Richard Chuang, Cogswell College Board of Directors Member and Founder of PDI, Wins Second Academy Award for Scientific and Technical AchievementRichard Chuang, Cogswell College Board of Trustees Member and Founder of PDI, Wins Second Academy Award® for Scientific and Technical Achievement

Richard Chuang, a distinguished member of the Cogswell College Board of Trustees, a true Pioneer of Digital Animation, and the co-inventor of one of the very first Digital Animation Pipelines, has just received (on Feb. 13th) his second Academy Award® for his groundbreaking design work of the PDI/DreamWorks Animation Media Review System.


Regarding the accomplished Richard Chuang, John Duhring, Cogswell College’s Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Alliances, said “Richard has always been an artist – one who discovered computers in high school back in 1974. His approach is so pragmatic. He just figures things out and gets things done. He’s an artist who embraced science and engineering to become one of the most prominent inventors within the entertainment industry. We are thrilled to have his influence as we prepare students to operate successfully in the most dynamic industry ever created.”


During July 2015, Richard Chuang shared his insights and opinions about several of the latest innovations in 3D graphics applications, programs, and technologies while visiting students at Cogswell College.



During March 2015, Richard Chuang spoke at an “Innovators Day” reception at UC Davis’ prestigious College of Engineering. Richard spoke on the topic of “Media and Technology – 35 years of changes.


On January 8, 2016, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 10 scientific and technical achievements represented by 33 individual award recipients would be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Saturday, February 13, at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. Unlike other Academy Awards® to be presented this year, achievements receiving Scientific and Technical Awards need not have been developed and introduced during 2015. Rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.

Richard Chuang and Rahul Thakkar each received a 2016 TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (ACADEMY CERTIFICATE) for their groundbreaking design of the DreamWorks Animation Media Review System. In addition, Andrew Pilgrim, Stewart Birnam and Mark Kirk will also receive TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS (ACADEMY CERTIFICATES) for the review workflows and advanced playback features of that DreamWorks Animation Media Review System.

Richard Chuang recently spoke with John Duhring about his award-winning system in a Q&A Session specifically designed for Cogswell College students:

John Duhring (JD): “Richard, we at Cogswell are all so proud to see your designation for a second Oscar® for Scientific and Technical Achievement! I suspect most people don’t appreciate the depth of the impact your team has made within the industry during the past 20 years. My first question to you is: What was the problem you were trying to solve with the Animation Media Review System? How were things done before and what is enabled now?

Richard Chuang (RC): “Basically I created and wrote the first collaboration video playback system in our industry back in 1992.  It was designed to give everyone at the studio full access to a whole film with full nonlinear access without the need for an editor. I also wrote the first real time interactive collaboration review system for individuals and teams distributed at multiple sites (1999). That system supported real-time annotation and drawings cross sites.

JD: How long did it take to iterate the system? What was challenging from a technical perspective and from a human experience perspective?

RC: The rest of my team expanded the system to the first HD real-time playback system with all the review features I created.  They have since optimized it and expanded it with many new features.  When I wrote the first system back in 1992, I had to invent my own CODEC because MPEG was not fast enough on desktop computers.

JD: I’d like to highlight the importance of the analog pipeline along with the digital animations. Your system maps into the quality of the work being done by engaging far-flung resources. How prevalent was that when you got going? How common is it now?”

RC: My whole review pipeline was digital.  We did not stream video because the pipe was too slow. I had a caching scheme that let synchronize playback of local media across multiple points.  We worked around the constraints to fit our need.  For example, we prioritized frame rate over quality because motion is more important for us.

I actually made a version that let us build interactive media back in 1994 -- allowing users to make decisions. That was done before Flash came out.
We had many tools long before anyone else even thought about it.  I wrote the first real-time lighting tool back in 1984 -- almost 10 years before anyone else even tried it!

In my opinion, the tools today fall short of where I expected things to be. In fact, most of the key tools like Maya are stuck in time.  I actually wrote an animation system in the early 90's that did not have numbers or curve. And even today, unfortunately, many of the digital tools available to animators are more like math than art.”

JD: As a long-time Cogswell Board member, what attracts you to helping students understand the kinds of work available in industry? Do you think mainstream education might adjust?

RC: My goal always has been to make life easier for creative people!"



Richard Chuang became a distinguished member of the Cogswell College Board of Trustees in 2008. He was the founder of Pacific Data Images, which was later acquired by DreamWorks Animation.

A 1979 graduate of the UC Davis College of Engineering, Richard Chuang became the first employee at Pacific Data Images in 1981. At the time, PDI was an upstart computer animation company that operated in a garage. PDI’s early successes included an updated Pillsbury Doughboy, which became the first established corporate icon to go CGI.

While at PDI, Chuant served as a Visual Effects Supervisor on 16 Hollywood motion pictures, as well as a director on commercials. He also won an Emmy Award for Graphics Design. Later, as an executive at DreamWorks Animation, he led the effort in setting up DWA productions around the world.

Pacific Data was soon embraced – and later acquired by - the DreamWorks film studio, leading to collaborations on the “Shrek” film series, along with numerous other animated and live-action films. Chuang’s technical innovations led him to win, in 1998, a shared Technical Achievement Academy Award®, his first of two awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Chuang left DreamWorks in 2008, determined to re-shape the way that animators work with each other. He then became the founder and CEO of Cloudpic. The philosophy behind Cloudpic: “We are artists. We are engineers. We are creative thinkers and adventurers. We’ve left our past behind and now we use our knowledge and experience to cut new paths. If we are not learning something new or seeing the world from a new perspective each day, we have failed.” Please see:


Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four-year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

In 2015, Cogswell was cited by Animation Career Review as “One of the Top 50 Private Game Design Schools and Colleges in the U.S.” Also in 2015, Cogswell was included in Animation Magazine’s prestigious list of “Top Schools to Hire From.”

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, videogame, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-winning production teams that worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well-known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “Big Hero 6” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Cogswell College is located at 191 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, California, 95134. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit

As seen in:

Animation World Network
Markee Magazine
Creative Handbook
Production Hub
Digital Media World
Christian's Cartoon Corner



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February 16, 2016