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Innovation at the Oscars: MIT Sloan Alumnus Has His “Hollywood Moment”

2013 Class Gift Sets Record

MIT Sloan innovation was represented in Hollywood this year as alumnus Allan Jaenicke, MBA ’11, was presented with a Scientific and Technical Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was honored with the Academy Award® for his work co-creating software that simplifies motion tracking, allowing for improved visual effects in movies such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Black Swan, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Jaenicke began to develop the software in 2000, eventually becoming chief executive officer of a new company, Imagineer Systems, which would rise to the forefront of the film industry both in Hollywood and the rest of the world. The novel tracking algorithm developed by Jaenicke and his colleague Philip McLauchlan follows the movements of, for example, an actor’s arm by selecting a general region around the arm, instead of a specific point, such as the elbow or a fingertip, as had been done in the past. This allows the visual effects artist to obtain the accurate motion of the arm much faster, Jaenicke said. What once took several days now takes just a few hours with a higher-quality result.

Following the success of his company, and looking to try something new, Jaenicke participated in the weeklong Entrepreneurship Development Program at MIT Sloan in 2006 before being admitted to MIT Sloan’s MBA program.

“Going to Los Angeles to receive the award was a lot of fun. It was a real Hollywood moment. We each had a few minutes on stage to thank the people who made it all possible. Winning the award was a great recognition of all the hard work we put in,” said Jaenicke.