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Charles Poynton graduated from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, with a B. A. in Mathematics and Computer Science. In 1973, he joined Dataline Systems Limited of Toronto, an early provider of timesharing computer services, where he developed mathematical and communications software. He performed hardware design, installation, and testing of optical character recognition equipment for Leigh Instruments of Ottawa. From 1978 to 1979, he worked for Digital Video Systems in Toronto, where he wrote the bit-slice processor microcode for the first broadcast video framestore/synchronizer. He then studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto; he was invited to become a faculty member at OCA, where he taught electronics to art students.
In 1981, he founded Poynton Vector Corporation to design and build digital television processing equipment for NASA's Johnson Space Center. From 1985 to 1995, this equipment converted the field-sequential color television signal from the Space Shuttle to NTSC, for viewing, recording, and distribution to television networks. The conversion and NTSC encoding were accomplished digitally. After completing the NASA contract, Poynton Vector Corporation undertook contracts for the design and development of special-purpose digital television equipment for a number of clients, including the National Research Council of Canada, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Merlin Engineering, and Vertigo Computer Imagery. All of these projects made extensive use of digital video; most dealt with the integration of television systems and computer systems.
From 1988 to 1995, he was Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems Computer Corporation in Mountain View, California. He introduced video, high-definition television (HDTV), and accurate color technology to computer workstations. He developed the system architecture for a product that brings video into the workstation environment. He was a principal contributor to the DARPA HDTV Workstation research project, along with colleagues from David Sarnoff Research Center and Texas Instruments.
Mr. Poynton has been an active member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) Working Group on Studio Video Standards, and its various subgroups, since 1981, and has contributed to many video standards, including ITU-R Recommendations BT.601 and BT.709. He was a major technical contributor to the ANSI/SMPTE 240M and 260M standards for 1125/60 HDTV. He was the founding chairman of SMPTE's Working Group on Digital Pictures, which developed the SMPTE 168M (DPX) standard for the exchange of digital film frames in the film production community. He advocated the square-pixel common image format for HDTV, and was the prime mover to have this proposal accepted unanimously by the executive committee of the ATSC in 1990, and subsequently by all ATV proponents. During 1994 and 1995, he served as document editor for SMPTE 274M, the 1920x1080 HDTV production standard; this became the foundation for all of SMPTE's HDTV studio standards. .
Mr. Poynton has worked for many years within television and computing standards organizations to encourage the adoption of standards for the use of television technology in computer environments. Mr. Poynton worked to encourage the computer industry to adopt the ITU-R BT.709 HDTV colorimetry standard for accurate color interchange. This effort resulted in provision for ITU-R BT.709 colorimetry in the TIFF 6.0 file format, and led to the BT.709 color parameters being adopted in the sRGB standard for desktop computing.
In 1995, he wrote, designed, illustrated, and typeset the book A Technical Introduction to Digital Video. The book was published in 1996 by John Wiley & Sons, and reached fifth printing. In February 2003, his second book Digital Video and HDTV Algorithms and Interfaces, was the 3,339-th most popular item at Amazon.com.
He now works as an independent contractor, specializing in the physics, mathematics, and engineering of digital color imaging systems, including digital video, HDTV, and digital cinema (D-cinema).
Mr. Poynton has published many magazine articles, and published and presented many technical papers. He has organized and presented many popular courses and seminars, including HDTV Technology at SIGGRAPH 91, Concepts of Color, Video and Compression at SIGGRAPH 93, and courses on color technology at SIGGRAPHs in 1994 through 1999. He was organizer and principal presenter at the SMPTE Hollywood section's 1994 one-day seminar Digital Compression for Film and Video: Preserving Image Quality. He has presented the course A Technical Introduction to Digital Video at two SMPTE conferences.
Mr. Poynton is a Fellow of the SMPTE, and an Honorary Fellow of the BKSTS. In 1993, he was awarded SMPTE's prestigious David Sarnoff Gold Medal, in recognition of his work toward the integration of computing and television technologies.
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