If there was any doubt about the integral role that cgi and vfx technologies play in the creation of Hollywood filmmaking nowadays, just take a look at the Academy Award winners for this year’s scientific and technical achievements.
The 18 scientific and technical certificates and plaques, representing 34 individual recipients and five organizations, were announced today by the Academy. (Unlike other Academy Awards, these awards need not have been developed or introduced during 2016; rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.)
While some of the awards are related to camera systems and audio recording, a significant number of them belong to the fields of visual effects, rendering, and animation production. Blue Sky, whose films are among the most exquisitely rendered of any animation studio, is receiving recognition for its in-house rendering software, CGI Studio. Two of the three award recipients—Carl Ludwig and Eugene Troubetzkoy—are also co-founders of the Ice Age studio, which is now owned by Fox. Meanwhile, Disney’s Brian Whited is getting credit for his development of the Meander program, a hybrid vector/raster-based drawing and animation system that was first deployed on Paperman, and most recently on the short Inner Workings.
Other vfx-related honors include the development of expression-based facial performance-capture technology at Sony Pictures Imageworks, animation rig-based facial performance-capture systems at ImageMovers Digital and Digital Domain, facial performance-capture solving systems at ILM and Weta Digital, and the Arnold and V-Ray rendering technologies.
“This year we are particularly pleased to be able to honor not only a wide range of new technologies, but also the pioneering digital cinema cameras that helped facilitate the widespread conversion to electronic image capture for motion picture production,” said Ray Feeney, the Academy’s chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “With their outstanding, innovative work, these technologists, engineers and inventors have significantly expanded filmmakers’ creative choices for moving image storytelling.”
The Academy will honor the recipients at annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles. Below is the full list of this year’s Academy Award recipients for scientific and technical achievement:
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS (ACADEMY CERTIFICATES)
To Thomson Grass Valley for the design and engineering of the pioneering Viper FilmStream digital camera system.
The Viper camera enabled frame-based logarithmic encoding, which provided uncompressed camera output suitable for importing into existing digital intermediate workflows.
To Larry Gritz for the design, implementation and dissemination of Open Shading Language (OSL).
OSL is a highly optimized runtime architecture and language for programmable shading and texturing that has become a de facto industry standard. It enables artists at all levels of technical proficiency to create physically plausible materials for efficient production rendering.
To Carl Ludwig, Eugene Troubetzkoy, and Maurice van Swaaij for the pioneering development of the CGI Studio renderer at Blue Sky Studios.
CGI Studio’s groundbreaking ray-tracing and adaptive sampling techniques, coupled with streamlined artist controls, demonstrated the feasibility of ray-traced rendering for feature film production.
To Brian Whited for the design and development of the Meander drawing system at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Meander’s innovative curve-rendering method faithfully captures the artist’s intent, resulting in a significant improvement in creative communication throughout the production pipeline.
To Mark Rappaport for the concept, design and development, to Scott Oshita for the motion analysis and CAD design, to Jeff Cruts for the development of the faux-hair finish techniques, and to Todd Minobe for the character articulation and drive-train mechanisms, of the Creature Effects Animatronic Horse Puppet.
The Animatronic Horse Puppet provides increased actor safety, close integration with live action, and improved realism for filmmakers.
To Glenn Sanders and Howard Stark for the design and engineering of the Zaxcom Digital Wireless Microphone System.
The Zaxcom system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by creating a fully digital modulation system with a rich feature set, which includes local recording capability within the belt pack and a wireless control scheme providing real-time transmitter control and time-code distribution.
To David Thomas, Lawrence E. Fisher, and David Bundy for the design, development and engineering of the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless Microphone System.
The Lectrosonics system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by developing a method to digitally transmit full-range audio over a conventional analog FM radio link, reducing transmitter size, and increasing power efficiency.
To Parag Havaldar for the development of expression-based facial performance-capture technology at Sony Pictures Imageworks.
This pioneering system enabled large-scale use of animation rig-based facial performance-capture for motion pictures, combining solutions for tracking, stabilization, solving and animator-controllable curve editing.
To Nicholas Apostoloff and Geoff Wedig for the design and development of animation rig-based facial performance-capture systems at Imagemovers Digital and Digital Domain.
These systems evolved through independent, then combined, efforts at two different studios, resulting in an artist-controllable, editable, scalable solution for the high-fidelity transfer of facial performances to convincing digital characters.
To Kiran Bhat, Michael Koperwas, Brian Cantwell, and Paige Warner for the design and development of the ILM facial performance-capture solving system.
This system enables high-fidelity facial performance transfer from actors to digital characters in large-scale productions while retaining full artistic control, and integrates stable rig-based solving and the resolution of secondary detail in a controllable pipeline.
SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING AWARDS (ACADEMY PLAQUES)
To ARRI for the pioneering design and engineering of the Super 35 format Alexa digital camera system.
With an intuitive design and appealing image reproduction, achieved through close collaboration with filmmakers, ARRI’s Alexa cameras were among the first digital cameras widely adopted by cinematographers.
To RED Digital Cinema for the pioneering design and evolution of the RED Epic digital cinema cameras with upgradeable full-frame image sensors.
RED’s revolutionary design and innovative manufacturing process have helped facilitate the wide adoption of digital image capture in the motion picture industry.
To Sony for the development of the F65 CineAlta camera with its pioneering high-resolution imaging sensor, excellent dynamic range, and full 4K output.
Sony’s unique photosite orientation and true RAW recording deliver exceptional image quality.
To Panavision and Sony for the conception and development of the groundbreaking Genesis digital motion picture camera.
Using a familiar form factor and accessories, the design features of the Genesis allowed it to become one of the first digital cameras to be adopted by cinematographers.
To Marcos Fajardo for the creative vision and original implementation of the Arnold Renderer, and to Chris Kulla, Alan King, Thiago Ize, and Clifford Stein for their highly optimized geometry engine and novel ray-tracing algorithms which unify the rendering of curves, surfaces, volumetrics and subsurface scattering as developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks and Solid Angle SL.
Arnold’s scalable and memory-efficient single-pass architecture for path tracing, its authors’ publication of the underlying techniques, and its broad industry acceptance were instrumental in leading a widespread adoption of fully ray-traced rendering for motion pictures.
To Vladimir Koylazov for the original concept, design and implementation of V-Ray from Chaos Group.
V-Ray’s efficient production-ready approach to ray-tracing and global illumination, its support for a wide variety of workflows, and its broad industry acceptance were instrumental in the widespread adoption of fully ray-traced rendering for motion pictures.
To Luca Fascione, J.P. Lewis, and Iain Matthews for the design, engineering, and development of the FACETS facial performance capture and solving system at Weta Digital.
FACETS was one of the first reliable systems to demonstrate accurate facial tracking from an actor-mounted camera, combined with rig-based solving, in large-scale productions. This system enables animators to bring the nuance of the original live performances to a new level of fidelity for animated characters.
To Steven Rosenbluth, Joshua Barratt, Robert Nolty, and Archie Te for the engineering and development of the Concept Overdrive motion control system.
This user-friendly hardware and software system creates and controls complex interactions of real and virtual motion in hard real-time, while safely adapting to the needs of on-set filmmakers.