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The 3D Man

Barry Sandrew ‘70--founder of Legend3D.

The campus as we know it today was just beginning to emerge when Barry Sandrew ‘70--founder of Legend3D, a leading Hollywood visual effects studio--arrived in the fall of 1966. He remembers the opening of the residential halls and Gengras Student Union in 1967.

“I was there when they broke ground for the dorms and when Gengras was first opened. In fact, I was one of the first students to sit in the cafeteria. I have so many great memories of those days, such as having coffee in the cafeteria across from poet Allen Ginsberg with a few of my friends,” remembers Sandrew.

As an undergraduate, Sandrew developed an interest in neuroscience while majoring in psychology. Through one of his professors, he was introduced to three professionals in Hartford who were working in the nascent discipline of brain research.

“It was in the psych department, under my advisor Julian Streitfeld, that I found my career direction. He introduced me to neuroscientist Bob Correll and famed neurosurgeon William Scoville. They gave me an internship in their Hartford Hospital laboratory and introduced me to the field of brain research, kicking off my journey,” he adds.

From that introduction, Sandrew went on to earn his PhD in neuroscience at Stony Brook University. In 1979, after a two-year National Institute of Health fellowship at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he joined Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School as a staff neuroscientist. Then, six years later, his career suddenly veered.

“I was approached by Hollywood entrepreneurs who had heard of my work in medical imaging. Dissatisfied with the quality of the analog process then in use by the entertainment industry to colorize black and white films, they asked me to invent the technology and build a company and team around it. That was a tall order and I was committed to my career in neuroscience, but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I eventually left Harvard and academia behind.”

What Sandrew invented was the first all-digital process for colorizing classic feature films. He then founded American Film Technologies, and Ted Turner, along with most of the major studios in Hollywood and three television networks, became his client. He also invented the first paperless animation system for producing episodic TV cartoons and an innovative digital ink and paint and visual effects compositing system that was first used on Steven Spielberg’s first all-digital animated feature, We’re Back: A Dinosaur Story.

In 1993, Sandrew’s career took another detour when he co-founded Lightspan, a company that became one of the largest educational software producers in the country, selling K-6 edutainment curriculum to entire school districts. That company went public and was later acquired by Plato Learning.

“Then in 2000, I went back to the entertainment industry, inventing a much more sophisticated colorization process with advanced technology and also founding Legend Films (2001). Over the course of the next 5 years at Legend Films, we colorized approximately 180 feature films and created visual effects for such films as Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator and the HBO series Entourage.

Sandrew with movie posters for colorized versions of Night of the Living Dead and The Little Shop of Horrors.

“In the fall of 2006 after seeing digital 3D for the first time on a 3D-ready television and becoming aware that James Cameron was producing the feature film Avatar in 3D, it was clear to me that 3D was going to become a game changer in Hollywood. I was determined to be a major player in that industry.  Consequently I diverted all of my R&D to create a process for converting 2D footage to 3D. In the fall of 2009, after doing conversion and visual effects for Michael Jackson’s This Is It Tour, I felt that the technology and my team were ready to enter the 3D fray.”

After the release of Avatar in December 2009, Sandrew changed the name of the company from Legend Films to Legend3D and was immediately awarded the conversion of Alice in Wonderland for Disney, followed by the Shrek trilogy for Dreamworks and Transformers: Dark of the Moon for Paramount Pictures.  Over the succeeding years, Sandrew’s team worked on many of the most successful feature films released by the major Hollywood studios, including Hug;, Life of Pi; Green Horne;, Green Lantern;, Conan The Barbarian;, Priest The Lego Movie; Smurfs 1 and 2; The Amazing Spiderman 2; Captain America;, Man of Steel; the original Little Mermaid for Disney; the original Top Gun for Paramount Pictures; Transformers: The Age of Extinction; Poltergeist; Robert Zemekis’ The Walk; and many others.

“Going from neuroscience to  colorization to educational software, back to colorization and visual effects, and then to 3D feature filmmaking, one might say that I’ve had a rather unconventional career path,” says Sandrew.“Today I’m exploring new opportunities in augmented reality because I see that technology becoming ubiquitous within the next 4 years and as with 3D, I’m determined to be a major player in its evolution.

“I’m always cognizant of the fact that this journey started at the University of Hartford where I was fortunate enough to connect with mentors who recognized that my true potential was not necessarily reflected in my grades but rather in my vision for scientific and technological trends and my insight into innovative solutions to unique problems.”