Linwood G. Dunn

Linwood G. Dunn, A.S.C. (December 27, 1904 in Brooklyn, New York – May 20, 1998 in Los Angeles, California) was a pioneer of visual special effects in motion pictures and inventor of related technology. Dunn worked on many films and TV series, including the original 1933 King Kong (1933), Citizen Kane (1941), and Star Trek (1966–69).

Linwood G. Dunn, A.S.C.
BornDecember 27, 1904
Brooklyn, New York
DiedMay 20, 1998 (aged 93)
Los Angeles
OccupationSpecial effects, Cinematographer
Board member ofA.S.C. President (1977–1978)


Dunn's career began by about 1923 when he worked as a projectionist for the American Motion Picture Picture Corp. Following a relative to Hollywood, he was hired as an assistant by the Pathé company in 1925. Early films and serials he worked on as a cameraman were The Green Archer (1925), Snowed In (1926), Hawk of the Hills (1927), Queen of the Northwoods (1929), Flight (1929, Frank Capra's first sound film), Ringside (1929), The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930), Danger Lights (1930), an early widescreen film, and Cimarron (1931), an Academy Award-winner for Best Picture.

Special effects

Dunn rose from shooting title cards to creating in-camera optical effects. He was hired as a special effects technician at RKO Radio Pictures, his tenure there lasting from 1929 to 1958. This early experience led to the World War II development of the first practical commercially manufactured optical printer, a device consisting of cameras and projectors allowing for the accurate compositing of multiple images onto a single piece of film.

Body of work

Dunn photographed the rotating RKO radio tower trademark used at the beginning of all RKO films.

In the early 1930s, Dunn became part of the effects team responsible for the creation of the original King Kong (1933).

Many effects set-ups consisted of miniature Kong models being animated frame-by-frame in front of a rear-screen projected background plate—of either still or live-action elements. As time progressed during animation—when using moving footage as a background—animators might neglect to advance the projected image (on the rear screen) to the next frame as they concentrated on Kong's movements, spoiling the illusion that the animated model and the plate coexisted in reality, requiring time-consuming (and expensive) re-takes.

Dunn saved model animators Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson considerable work whenever possible by photographically compositing images of Fay Wray with model animation footage of Kong after all the best footage of both "elements" had been shot, eliminating the worry of rear-screen maintenance during model animation in many shots. Dunn's work also eliminated the contrast differences inherent in the use of rear-screen projection. Dunn repeated such work for the sequel, Son of Kong, released in December 1933, and did optical/photographic composites for the airplane-wing-dance sequence in the first Astaire-Rodgers musical Flying Down to Rio (1933). The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) were other well remembered RKO films on which Dunn worked before America entered the second world war. In Citizen Kane, Dunn's composites open the film and many of cinematographer Gregg Toland's "deep-focus" shots utilize Dunn's skill for creating optical composites. For Bringing Up Baby (1938), separate footage of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and a leopard were photographically combined by Dunn. Dunn's work became so highly sought after by other studios that he formed his own company, Film Effects of Hollywood, in 1946, working that business at the same time as working at RKO.

Production on The Outlaw (1943) was halted owing to a controversy over how much of Jane Russell's bosom would be visible. Dunn resolved the situation by rephotographing Russell's close-ups with a tiny scrim inserted between the projector and camera, so as to soften the line of her cleavage. Dunn gained a technical Oscar (along with machinist Cecil Love) in 1944 for his work. Dunn continued to work at RKO after Howard Hughes bought the studio.

After RKO had ceased to exist as a film production company, Dunn did the optical composites and title sequence for West Side Story (1961) and the elaborate fire-ladder sequence at the end of Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), which required 21 different all-color elements to be composited into final images.

Other later large-format and/or high-profile films Dunn's company did opticals for are My Fair Lady (1964), The Great Race (1965), Hawaii (1966), The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966), Darling Lili (1970), and Airport (1970).

Inventions and innovations

Dunn produced the lightning-electrocution scene at the end of The Thing from Another World (1951) by scratching the lightning, frame-by-frame, on a strip of black film and then compositing the best of that footage with live action footage of the monster burning and shrinking (done by Dunn via pulling back the camera on a track while filming the monster image element against a black background), with those two elements then photographically combined with the unmoving image of the floor and walls that surround the creature in the final composite. During the brief 3-D craze and the more permanent shift to widescreen processes such as CinemaScope, Dunn pioneered the use of optical composites using these developments, inventing and refining new equipment to achieve it.

Dunn worked for Desilu Productions, founded by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, their TV production required the occasional use of optical effects, especially for increasingly elaborate title sequences, and Dunn's Film Effects of Hollywood was one of several optical houses that supplied them. From 1965, Dunn became one of four optical houses that supplied visual effects for the company's (later Paramount) Star Trek TV series. It was mostly Dunn who photographed the 11-foot large Starship Enterprise model,[1] designed by series creator Gene Roddenberry and Matt Jefferies and built by Dick Datin, Mel Keys, Venon Sion, and Volmer Jensen at Production Model Shop in Burbank, California. Dunn also generated footage that could be used by the three other optical houses involved with Star Trek - the Howard Anderson Company, Westheimer Company, and Van Der Veer Photo Effects - all necessary due to the large number of effects shots and tight weekly production schedule. Dunn continued to work on the series until its cancellation in 1969.

Dunn also specialized in optical work for special and large format films, creating the equipment necessary to do the jobs. Dunn did optical composite for several special 70mm films shown at World's Fairs, including the multi-panel tour-de-force film, A Place To Stand made for Expo 67. It was Dunn who did what his associates said was impossible, cleanly blowing up 16mm negative to 70mm prints for George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh concert film. Dunn's company later became the first facility in Hollywood that could do optical composites in the ultra-large Imax film format.

He co-wrote (with George Turner) a book on his career and the history of visual effects, The ASC Treasury of Visual Effects published in 1983. In 1985, Dunn sold his company Film Effects of Hollywood to Francis Ford Coppola and retired from active effects work. The Hollywood office of Fuji Film currently occupies Film Effects' old building.

In the 1990s, while in his 90s, Dunn joined with Japanese engineers in the development of a 3-D television system that used electronic dual-polarized glasses that auto-synched to the TV image, to create the most clear and deep 3-D images ever produced. The system was originally built for hospitals. Surgeons in many facilities are now using the system as a key aid in sorting out the nerve-endings during micro-neurosurgery. A consumer version of the system is now sold with 3-D Blu-ray players and TV sets in most video equipment stores. The system was profiled on an episode of Alan Alda's Scientific American Frontiers TV series. Always keenly interested in technology, Dunn participated in the development of digital projection for theaters.[2][3][4]

Honors and awards

Dunn was the recipient of the Golden Hugo from the 8th Annual Chicago International Film Festival and has been given an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the San Francisco Art Institute and received several similar awards from various arts and technical colleges, and other technical organizations.

Dunn shared an Oscar win for special effects in 1949 for his work in collaboration with Willis O'Brien for the original Mighty Joe Young. In 1984, he received the Gordon E. Sawyer award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as being awarded Honorary Membership in The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers—their highest honor.[5]

Twice elected president of the American Society of Cinematographers, he was also elected a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in two different branches, and was instrumental in the formation of the Academy's Visual Effects branch. He also served as the AMPAS's treasurer for one several-year term.

The Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood was named in honor of Dunn and his innovations and contributions to the Motion Picture industry. The 286-seat state-of-the-art theater at the AMPAS' Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on 1313 Vine Street is The Academy's newest screening facility.[6][7] The moving image collection of Linwood Dunn is held at the Academy Film Archive.[8]

After winning two final special achievement Oscars in 1979 and 1985, Dunn lived in his North Hollywood home until his death in 1998 at age 93.

Academy Awards

1944 (17th) for the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer

1949 (22nd) for Mighty Joe Young - RKO Productions

1978 (51st) in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

1980 (53rd) for the concept, engineering and development of the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer for motion picture special effects.

1984 (57th) Gordon E. Sawyer award


  1. ^ "Star Trek Starship "Enterprise" Model on display in the Museum Shop".
  2. ^ "The International Cinematographers Guild Collection". - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  3. ^ "THE DEVIL'S INFLUENCE: Linwood G. Dunn and The Exorcist". - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  4. ^ "Linwood Dunn Collection". - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  5. ^ [1] Archived August 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Linwood Dunn Theater".
  7. ^ "LINWOOD DUNN THEATER". - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  8. ^ "Linwood Dunn Collection". Academy Film Archive.

External links

39th Academy Awards

The 39th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 1966, were held on April 10, 1967, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. They were hosted by Bob Hope.

Only two of the Best Picture nominees were nominated for Best Director: A Man for All Seasons and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Both were adaptations of stage dramas.

71st Academy Awards

The 71st Academy Awards ceremony, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best of 1998 in film and took place on March 21, 1999, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles beginning at 5:30 p.m. PST / 8:30 p.m. EST. During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 24 categories. The ceremony, televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Gil Cates and directed by Louis J. Horvitz. Actress Whoopi Goldberg hosted the show for the third time. She first hosted the 66th ceremony held in 1994 and had last hosted the 68th ceremony in 1996. Nearly a month earlier in a ceremony held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on February 27, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by host Anne Heche.Shakespeare in Love won seven awards including Best Picture. Other winners included Saving Private Ryan with five awards, and Life Is Beautiful with three. Affliction, Bunny, Central Station, Election Night, Elizabeth, Gods and Monsters, The Last Days, The Personals, The Prince of Egypt and What Dreams May Come were all nominated in at least two categories. The telecast garnered nearly 46 million viewers in the United States.

Academy Award for Best Visual Effects

The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects is an Academy Award given for the best achievement in visual effects.

Academy Scientific and Technical Award

The Scientific and Technical Awards are three different Honorary Awards that are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) during the annual Academy Awards season. The Awards have been presented since the 4th Academy Awards in November 1931, to recognize original developments resulting in significant improvements in motion picture production and exhibition. The Awards are presented at a formal dinner ceremony a couple weeks before the principal Academy Awards ceremony.These awards recognize significant milestones in the development of technology for motion pictures and are conferred by vote of the Academy Board of Governors. Potential nominations for awards are investigated by a special committee within the Academy, "The Scientific and Technical Awards Committee", which presents a written report and recommendation to the Board of Governors.Additionally, the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, given for "outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy", and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, both also considered Honorary Awards, are usually also chosen by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee and conferred at this annual presentation dinner ceremony.

Dunn (surname)

The surname Dunn has several different origins. In some cases it is an Anglicised form of the Irish surname Ó Duinn, meaning "grandson of Donn"; the Gaelic Donn was originally a byname, meaning "brown-haired" or "chieftain". Another origin of the surname Dunn is from the Middle English dunn, meaning "dark-coloured"; this name originated as a nickname for one with dark hair or skin. Another origin is from a habitative name, derived from Dun in Angus, Scotland; this place name is derived from the Scottish Gaelic dùn, meaning "fort". Another origin is from the Gaelic donn, meaning "brown".

Gordon E. Sawyer Award

The Gordon E. Sawyer Award is an Honorary Award given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry." The award is named in honour of Gordon E. Sawyer, the former Sound Director at Samuel Goldwyn Studio and three-time Academy Award winner who claimed that a listing of past Academy Awards, arranged both chronologically and by category, represents a history of the development of motion pictures. It was first presented at the 54th Academy Awards, in April 1982. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award is voted upon and given by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy.

Gregg Toland

Gregg Toland, A.S.C. (May 29, 1904 – September 28, 1948) was an American cinematographer known for his innovative use of techniques such as deep focus, examples of which can be found in his work on Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940). Toland was voted as one of the top 10 (actually 11 with a tie) most influential cinematographers in the history of films by the International Cinematographers Guild in 2003.

Hawaii (1966 film)

Hawaii is a 1966 American epic drama film directed by George Roy Hill and based on the novel of the same name by James A. Michener. It tells the story of an 1820s Yale University divinity student (Max von Sydow) who, accompanied by his new bride (Julie Andrews), becomes a Calvinist missionary in the Hawaiian Islands. It was filmed at Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and on the islands of Kauai and Oahu in Hawaii.

John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation upon the recommendation of its Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. The medal is awarded with a citation reading "in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy." The inaugural Medal of Commendation was given at the 50th Academy Awards, in April 1978, and is given irregularly.

John Jay Educational Campus (Brooklyn)

The John Jay Educational Campus is a New York City Department of Education facility at 237 Seventh Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Formerly the location of John Jay High School (originally Manual Training High School), which was closed in 2004 due to poor student performance, the facility now houses the Secondary School for Law (K462), the Secondary School for Journalism (K463), Park Slope Collegiate (K464, formerly the Secondary School for Research) and Millennium Brooklyn High School (K684).The building was constructed in 1902. It was designed by C. B. J. Snyder in the Modern French Renaissance style.

Linwood (name)

Linwood is both a surname and a given name. Notable people with the name include:


Alec Linwood (1920–2003), Scottish footballer

Elliott Linwood (born 1956), American artist

Mary Linwood (1755–1845), British needle woman

Paul Linwood (born 1983), English footballer

Sonja Kristina Linwood (born 1949), English musicianGiven name:

Linwood Barclay, Canadian-American humourist, author and columnist

Linwood Boomer (born 1955), Canadian-American television producer, writer, and actor

Linwood Earl Briley (died 1984), American murderer

Linwood Vrooman Carter or Lin Carter (1930–1988), American author

Linwood Clark (1876–1965), American politician

Linwood G. Dunn (1904–1998), American cinematographer and special effects artist

Linwood Murrow, fictional character in the Angel TV series

Linwood Pendleton (born 1964), American environmental economist

Linwood H. Rose (born 1951), American university president

List of Presidents of American Society of Cinematographers

This is a list of the past presidents of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Matte painting

For the technique used in photography and special effects filmmaking to combine two or more image elements into a single, final image, see Matte (filmmaking).

A matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that is not present at the filming location. Historically, matte painters and film technicians have used various techniques to combine a matte-painted image with live-action footage. At its best, depending on the skill levels of the artists and technicians, the effect is "seamless" and creates environments that would otherwise be impossible or expensive to film. In the scenes the painting part is static and movements are integrated on it.

Optical printer

An optical printer is a device consisting of one or more film projectors mechanically linked to a movie camera. It allows filmmakers to re-photograph one or more strips of film. The optical printer is used for making special effects for motion pictures, or for copying and restoring old film material.Common optical effects include fade outs and fade ins, dissolves, slow motion, fast motion, and matte work. More complicated work can involve dozens of elements, all combined into a single scene.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) (, rarely ), founded in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers or SMPE, is a global professional association, of engineers, technologists, and executives working in the media and entertainment industry. An internationally recognized standards organization, SMPTE has more than 800 Standards, Recommended Practices, and Engineering Guidelines for broadcast, filmmaking, digital cinema, audio recording, information technology (IT), and medical imaging. In addition to development and publication of technical standards documents, SMPTE publishes the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal, provides networking opportunities for its members, produces academic conferences and exhibitions, and performs other industry-related functions.

SMPTE Membership is open to any individual or organization with interest in the subject matter.

SMPTE standards documents are copyrighted and may be purchased from the SMPTE website, or other distributors of technical standards. Standards documents may be purchased by the general public. Significant standards promulgated by SMPTE include:

All film and television transmission formats and media, including digital.

Physical interfaces for transmission of television signals and related data (such as SMPTE time code and the Serial Digital Interface) (SDI)

SMPTE color bars

Test card patterns and other diagnostic tools

The Material eXchange Format, or MXF

SMPTE ST 2110SMPTE's educational and professional development activities include technical presentations at regular meetings of its local Sections, annual and biennial conferences in the US and Australia and the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal. The society sponsors many awards, the oldest of which are the SMPTE Progress Medal, the Samuel Warner Memorial Medal, and the David Sarnoff Medal. SMPTE also has a number of Student Chapters and sponsors scholarships for college students in the motion imaging disciplines.

SMPTE is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.

Related organizations include

Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC)

Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)

ITU Radiocommunication Sector (formerly known as the CCIR)

ITU Telecommunication Sector (formerly known as the CCITT)

Digital Video Broadcasting

BBC Research Department

European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

Special effect

Special effects (often abbreviated as SFX, SPFX, or simply FX) are illusions or visual tricks used in the film, television, theatre, video game and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world.

Special effects are traditionally divided into the categories of optical effects and mechanical effects. With the emergence of digital film-making a distinction between special effects and visual effects has grown, with the latter referring to digital post-production while "special effects" referring to mechanical and optical effects.

Mechanical effects (also called practical or physical effects) are usually accomplished during the live-action shooting. This includes the use of mechanized props, scenery, scale models, animatronics, pyrotechnics and atmospheric effects: creating physical wind, rain, fog, snow, clouds, making a car appear to drive by itself and blowing up a building, etc. Mechanical effects are also often incorporated into set design and makeup. For example, a set may be built with break-away doors or walls to enhance a fight scene, or prosthetic makeup can be used to make an actor look like a non-human creature.

Optical effects (also called photographic effects) are techniques in which images or film frames are created photographically, either "in-camera" using multiple exposure, mattes or the Schüfftan process or in post-production using an optical printer. An optical effect might be used to place actors or sets against a different background.

Since the 1990s, computer-generated imagery (CGI) has come to the forefront of special effects technologies. It gives filmmakers greater control, and allows many effects to be accomplished more safely and convincingly and—as technology improves—at lower costs. As a result, many optical and mechanical effects techniques have been superseded by CGI.

Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the Sundance Institute, takes place annually in Park City, Utah. With over 46,660 attendees in 2016, it is the largest independent film festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature films and short films, and a group of out-of-competition sections, including NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, Midnight, Premieres, and Documentary Premieres. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival took place from January 18 to January 28, 2018.

Willis H. O'Brien

Willis Harold O'Brien (March 2, 1886 – November 8, 1962) was an American motion picture special effects and stop-motion animation pioneer, who according to ASIFA-Hollywood "was responsible for some of the best-known images in cinema history," and is best remembered for his work on The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949), for which he won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.