Meet William B. Johnson, the Man Whose Formula Transformed Moviemaking

**The Unsung Hero of Computer Animation**

In the realm of computer animation, William B. Johnson stands as an unsung hero, the pioneer whose mathematical formula revolutionized the way we experience movies today.

**A Mathematical Mastermind**

Born in 1957, Johnson’s passion for mathematics emerged at an early age. He excelled in calculus and linear algebra, earning a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Waterloo in 1983. His doctoral thesis focused on a groundbreaking new algorithm for solving systems of linear equations, a fundamental problem in computer graphics.

**A Chance Encounter with Pixar**

In 1986, fate smiled upon Johnson when he was invited to visit the fledgling Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar, founded by computer graphics visionary Edwin Catmull, was struggling to create realistic computer-animated films. Johnson’s mathematical prowess caught Catmull’s attention, and he was soon hired as a research scientist.

**The Birth of the W Matrix**

At Pixar, Johnson applied his mathematical expertise to the problem of solving large systems of linear equations arising in computer animation. The key to his approach was the development of a novel matrix called the W matrix. The W matrix allowed for faster and more efficient manipulation of complex 3D models, paving the way for smoother, more realistic animations.

**A Transformative Impact on Moviemaking**

Johnson’s W matrix became the cornerstone of Pixar’s animation software, RenderMan. RenderMan was used to create groundbreaking animated films such as .

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