Charles S. Swartz, an innovative educator who helped push the movie industry into the digital age during his four years as executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California, died of pneumonia Saturday (February 10, 2007)at a Los Angeles hospital, after a battle with brain cancer. He was 67.
"He was one of the fathers of digital cinema," said Jerry Pierce, senior vice president of technology for Universal Pictures. "Charles played an important role in bringing people into the same tent to nudge digital technology in the right direction."
Bob Lambert, senior vice president of worldwide technology strategy for the Walt Disney Co., called Mr. Swartz "a leader, a visionary, and a collaborator" whose skills as a filmmaker and educator helped him broker understanding between the technical and creative sides of the business.
Through the USC center, Mr. Swartz established a digital cinema lab in 2004 at the Hollywood Pacific Theater that is considered a premier testing ground for new cinema technologies.
Before he retired last summer, Mr. Swartz saw the lab flourish as a testing site that helped quicken the distribution and exhibition of digital films, said Rochelle Winters, colleague who consulted on projects. Swartz relished the lab's historical ties to Hollywood's past as he led research meant to take the film out of filmmaking. Instead, digital cinematography relies on capturing images on hard disks or other media capable recording digital data.
The lab, with its battery of satellite dishes on the roof and bank of powerful computer servers in the projection booth, was founded at the first theater built for talking pictures. Conceived by Sam Warner, the youngest of the four Warner brothers, it opened in 1928.
"Technology always has been a part of cinema," Mr. Swartz told the Los Angeles Times in 2003. "And it always will be."
Research at the center and its digital lab is funded by major Hollywood studios.
A native of Dallas, Charles Samuel Swartz earned a degree from Yale University and did graduate work in cinema at USC. While there, he met and married another film student, Stephanie Rothman, who survives him.
Early in his career, Mr. Swartz collaborated with his wife on several features. He wrote and directed several B movies with such titles as "Itís a Bikini World" (1966) and "The Velvet Vampire" (1971).