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Academy Sci-Tech Awards Go to DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar

Integral animation and VFX software dominated the Sci-Tech Awards Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire.


The Academy’s 90th Sci-Tech Awards Saturday at the Beverly Wilshire (hosted by Sir Patrick Stewart) was dominated by the integral animation and visual effects software that powers the industry’s CG characters, simulations, and compositing. Digital Domain, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, and Rhythm & Hues were among the 10 standout honorees.

In addition, visual effects technologist Jonathan Erland received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (an Oscar statuette) for his technological contributions. Erland worked at ILM as a model builder for “Star Wars” in 1977 and later moved over to Apogee to work on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” He eventually became director of R&D for Apogee, where he received patents for a reverse blue-screen traveling matte process, the Blue-Max flux projector, and a method for making front projection screens.

Alec Baldwin the Boss Baby

“The Boss Baby”

Erland also played a key role in establishing a separate visual effects Academy branch in 1995. He received the Academy’s John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation in 2012. He’s a founding member of the Science and Technology Council and a co-founder of the Visual Effects Society.

“The Academy’s role as midwife for the adoption of new technology is needed as much as ever,” Erland said. But, in quoting silent filmmaker and USC Film School co-founder William DeMille, he added: “”If we don’t get the science first, there ain’t gonna be no art.”

Mark Elendt and Side Effects Software also received an Oscar statuette for the continuing advances with Houdini visual effects and animation software used throughout the industry for procedural building block creation and destruction (the Oscar-nominated “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”).

Technical Achievement Awards were presented to Jason Smith, Jeff White, Rachel Rose, and Mike Jutan for the BlockParty procedural rigging system at ILM; to Joe Mancewicz, Matt Derksen, and Hans Rijpkema for the Rhythm & Hues Construction Kit rigging system; to Alex Powell, Jason Reisig, Martin Watt, and Alex Wells for the Premo character animation system at DreamWorks Animation; and to Rob Jensen, Thomas Hahn, George ElKoura, Adam Woodbury, and Dirk Van Gelder for the Presto Animation System at Pixar Animation Studios.


“Kong: Skull Island”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

Scientific and Engineering Awards were presented to John Coyle, Brad Hurndell, Vikas Sathaye, and Shane Buckham for the Shotover K1 Camera System (with an innovative six-axis stabilized aerial camera mount); to Jeff Lait, Mark Tucker, Cristin Barghiel, and John Lynch for Houdini’s workflow management tools; to Bill Spitzak and Jonathan Egstad for the ubiquitous Nuke compositing system (built for production at Digital Domain); to Abigail Brady, Jon Wadelton, and Jerry Huxtable for expanding Nuke as a commercial product at the Foundry; and to Leonard Chapman, Stanislav Gorbatov, David Gasparian, and Souhail Issa for the Hydrascope telescoping camera crane systems (enabling precise long-travel multi-axis camera movement in and out of water).

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