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Academy Sci-Tech Awards Go to 5 Innovative Digital Cameras

Digital cameras, renderers, and facial performance capture were the big tech winners Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire.



The highlight of the Academy’s 89th Sci-Tech Awards Saturday at the Beverly Wilshire was the pioneering efforts of five digital cinematography cameras that stood out among this year’s 18 recipients, acknowledging the dominance of the craft.

Receiving Academy plaques were ARRI for the Super 35 Alexa, RED Digital Cinema for the RED Epic,  Sony for the F65 CineAlta (with full 4K output), and Panavision and Sony for the groundbreaking Genesis.

Additionally, the formerly-named Thomson Grass Valley received a certificate for the Viper FilmStream system for importing into digital intermediate workflows.

Oscar-nominated “Arrival” (Bradford Young), “Moonlight” (James Laxton), and the ASC-winning “Lion” (Greig Fraser) were all shot on the Alexa.

In terms of animation and VFX, other areas of innovation emphasized rendering and facial performance capture, including Disney, Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, Blue Sky, Sony Pictures Imageworks, among others.

Meander used on “Moana”

Disney’s Brian Whited accepted a technical achievement certificate for the Meander drawing system (first used on the Oscar winning “Paperman” and “Feast” shorts). The curve-rendering method faithfully captures the artist’s intent, resulting in a significant improvement in creative communication throughout the production pipeline.

“”It was used extensively by effects to do shot planning, and during the hand-drawn prologue, and on everything that was hand-drawn during the song, ‘You’re Welcome,'” Whited told IndieWire in reference to Meander’s most recent use on the Oscar-nominated “Moana.”

Technical Achievement certificates were also awarded to Larry Gritz for Open Shading Language (OSL) used by Imageworks for use in the ray-tracing Arnold renderer (whose creator, Marcos Fajardo, was honored with a Scientific and Engineering plaque); to Carl Ludwig, Eugene Troubetzkoy, and Maurice van Swaaij for the pioneering CGI Studio ray-tracing renderer at Blue Sky Studios; to Parag Havaldar for expression-based facial performance-capture technology at Imageworks.

Additional certificates went to Nicholas Apostoloff and Geoff Wedig for the animation rig-based facial performance-capture systems at ImageMovers Digital and Digital Domain; to Kiran Bhat, Michael Koperwas, Brian Cantwell, and Paige Warner for ILM’s facial performance-capture solving system; to Mark Rappaport, Scott Oshita, Jeff Cruts, and Todd Minobe for the Creature Effects Animatronic Horse Puppet; to Glenn Sanders and Howard Stark for the Zaxcom Digital Wireless Microphone System; and to David Thomas, Lawrence E. Fisher, and David Bundy for the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless Microphone system.

Scientific and Engineering plaques were awarded to Christopher Kulla, Alan King, Thiago Ize, and Clifford Stein for their highly optimized geometry engine and novel ray-tracing algorithms at Sony Imageworks and Solid Angle SL; to Vladimir Koylazov for the V-Ray lighting and shading solution from Chaos Group; to Luca Fascione, J.P. Lewis, and Iain Matthews for the FACETS facial performance capture and solving system at Weta; and to To Steven Rosenbluth, Joshua Barratt, Robert Nolty, and Archie Te for the Concept Overdrive motion control system.

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