Berkeley, California, USA
|Occupation||Visual effects supervisor|
|Years active||1979 - present|
|Influenced by||Linwood Dunn
|Matte World Digital|
Craig Barron is an American visual-effects supervisor who specializes in seamless matte painting effects. He is also a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and film historian who is co-founder and head of the visual effects company, Matte World Digital. Barron is a member of the Academy Board of Governors, representing the visual effects branch.
Craig Barron has worked on many notable shots in feature films, including the secret government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Gotham City skyline of Batman Returns, the approach to Dracula's castle in Bram Stoker's Dracula, the 1970s-era Las Vegas strip in Casino, the Carpathia rescue ship at the end of Titanic, and 1970s-era San Francisco in Zodiac. In 2009, Barron won Academy and BAFTA Awards for achievement in visual effects for the work his company Matte World Digital did on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Early career 
Barron was born in Berkeley, California in 1961. He started working at Industrial Light & Magic at age 18, then the youngest person at ILM, to work on the matte-effects photography for George Lucas' Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. At ILM Barron would continue to composite matte-painting scenes on such landmark productions as Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. From 1984 to 1988 he was supervisor of photography at ILM’s matte department.
Barron’s mentors include matte-painting masters and visual-effects artists, Peter Ellenshaw and Albert Whitlock. His career has been shaped by many of the past masters he has met, and he gained particular inspiration from the late Linwood G. Dunn, the opticals genius behind such classics as King Kong and Citizen Kane. Dunn once told him there were two kinds of visual effects shots: obvious fantasy, and realism that doesn’t draw attention to itself. Dunn believed that realistic effects, which have to blend perfectly, are the greatest challenge and ironically, that work is often unsung, because it should be invisible to the audience.
Matte World Digital 
In 1988, Barron co-founded Matte World with matte painter Michael Pangrazio and executive producer Krystyna Demkowicz. The company provided realistic matte-painting effects to clients in the entertainment industry. Barron renamed the company Matte World Digital in 1992 to reflect the new technological tools available to matte painters. MWD created digital-matte environments for feature films, television, electronic games, and IMAX large-format productions.
Craig Barron and the staff of MWD received awards and nominations for excellence from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and BAFTA. In 1990, Barron and members of the MWD crew won an Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects for the HBO production By Dawn’s Early Light. The company served the visions of such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and David Fincher. Its feature-film work ranged from the traditional matte painting Academy Award-nominated effects of Batman Returns, to the digital effects of Hugo, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Golden Compass, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which won the Academy Award for achievement in visual effects in 2009.
In 2012, MWD closed after 24 years of service.
Matte World Digital was the first in the industry to apply radiosity rendering to film in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. Barron's visual-effects crew collaborated with software company, LightScape, to simulate the indirect bounce-light effect of millions of neon lights of the 1970s-era Las Vegas strip. Significantly, radiosity rendering provided a true simulation of bounce-light in a computer-generated environment. Barron's cinematographic work would be honored in 2002 when he was named associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers.
To recreate 1970s-era San Francisco in David Fincher's Zodiac, MWD shot digital images of existing city-building textures, then added painted period details for establishing shots. One such shot includes the Embarcadero Freeway alongside the Ferry Building and San Francisco Bay. The freeway had been demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake but was digitally "rebuilt" to visually set the time-frame for the film. To show time passing within the era, CG lighting techniques were applied for an animated sequence showing the Transamerica Pyramid being built. The shot was based on research Barron had done using historical photographs and architectural drawings.
Earlier in his career, Barron conducted interviews with traditional matte painters and matte-painting technicians, many who revealed the secrets of their techniques for the first time. This oral history of movie-making, along with an extensive collection of visual-effects film clips, movie stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, led to the first comprehensive book about the history of matte painting, The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting, co-written with Mark Cotta Vaz and published by Chronicle Books in 2002.
Barron independently directed the science-fiction short, The Utilizer and a companion “making of” documentary, both of which were broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1996. The Utilizer won a number of film-festival awards, including best special effects at the Chicago International Film Festival. Barron is a founding member of the Visual Effects Society, begun in 1997 to represent visual effects creators in film, television and video games.
In 2008, Barron celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Matte World Digital and a personal milestone of having worked on one hundred films. His current projects include an IMAX production about the origin of the universe, developed with theoretical physicist Stephen W. Hawking. Barron lives in Marin County, California.
Barron is an ongoing lecturer for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Theater Programs. Since 2006, he has presented public screenings, often partnering with sound designer Ben Burtt, demonstrating the art of matte painting and visual effects techniques of classic films such as Modern Times, The Rains Came, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Gunga Din. In the 2010 Academy screening of "Me Tarzan, You Technology," Barron demonstrated how the MGM visual effects crews of the 1930s Tarzan films used rear-projection and matte paintings to create what film critic Leonard Maltin describes as a vivid atmosphere with majestic settings. Burtt's sound demonstration was capped by a recreation of the famous "Tarzan yell."
Barron and Burtt teamed up again in 2011 to demonstrate the groundbreaking visual effects and sound design for Forbidden Planet, the classic 1956 science-fiction film. For this Academy screening, Mysteries of the Krell, presented in Los Angeles, Barron and Burtt researched and rediscovered rare miniatures, production designs, props and analog source tapes from the electronic soundtrack of the film. The screening was in conjunction with an Academy gallery show featuring artifacts from the movie, including the original Robby the Robot prop.
Awards and honors 
Film and television awards
- Emmy for outstanding visual effects - By Dawn’s Early Light, 1990.
- Nominated for Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and BAFTA Awards for achievement in visual effects - Batman Returns, 1992.
- Gold Plaque for best special effects, Chicago International Film Festival - The Utilizer, 1996.
- Nominated for BAFTA for achievement in special visual effects for The Truman Show, 1999.
- Nominated for VES Award for outstanding visual effects in a special venue project for Greece: Secrets of the Past, 2006.
- Nominated for VES Award for outstanding visual effects in a motion picture for Zodiac, 2007.
- Oscar and BAFTA Awards for achievement in visual effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2009.
- Outstanding Book on Film award from the Theatre Library Association of New York - The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting, co-authored with Mark Cotta Vaz, 2002.
- Golden Pen book award from Theatre Technology - The Invisible Art, 2002.
- Academy Board of Governors member representing the visual effects branch.
- Member of the American Society of Cinematographers.
- Founding member of the Visual Effects Society.
- The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting by Craig Barron and Mark Cotta Vaz, Chronicle Books, 2002; ISBN 0-8118-4515-X
- SIGGRAPH 1998 - Matte Painting in the Digital Age | Speech from the "Invisible Effects" series | Craig Barron | 1998
Selected filmography 
- Hugo, 2011
- Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011
- Alice in Wonderland, 2010
- My Sister's Keeper, 2009
- Terminator Salvation, 2009
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008
- The Golden Compass, 2007
- Zodiac, 2007
- The Last Samurai, 2003
- Jurassic Park III, 2001
- X-Men, 2000
- Mission: Impossible II, 2000
- The Green Mile, 1999
- The Truman Show, 1998
- Titanic, 1997
- Star Trek: First Contact, 1996
- Independence Day, 1996
- Casino, 1995
- Clear and Present Danger, 1994
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
- Batman Returns, 1992
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
- Arachnophobia, 1990
- By Dawn's Early Light (television), 1990
- The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988
- Willow, 1988
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986
- Labyrinth, 1986
- The Goonies, 1985
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, 1983
- Poltergeist, 1982
- Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, 1982
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
- Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors 2008-2009
- Rickitt, Richard; Special Effects: The History and Technique, Billboard Books; 2nd edition, 2007; pp. 202-203 ISBN 0-8230-7733-0
- Matte World Digital | Bram Stoker's Dracula
- Matte World Digital | Casino
- Matte World Digital | Titanic
- Memories of Murder: VFX for Zodiac | Recreating 1970s San Francisco for Director David Fincher | Barbara Robertson | March 15, 2007
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences achievement in visual effects - Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)
- British Academy of Film and Television Awards - Film Winners in 2009
- Cotta Vaz, Mark and Barron, Craig; The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting Chronicle Books, 2002; p. 197 ISBN 0-8118-4515-X
- Biography for Craig Barron at the Internet Movie Database
- Cotta Vaz and Barron, p. 212
- Cotta Vaz and Barron, p. 213
- Academy Awards Database
- Matte World Digital Farewell
- Rickitt, Richard, p. 209
- Matte World Digital | SIGGRAPH 1998 - Matte Painting in the Digital Age | 3-D Lighting Techniques | Craig Barron
- Cotta Vaz and Barron, pp. 244-248
- Awards for Craig Barron at the Internet Movie Database
- Universe Partners | Project Management
- Alternative Film Guide | Fantastic Reality: The Magic and Mystery of Movie Matte Painting | Andrew Soares
- CGSociety | The Rains Came - Special Screening
- AMPAS | The Adventures of Robin Hood hosted by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt
- AMPAS | Techno Chaplin: Modern Times
- Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy | Tarzan Swings Again, October 26, 2010
- AMPAS | Me Tarzan, You Technology: The Magic of Tarzan in the Movies
- AMPAS | Mysteries of the Krell: Making the Sci-Fi Epic "Forbidden Planet"
- Craig Barron at the Internet Movie Database
- Matte World Digital
- The Utilizer at the Internet Movie Database
- The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting | Google Book Search
- Craig Barron at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)