Portrait of a Special Effects Whiz

Our Science of Hollywood columnist profiles Allen Hemberger, who's worked as technical director on the Oscar-winning team of Peter Jackson's King Kong

4 min read

Allen Hemberger was safely ensconced at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., teaching his first semester in the engineering department when he got the call. It was from New Zealand. There was a giant ape in the woods, and they needed his help. Hemberger hung up the phone and considered the options: stay in the Midwest teaching about visual effects or hop on a plane to the other side of the planet to work with one of the world's foremost directors, Peter Jackson, on his epic remake of the classic thriller King Kong . "It was too sweet of an opportunity for me to pass up," Hemberger recalls, "so I took it."

Hemberger, 28, epitomizes a new breed--and new generation--of engineers: young people weaned on video games who find a home in the world of Hollywood special effects. He achieved the geek trifecta, having worked on the Matrix sequels, King Kong , and, most recently, X-Men 3 . This year, the company for which he works, the New Zealand�based Weta Digital, took home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for King Kong . And, with return trips to Notre Dame, Hemberger is helping the next generation of engineers learn how they too can find a home in the world of blockbuster animation. "The demand for technically savvy people," he says, "is always high."

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Vertical
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
Blue

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}