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Optical Design & Engineering

Iain Neil: lens design for Hollywood

Academy Award-winning optical designer Iain Neil discusses lens design, working with cinematographers, and the future directions of movie-making.

9 September 2009, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3200908.04

Iain A. Neil is an optical consultant based in Switzerland. With over 150 worldwide patents, Neil has published and edited more than 30 papers and books, and has received 11 Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, 2 Emmys, and the Fuji Gold Medal, among other awards, for his work in optics and lens design for cinema. Among Academy Award winners, Neil has the most of any living recipient, and is second only to Walt Disney in total awards.

Neil has worked as executive vice president of Research and Development and chief technical officer at Panavision Inc., manager of systems engineering at Ernst Leitz Canada Ltd., and head of optical design at Barr & Stroud Ltd. (now Thales). His current company, ScotOptix, contracts globally with optical technology companies; providing technical, business and intellectual property expertise with specialization in zoom lenses, multi-configuration optical systems and new technology implementation.

Neil was a plenary speaker at the 2009 SPIE Optics + Photonics symposium. In this interview, he discusses some of the obstacles to lens design specifically for film as he described in his plenary, as well as working with cinematographers in creating amazing images.