Academy Hands Out SciTech Awards

Honoreees included developments that came from SMPTE, Laika, DWA, ILM, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Rhythm & Hues.
Courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences/ABC

Standards body Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers was presented a special plaque on Saturday in recognition of its 2016 centennial and the more than 800 standards that it has developed to forward television and motion pictures. The presentation capped the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Scientific and Technical Awards presentation at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles.

"SMPTE marvelous," exclaimed Jason Segel who, with Olivia Munn, received high marks for their co-hosting of the ceremony, during which the Academy also recognized 10 scientific and technical achievements represented by 33 recipients, including two achievements that received Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques) and eight that earned Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates).

Accepting for SMPTE was the organization's president, Robert Seidel, who is also vp engineering and advanced technology at CBS; and Barbara Lange, SMPTE's executive director. Noting that group's founding goal was about "bringing order to the technical chaos," Lange accepted "on behalf of more than 7,000 members and volunteers who make technical innovation possible — and here's to the next century."

Scientific and Engineering Awards were presented to Brian McLean and Martin Meunier of animation house Laika, for the use of rapid prototyping with 3D printers to enable expressive character animation in its stop-motion film production, from Coraline to its upcoming Kubo and the Two Strings. Accepting the award for "making faces," the honorees acknowledged the team — "more than 100 at Laika" — and gave shout-outs to several, including CEO Travis Knight and Coraline director Henry Selick.

An Academy Plaque was also awarded to Jack Greasley, Kiyoyuki Nakagaki, Duncan Hopkins and Carl Rand for the design and engineering of the Mari 3D texture painting system — initially developed for Avatar  — which is available through software developer The Foundry. Greasley accepted the honor on behalf of the entire team, and thanked partners in the development, including Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Joe Letteri and Weta Digital.

Four media review systems were honored with Technical Achievement Awards during the ceremony, including the Rhythm & Hues’ Global DDR system, which was used on films from Life of Pi to Babe. There was a touching response from the audience as honoree Keith Goldfarb — who received the prize with Steve Linn, Brian Green and Raymond Chih — pointed out that it was three years ago to the day that R&H declared bankruptcy as he "congratulated all of the alumni of R&H ... everyone contributed to this [development]."

Also honored for media review systems were Richard Chuang, Rahul Thakkar, Andrew Pilgrim, Stewart Birnam and Mark Kirk for DreamWorks Animation’s Media Review System, which has been used on all DWA films including the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda franchises, and was the first to incorporate stereoscopic capabilities; J. Robert Ray, Cottalango Leon and Sam Richards for Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Itview, which was used on movies including Hotel Transylvania 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and Jim Hourihan, Alan Trombla and Seth Rosenthal for Tweak Software’s RV system, who thanked customers including Weta and Digital Domain.

Technical Achievement Awards also went to Ronald Mallet and Christoph Bregler for the Industrial Light & Magic Geometry Tracker, which was used most recently on Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Michael John Keesling, for the Image Shaker optical system; and David McIntosh, Steve Marshall Smith, Mike Branham and Mike Kirilenko, for the Aircover Inflatables Airwall. Additionally, Munn recognized the Dolby’s PRM series reference color monitors ("a sexy monitor ... with a hot piece of glass") developed by honorees Trevor Davies, Thomas Wan, Jon Scott Miller, Jared Smith and Matthew Robinson.

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