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David DiFrancesco

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Title: David DiFrancesco  
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Subject: Alexander Schure, Zoetrope, Toy Story, New York Institute of Technology
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David DiFrancesco

David DiFrancesco, (born 1949), is a photoscientist, inventor, cinematographer, and photographer. He is a founding member of three organizations which pioneered computer graphics for digital special effects and film[1] with Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, including; New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab, Lucasfilm Computer Division, and Pixar Animation Studios, financed by Steve Jobs.[2]
David DiFrancesco

Life and career

As director of the Pixar Photoscience Team at Pixar Animation Studios, DiFrancesco and his team were responsible for the task of accurately transferring high resolution digital images to film. In this role, he developed the world's first laser scanning and recording devices for 35mm motion picture film [3] and established reliable, commercially successful methods for this process, called PixarVision.[4][5] This pioneering work earned him two Scientific and Engineering Technical Academy Awards and 13 patents.[6][7] In 1996 the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers adopted his recommended practices for governing output of digital images to film.

Before that DiFrancesco worked at Computer Image Corp., working on light field[8] lens for motion picture cameras that enables post-production re-focusing of motion picture images and the capturing of 3D motion pictures with a single lens and camera.[9]

In 2004, DiFrancesco designed a custom LED-based strobiscopic lighting system to sync the animation of physical Pixar Toy Story characters in the Pixar Zoetrope, first shown at the Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with [Pixar’s 20th Anniversary exhibit].[10] The original Pixar Zoetrope has travelled the world to various museums and several other zoetropes are on display at Disneyland’s California Adventure theme park in Southern California and other Disney theme parks.

DiFrancesco’s technical knowledge with zoetropes was put into use on a two-minute film entitled “Forza/Filmspeed,” directed by Jeff Zwart. The film revealed the world’s fastest Zoetrope in the form of a high resolution still images taken from the Xbox game Forza Motorsport 5. Stills from the game were printed onto panels and staged at key intervals around a Barber Motorsports Park race track to recreate the illusion of movement known as the persistence of vision.[11]

As a photographer, DiFrancesco’s work has been displayed at the MoMa in New York City, the Yale University Library collection, V&A CG collection London, England and in a number of private collections. He holds a BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, attended the Danish Film Institute and the MFA program at the University of Colorado. In 2000, he was awarded an honorary PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.[12]


DiFrancesco’s early career in motorsports included road rallies, Ice Racing and Gymkhana’s driving Porsches during the 1960s. In addition, DiFrancesco is a collector and restorer of vintage race cars and motorcycles including a 1953 Siata 208S, shown at the Concorso Italiano in 2007,[13] a 1938 Brough Superior raced in CSRG vintage in the 1980s, an SCCA NW regional winning DP 1956 AC Bristol,[14] and a brace of Yamaha factory road racers. He has contributed to the creation of the Pixar Motorama,[15] in what started as an employee-owned event that eventually inspired the creation of the film “Cars” and grew to an internationally recognized private car show at the Pixar headquarters in Emeryville, California.



  1. ^ Disney Research Article on David DiFrancesco
  2. ^ ^ "Pixar Founding Documents". Archived from the original on 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2010-04-19
  3. ^ Daily Variety, Pixar Develops Laser Recording System by Marc Graser, February 9, 1999, page 6 (on line)
  4. ^ Pixar Develops "PIXARVISION" Laser Recording System for Film; David DiFrancesco wins Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award
  5. ^ Pixar Develops 'Pixarvision' Laser Recording System for Film
  6. ^ Pixar's "Our Story" website
  7. ^ Daily Variety, January 4, 1995, "Tech Oscars go to...," page 1 and 44.
  8. ^ Plenoptic
  9. ^ FXGuide Article on Alvy Ray Smith
  10. ^ Pixar: 20 Years of Animation
  11. ^ Forza/Filmspeed Zoetrope
  12. ^
  13. ^ Jack Reuter photos on
  14. ^ AC ACE BRISTOL - gallery
  15. ^ AutoWeek Magazine Article on the Pixar Motorama

External links

  • David DiFrancesco on the Internet Movie Database
  • New York Times Bio List
  • The Pixar Story: Dick Shoup, Alex Schure, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Disney
  • VSynths: Lee Harrison III's - ANIMAC
  • SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Newsletter - SIGGRAPH 98 History Project - August 98
  • David DiFrancesco's Linkedin page
  • Pixar History
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