Two weeks before the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences handed out its Scientific and Technical
Achievement Awards for the visual effects behind groundbreaking
films such as "Avatar", "Life of Pi" and "Gravity".
While the Academy Awards on March 2 will reward films released
in 2013, the yearly scientific and technical awards honor
contributions to filmmaking for innovations that developed over
years and even decades.
This year, the Academy gave certificates or plaques to 52
individuals for 19 scientific and technical achievements, and
two golden Oscar statuettes as well as a medal of commendation.
Joshua Pines, who got his award for color correction technology,
called it "the Winter Olympics for geeks".
One of the first awards of the night went to the men behind the
pneumatic car flipper used in films including "Independence Day"
and "Total Recall". As films moved off movie sets and into real
places such as downtown Los Angeles, they had to develop a
method to safely and reliably launch cars.
"We had to know exactly where cars were going to land when we
launched them," said prize winner John Frazier.
Awards were also given for the flying camera that can be
programmed to whiz through a house with exact precision and for
the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system.
Hosted by actors Michael B. Jordan and Kristen Bell, star of
mystery drama "Veronica Mars", the ceremony saw many awards for
digital filmmaking software, such as deep compositing, which
allows image layering and gives depth to the final film.
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Another winner, Eric Veach, earned a scientific and
engineering award for his research years ago that has helped
transform computer graphics lighting used in films including
Veach said he was amazed that "some people had read my thesis and
are using it to make movies".
Honorees also came from places beyond Hollywood, including Silicon
Valley and New Zealand, the home of "Hobbit" director Peter
Jackson's Weta Digital visual effects company, the employer of
several of the night's winners.
Technology innovators from Dreamworks Animation, Pixar Animation
Studios, Walt Disney Co and Warner Bros also won awards, and most
everyone thanked their spouses for putting up with incredibly long
One of the golden Oscar statuettes went to visual
effects supervisor and director of photography Peter Anderson, a 3-D
expert, for his technological contributions to the industry.
"Without the science, what would the art be? And without the art,
what would the science be?," he said.
The other statuette went to a collective of "all those who built and
operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the
motion picture industry".
In a room full of digital supremos, the nod to the tradition of
making movies on film was received with cheers.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)
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