Paul Debevec leads the Graphics Laboratory at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, is a Research Professor in the USC Computer Science Department, and is the Vice-President of ACM SIGGRAPH. He earned degrees in Math and Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan in 1992 and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 1996. He began combining research in computer vision and computer graphics in 1991 by three-dimensionally modeling and rendering his Chevette automobile from photographs. At Interval Research Corporation he contributed to Michael Naimark's Immersion '94 virtual exploration of Banff National forest and collaborated with Golan Levin on the interactive art installation Rouen Revisited.
Debevec's Ph.D. thesis under Prof. Jitendra Malik presented Façade, an image-based modeling system for creating virtual cinematography of architectural scenes using new techniques for photogrammetry and image-based rendering. Using Façade he directed a photorealistic fly-around of the Berkeley campus for his 1997 film The Campanile Movie whose techniques were later used to create the Academy Award-winning virtual backgrounds in the "bullet time" shots in the 1999 film The Matrix.
Following his Ph.D. Debevec pioneered techniques for illuminating computer-generated objects with measurements of real-world illumination. His 1999 film Fiat Lux rendered towering monoliths and gleaming spheres into a photorealistic reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica, realistically illuminated by the light that was actually there. Techniques from this research known as HDRI and Image-Based Lighting have become a standard part in visual effects production, used to dramatic effect in films such as the The Matrix sequels, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Terminator: Salvation, District 9, and Avatar. Debevec leads the design of HDR Shop, the first high dynamic range image editing program, and co-authored the 2005 book High Dynamic Range Imaging. Debevec's 2004 film The Parthenon used 3D scanning, inverse global illumination, HDRI, and image-based lighting to virtually reunite the Parthenon and its sculptures, contributing to depictions of the Parthenon's history for the 2004 Olympics, NHK televison, PBS's NOVA, National Geographic, the IMAX film Greece: Secrets of the Past, and The Louvre.
At USC ICT Debevec has led the development of several Light Stage systems that capture and simulate how people and objects appear under real-world illumination. The Light Stages have been used by studios such as Sony Pictures Imageworks, WETA Digital, and Digital Domain to create photoreal digital actors as part of the Academy Award-winning visual effects in Spider-Man 2 and King Kong, the Academy Award-nominated visual effects in Superman Returns, Spider-Man 3, Hancock, the Academy-Award winning visual effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and most recently James Cameron's Avatar. The most recent light stage process based on polarized gradient illumination was used in 2008's Digital Emily project, a collaboration with Image Metrics which produced one of the first digital facial performances to cross the "Uncanny Valley". Other recent work led by Debevec includes ICT's 3D Display and 3D Teleconferencing systems.
In 2001 Debevec received ACM SIGGRAPH's first Significant New Researcher Award for "Creative and Innovative Work in the Field of Image-Based Modeling and Rendering", in 2002 was named one of the world's top 100 young innovators by MIT's Technology Review magazine, and in 2005 received a Gilbreth Lectureship from the National Academy of Engineering. In 2005 Debevec received the Special Award for a Distinguished Professional Career in Animation/VFX from the Mundo Digitales Festival in A Coruna, Spain and in 2009 received the "Visionary Award for VFX" at the 3rd Annual Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts.
In February 2010, Debevec received a Scientific and Engineering Academy AwardŽ for "the design and engineering of the Light Stage capture devices and the image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures", shared with Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar.
Debevec is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Visual Effects Society, and ACM SIGGRAPH. He chaired the SIGGRAPH 2007 Computer Animation Festival and co-chaired Pacific Graphics 2006 and the 2002 Eurographics Workshop on Rendering.