From the inventors of the pneumatic car flipper to the software developers who replaced clay modeling with digital sculpture, dozens of behind-the-scenes cinematic innovators turned out recently to receive recognition from the film industry.
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 honour contributions to film-making 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 a s 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 whizz 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.
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 Gravity. Veach said he was amazed that “some people had read my thesis and are using it to make movies”.
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 working days.
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.
Scorsese says NY Review film meant as guide to young
Director and producer Martin Scorsese says he hopes his documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the New York Review of Books will point young people in the right direction for getting reliable information in an age of data overload. Scorsese and co-director David Tedeschi screened what they said was a nearly finished version of the as-yet-untitled documentary at the Berlin international film festival. They said it should be ready for release in March. Best known for box-office hits like Raging Bull and The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese said he had been a faithful reader of the review.
Since it was launched during the 1963 New York newspaper strike, the influential publication has published authors and critics ranging from Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and Joan Didion to Ian Buruma and Zoe Heller. Scorsese said the review’s editor and co-founder Robert Silvers — who attended the screening — had asked him to make the film, and that he had agreed in part because he wanted to guide young people to sources of information he deemed trustworthy.
“Particularly in this age of the glut of information and the data that’s around, how do they select, how do they choose what to believe in as a value?” the director said. “They have no idea of how fragile the freedom is, none, you see. And so this is an attempt in a way to maybe point them in a direction.”