brains behind some of cinema’s most impressive new technology, and for that they were last month awarded the Academy Award for science and technology for their design and refinement of a projector that allows directors to immediately and accurately view what they’ve just filmed. The technology saves moviemakers valuable time and contributes to the ever-evolving quality of the images we see on the big screen. 

Can you explain in laymen’s terms what you and your team developed that garnered you an Oscar?

I’ll try. I was the systems lead for a team at Texas Instruments that developed a movie projector for digital cinema. The projector basically allows movie production companies to get an accurate look at what the finished film will look like; this cuts out extra days worth of printing and fixing color … especially for producers of special effects movies in which the color is very important … this way, they can see what they have and fix it right there … You might compare it to the pre-press stage of magazine production, but for digital film.  You end up being able to do it faster, more accurately and with better results. 

Did you test the technology on actual movies?

We had a lot of iterations with the Hollywood cinematography community, who gave us a lot of feedback along the way. I am not sure what the first movie it was used in, but I know the technology was used in “The Aviator” and “Spiderman”.

Is your background strictly in science and engineering, or did you always have an interest in moviemaking?

I’ve always been interested in movies. In fact, in college I had to make a decision between becoming a documentary filmmaker or an electronic engineer. I figured that as an electronic engineer I could make enough money to do movies on the side, but that it wouldn’t necessarily work the other way around. I worked 14 years in computer animation, video editing and such. In 1998 I moved to TI to work on digital cinema.

Are you still working at Texas Instruments?

That’s an interesting story. Actually, only one of us from the team, Greg Pettitt still works for TI; the rest of us moved on following a round of layoffs at the company. Yeah, I basically got fired, but I didn’t have much trouble finding work, and, honestly, I sort of needed a vacation.

How did it feel to learn you’d won an Academy Award?

It was cool, but not totally out of the blue. There was a committee that came out and conducted interviews to determine who did what on the project … so we knew we were being considered. It is very exciting.  The ceremony is next week and I am taking my wife (Linda) and two children (Brian and Eileen, sophomore and senior, respectively, at LHHS. Brad also graduated from LHHS, in 1977). The girls are excited about dressing up for the night, and we are going to spend a couple days in LA sightseeing.