Chief Creative Officer/Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic
John Knoll joined Industrial Light & Magic as a Technical Assistant in 1986, and was soon promoted to Motion Control Camera Operator for Captain EO. After three years of operating, Knoll was called upon to work on the groundbreaking digital effects for The Abyss. Since that time, he has been promoted to Visual Effects Supervisor helming the visual effects on more than 20 feature films and commercials. His film background coupled with an advanced understanding of digital technologies has made Knoll a much sought-after supervisor; he received Academy Award® nominations for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, as well as BAFTA® nominations for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Knoll’s resume also includes Mission to Mars, Deep Blue Sea, Star Trek: First Contact, and Mission: Impossible, among others. In 2005, he completed work on the final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy with Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. In 2006, Knoll finished work on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, for which he received both a BAFTA® and an Academy Award®. More recently, Knoll was the Visual Effects Supervisor on Brad Bird’s action-packed thriller, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.
Knoll’s interest in filmmaking began at an early age. Having a keen interest in visual effects, he was mesmerized by the original Star Wars. During a visit to ILM in 1978 he was able to observe firsthand the world of visual effects. Inspired to learn more, Knoll attended the USC School of Cinema and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Production, while freelancing as a modelmaker at a variety of Los Angeles-based production facilities.
During his last year at USC, Knoll took an advanced animation class where he built a motion control system from an Oxberry animation stand, an Apple II computer, a CNC milling machine controller, and a bunch of industrial surplus stepper motors. Impressed by the student film that was generated from this class project, ILM hired Knoll as a Technical Assistant for motion control photography. Greatly impressed by visits to ILM's newly founded computer graphics department, Knoll took up computer graphics as a hobby. Teaming with his brother who was working on his doctoral thesis in computer vision at the University of Michigan, the two created Photoshop in 1987.