From building miniatures of the Millennium Falcon for the first "Star Wars" film (1977), to using computer graphics to create the shape-shifting cyborg in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), to bring...
Glendale, California, USA
|Masters of Fantasy: Industrial Light & Magic||1997 1996 - 1997||Actor||Interviewee||19977|
|Cinema Secrets||2001 1998 - 2001||Actor||Interviewee||20017|
|George Lucas: Heroes, Myths and Magic||1992 1991 - 1992||Actor||n/a||19927|
|Hulk: The Lowdown||2002 2001 - 2002||Actor||n/a||20027|
|The Pixar Story||Actor||Interviewee||7|
|Side by Side||2012||Actor||Himself||20127|
|Equinox||1969||Associate Producer||(Special Photographic Effects)||1|
|Battlestar Galactica||1978||Photography||special effects photography||1|
|The Empire Strikes Back||1980||Photography||miniature effects photography||1|
|The Empire Strikes Back||1980||Photography||optical effects photography||1|
|Close Encounters of the Third Kind||1977||Photography||Mother Ship photography||1|
|The Abyss||1989||Supervisor||wave composites supervisor(("Special Edition" restoration ILM))||1|
|Deconstructing Harry||1997||Advisor||special visual effects creative advisor||1|
|Mission: Impossible||1996||Advisor||creative advisor||1|
|Jurassic Park||1993||Puppets Design||full-motion dinosaur creator||1|
|Innerspace||1987||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Ghostbusters II||1989||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day||1991||Visual Effects Supervisor||Industrial Light & Magic visual effects supervisor||1|
|Dragonslayer||1980||Effects Supervisor||miniature effects supervisor||1|
|E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||1982||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|A.I. Artificial Intelligence||2001||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|The Hulk||2003||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||1984||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Young Sherlock Holmes||1985||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace||1999||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Dragonslayer||1980||Effects Supervisor||optical effects supervisor||1|
|Super 8||2011||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|War of the Worlds||2005||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones||2002||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1|
|Return of the Jedi||1983||Visual Effects||n/a||1|
|Willow||1988||Special Effects||special visual effects||1|
|Casper||1995||Visual Effects||digital character supervision||1|
|The Lost World: Jurassic Park||1997||Other||full motion dinosaurs||1|
|Empire of the Sun||1987||Other||optical effects(ILM)||1|
|Visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic|
|First notable feature credit, special effects photographer on Lucas' "Star Wars"|
|Worked on the "Captain Eo" and "Star Tours" attractions at the Disney theme parks|
|As a teen, obtained a better camera and began experimenting with stop motion and rear projection|
|Green-lighted by Amblin Entertainment to create several additional shots including a dinosaur stampede and several wide-angle sequences of dino herds against a sweeping vista|
|Joined George Lucas' then new Industrial Light and Magic as a special effects photographer under John Dykstra|
|Recieved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (June 3)|
|Credited for miniature and optical effects photography for "Dragonslayer"|
|Impressed Amblin with a computer-generated sequence of the T-Rex walking in daylight|
|Oversaw creation of the dinosaurs in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park"|
|Began work on "The Equinox", a 16mm sci-fi adventure film, during his first year at Pasadena City College; invested $8000 in the project|
|Served as special effects supervisor on "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"; shared an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects|
|Was effects advisor on the box office hits "Twister" and "Mission: Impossible"|
|Left ILM briefly to work for Douglas Trumbull on special photography segments of the Mothership in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (a fall 1977 release);|
|First became interested in visual effects at age six (date approximate)|
|Credited as "full-motion dinosaur creator" on "Jurassic Park"|
|Provided special effects photography under Dykstra (who had left ILM) for the theatrical release of "Battlestar Galactica" (released 1978)|
|First TV credit, visual effects for "The Ewok Adventure", a Lucas-produced ABC children's special|
|Set up the satelite link that allowed Spielberg to edit the dailies for "Jurassic Park" while on location shooting "Schindler's List"|
|Convinced an initially skeptical Spielberg that the dinosaurs for "Jurassic Park" could be computer-generated by overseeing the creation of a walk cycle for the T-Rex|
|Began making his own films at age ten with a $10 Keystone 8mm movie camera|
|Completed "The Equinox" which was then picked up by a small distributor who added 40 minutes, had it blown up to 35mm and released in 1970; credited as producer and for special effects; recouped initial investment|
|Camera operator, Cascade of California in Hollywood|
|Freelance special effect expert|
|Returned to ILM as work began on "The Empire Strikes Back" (released 1980)|
|First credit as visual effects supervisor, Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"|
Born on Nov. 1, 1946 in Glendale, CA, Dennis Muren was reared in the suburban neighborhood of La Canada, not far from Los Angeles. During his childhood, he saw countless monster movies and science fiction flicks, which fueled his imagination and sparked his interest in visual effects. By the time he was eight years old, his parents gave him a still camera, which he used to take photographs of toy dinosaurs and spaceships in the backyard, though his desire to make them move remained unfulfilled. Eager to encourage their son, his parents gave him an 8mm film camera, which he later upgraded to 16mm. Despite the rudimentary nature of his equipment, a determined Muren found a way to bring still images to life. Utilizing the camera's single-frame advance feature, he animated clay figures one frame at a time, mimicking the stop-motion effects of such films as "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958). He also cultivated the technique of forced perspective, where objects close to the camera are made to look huge - one homemade short showed an ordinary-sized person taunting a giant so large that only his sneakers are in frame; finally, the foot lifts up and appears to squash the man.
The enterprising teenager began enlisting friends to help him with his films; Muren and his pals obsessed over publications such as Famous Monster's of Filmland, pouring over stills from their favorites films to study how they were done. When they discovered that the magazine's publisher, Forest J. Ackerman, lived about an hour away, they arranged a meeting with him at his home, which by then, was already famous for its impressive collection of movie props, models and costumes. The result of the meeting was fortuitous; Ackerman established an ongoing amateur film festival, where Muren and other future filmmakers were given a venue to show off their experiments and give each other feedback.
After graduating high school, Muren enrolled at Pasadena City College, where he studied advertising and took business courses at his parents' insistence in case his film ambitions - then still a decidedly unusual career choice - failed to pan out. After his first year, Muren and his filmmaking friends put together a plan to film their first feature. In the summer of 1967, they made a sci-fi horror movie entitled "Equinox," which featured an array of stop motion and photographic effects. Made for $8,000 and drawn mostly from Muren's savings, the film drew the attention of a producer, Jack Harris, who bought the film, invested more money for new footage and improved sound before giving it limited release in B movie theaters.
Muren returned to school at Cal State Los Angeles, where he earned an associate's degree. After graduation, he sought work in the special effects departments of the major movie studios, only to be turned down. He did landed a job at a television commercial production house called Cascade while doing freelance work on the side. Along with many of his peers, he did uncredited work on the X-rated sci-fi spoof, "Flesh Gordon." Then word began to spread that a special effects crew was being assembled for a space movie, to be directed by the young director George Lucas, fresh off the acclaimed "THX-1138" (1971) and "American Graffiti" (1973). Muren joined a few dozen artists, model-makers, cameramen and animators to build a company dedicated to exclusively generating the effects for Lucas' pet project called "Star Wars." The company, meanwhile, ended up turning into the visual effects giant, Industrial Light & Magic.
Under the supervision of effects guru John Dykstra, Muren and his colleagues found themselves in an environment of striking ingenuity and innovation, as "Star Wars" took existing techniques to ambitious new levels. To create the never-before-seen imagery of spaceships moving with lightning speed across the frame, Muren - whose official position of effects cameraman - helped implement a computer-controlled camera, cheekily dubbed the Dykstraflex, that ran at a low shutter speed and arced itself on a crane around stationary models positioned in front of a blue screen. When the footage was projected at normal speed, the models appeared to streak by the camera lens at fantastic speeds. The highly detailed models were often reduced to just a blur, but when combined with background images and animated laser bolts, the illusion of kinetic, yet realistic flight was complete. Their efforts won the film an Academy Award for visual effects, while a new era of visual effects was born, to say nothing of a legendary film franchise.
After "Star Wars" was completed, Industrial Light & Magic was initially dismantled. Muren went on to work for Douglas Trumbull, assisting in photography of the mothership in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977). He then followed Dykstra to his own company, Apogee, and helped create effects for the original TV series, "Battlestar Galactica" (ABC, 1978). But soon Muren was called by Lucas to return to a reformed ILM, which was relocated near San Francisco, in Marin County, for "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980). Initially reluctant to move from Los Angeles, Muren nonetheless took the two-year job, becoming instrumental in the effects for the "Star Wars" sequel, whose striking imagery and spectacular effects nearly eclipsed those of the original.
As ILM flourished, it took on new projects in addition to "Star Wars" movies, such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," (1981) "Poltergeist," (1982) and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984). Muren and the others continued to develop new technology as well. They improved upon the decades-old stop motion with a new process dubbed "go-motion," which utilized sophisticated motors and gears to slowly move a model while the camera lens aperture was open; the result being a natural blurring effect, a dramatic step up from the nagging jerky style of the conventional method. The process brought to life the memorable flying bicycle scenes from "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" (1982) and the two-legged walker sequence in "Return of the Jedi" (1983). The company and Muren branched out further with the development of the "Star Wars"-based "Star Tours" ride for the Walt Disney theme parks, as well as the more ambitious 3-D ride produced by Lucas and starring Michael Jackson, "Captain EO."
As Muren and ILM perfected their techniques, new steps in computer technology began taking hold. While computers had been used in programming cameras for years, the only computer graphics in film were displays on computers, high-tech opening credit sequences or scenes where the effects were intended to have an unnatural look, like the knight brought to life from a stained glass window in "The Adventures of Young Sherlock Holmes," (1985) - a sequence supervised by Muren. As the technicians got their feet wet, more experimentation followed: the first instance of "morphing" was used in "Willow" (1988), where a shape-shifting creature turns into one animal after another. The effect was startling in contrast with previous methods, whereby the camera would cut away, or the use of dissolves would mask the transition from one image to another. The next use of computer-generated imagery, or CGI, was even more distinctive; in "The Abyss" the fledgling process was used to create an otherworldly creature seemingly made of water which took the shape of a human face.
Convinced that computer graphics held the future of visual effects, Muren took a six-month sabbatical to fully study the technology. While Muren soon developed memorable computer effects for the liquid metal cyborg in "Terminator 2," it was during preproduction of "Jurassic Park" that Muren spearheaded a real turn for the industry. Director Steven Spielberg had initially planned on creating the dinosaurs mainly with highly sophisticated animatronic puppets with a limited use of long shots relying on traditional stop-motion and go-motion. Muren and his team quietly did a test of a computer-generated Tyrannosaurus Rex lumbering across the screen, as well as a herd of smaller, bird-like beasts skittering over a landscape. The work was so impressive that the filmmaker changed tactics and incorporated the new technology into the film, which was a huge commercial hit and arguably the first on that level to wow audiences with images they had not seen before since "Star Wars" two decades earlier.
Not surprisingly after that innovation, Muren moved up to the position of senior effects supervisor at ILM and went on to oversee the effects on countless landmark movies, including the three installments of the second "Star Wars" trilogy, "AI: Artificial Intelligence," (2001) "Hulk," (2003) and "War of the Worlds" (2005). In 1999, Muren was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first visual effects artist to receive the honor. Then in 2006, he was given a lifetime achievement award from the Visual Effects Society. Muren became well-known enough that "Equinox" was released as a special edition DVD in 2006. Ironically, in later years, Muren became increasingly outspoken with Hollywood's reliance on CGI technology and the tendency of modern day effects houses to encourage technology over artistry. He was scheduled to publish a guidebook for upcoming visual effects artists, promoting the use of observation of the real world, to better imagine worlds of fantasy. Meanwhile, in addition to consulting with the animation powerhouse Pixar, Muren contributed FX to the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008).
|Elmer Ernest Muren||Father|
|Charline Louise Muren||Mother|
|Zara Muren||Wife||married on August 29, 1981|
|Pasadena City College|
|California State University|
|As of 2000, Muren has received 13 Academy Award nominations and won eight statuettes.|
|Member, American Society of Cinematographers|
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