Saturday evening, the CG industry came together to celebrate a successful year in terms of visual effects and CG animation, and to congratulate one another on many jobs well done at the seventh annual Visual Effects Society’s VES Awards.
VES: A Night for the Industry to Celebrate
By Karen Moltenbrey
Saturday evening, the CG industry came together to celebrate a successful year in terms of visual effects and CG animation, and to congratulate one another on many jobs well done at the seventh annual Visual Effects Society’s VES Awards. Oh, and in addition to the camaraderie (after all, nearly everyone except those working in the industry knows that while the work looks easy, it is anything but), there was a bit of competitiveness in the air.
Not unexpectedly, Disney/Pixar’s Wall-e came up a big winner in a number of categories. It’s difficult to argue against Wall-e winning big: the computer graphics were amazing, and the character endearing. Nevertheless, it was difficult to see DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda and Disney’s Bolt shut out. Both were well deserving of accolades, and likely would have received them had Wall-e not been in the picture. Often times in the past, there was one clear winner; but this year, it was a close call—at least in my opinion.
In terms of visual effects, it was hardly a surprise that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button swept its categories. The film set an incredibly high bar in terms of VFX; in particular, for its character animation.
Unlike the Academy Awards, which recognize just a few CG and VFX films (best animated film, best visual effects film, and best animated short film), the VES Awards bestows honors on all types of projects, from video games, to commercials, to various types of CG/VFX film work. As one presenter pointed out, the work in commercials is often of film quality, only done with practically no budget and a much shorter period of time. As for video games, it is refreshing for the industry to acknowledge the huge hurdle that these projects need to overcome that film does not—the real-time factor.
One high point of the evening was the recognition of Phil Tippett, honored for his contribution to the industry—accomplishments that have spanned the world of effects, from practical to digital. And, in a most humble manner, he graciously accepted the award. But, not before a video tribute, which took on a humorous tone, by colleagues.
Also honored were Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who were presented with a VES Lifetime Achievement Award from director David Fincher. Their work as producers likewise spans the film world with such iconic films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park. Most recently, they (again) set a new bar with their work on Ben Button. Throughout their careers, the pair has embraced effects, whether it involved greenscreen work (Raiders, 1981) or novel character work (Ben Button, 2008).
And for the first time, a student award, sponsored by Autodesk, was presented to Sandy Widyanata and Courtney Wise for their Transformation Sequence in the short “Plastic.” Both were visibly giddy and excited, and rightly so.
In this industry, CG and VFX artists are casual and easy to talk to. They love what they do and are excited about their work, yet they are humble. This was all apparent at the event. There was just one difference this night: For this occasion, they traded jeans and T-shirts for black-tie dress. It was a nice touch for such a special evening; nevertheless, their work remained as special this night as did throughout last year and beyond. Kudos to all the nominees and the winners.
For more information about the awards, see related pieces in our News section.