The visual effects industry this year dominated the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards that will be given to 10 scientific and technical achievements represented by 34 individual award recipients, as well as one organization. In addition, visual effects technologist Jonathan Erland will receive the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (an Oscar statuette) for technological contributions that have brought credit to the industry.
“This year we are happy to honor a very international group of technologists for their innovative and outstanding accomplishments,” says Ray Feeney, Academy Award recipient and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “These individuals have significantly contributed to the ongoing evolution of motion pictures, and their efforts continue to empower the creativity of our industry.”
Achievements receiving these awards need not have been developed and introduced during 2017. Rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.
Receiving Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates) are:
Jason Smith and Jeff White for the original design, and Rachel Rose and Mike Jutan for the architecture and engineering, of the BlockParty procedural rigging system at Industrial Light & Magic. BlockParty streamlines the rigging process through a comprehensive connection framework, a novel graphical user interface, and volumetric rig transfer, which has enabled ILM to build richly detailed and unique creatures while greatly improving artist productivity.
Joe Mancewicz, Matt Derksen, and Hans Rijpkema for the design, architecture, and implementation of the Rhythm & Hues Construction Kit rigging system. This tool set provides a novel approach to character rigging that features topological independence, continuously editable rigs, and deformation workflows with shape-preserving surface relaxation, enabling 15 years of improvements to production efficiency and animation quality.
Alex Powell for the design and engineering, Jason Reisig for the interaction design, and Martin Watt and Alex Wells for the high-performance execution engine of the Premo character animation system at DreamWorks Animation. Premo’s speed and simplicity enable animators to pose full-resolution characters in representative shot context, significantly increasing their productivity.
Rob Jensen for the foundational design and continued development, Thomas Hahn for the animation tool set, and George ElKoura, Adam Woodbury, and Dirk Van Gelder for the high-performance execution engine of the Presto Animation System at Pixar Animation Studios. Presto allows artists to work interactively in scene context with full-resolution geometric models and sophisticated rig controls, and has significantly increased the productivity of character animators at Pixar.
Receiving Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques) are:
John Coyle, Brad Hurndell, Vikas Sathaye, and Shane Buckham for the concept, design, engineering, and implementation of the Shotover K1 Camera System. This innovative six-axis stabilized aerial camera mount, with its enhanced ability to frame shots while looking straight down, enables greater creative freedom while allowing pilots to fly more effectively and safely.
Jeff Lait, Mark Tucker, Cristin Barghiel, and John Lynch for their contributions to the design and architecture of the Houdini visual effects and animation system. Houdini’s dynamics framework and workflow management tools have helped it become the industry standard for bringing natural phenomena, destruction, and other digital effects to the screen.
Bill Spitzak and Jonathan Egstad for the visionary design, development and stewardship of the Nuke compositing system. Built for production at Digital Domain, Nuke has become a ubiquitous and flexible tool used across the motion-picture industry, enabling novel and sophisticated workflows at an unprecedented scale.
Abigail Brady, Jon Wadelton, and Jerry Huxtable for their significant contributions to the architecture and extensibility of the Nuke compositing system. Expanded as a commercial product at The Foundry, Nuke is a comprehensive, versatile, and stable system that has established itself as the backbone of compositing and image-processing pipelines across the motion-picture industry.
Leonard Chapman for the overall concept, design, and development, Stanislav Gorbatov for the electronic system design, and David Gasparian and Souhail Issa for the mechanical design and integration of the Hydrascope telescoping camera crane systems. With its fully waterproof construction, the Hydrascope has greatly advanced crane technology and versatility by enabling precise long-travel, multi-axis camera movement in, out of, and through fresh or salt water.
Meanwhile, Mark Elendt and Side Effects Software, received the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar statuette) for the creation and development of the Houdini visual effects and animation system.
With more than 20 years of continual innovation, Houdini has delivered the power of procedural methods to visual effects artists, making it the industry standard for bringing natural phenomena, destruction, and other digital effects to the screen.
And, Jonathan Erland received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (Oscar statuette), which is presented to an individual in the motion-picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.