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'Avatar' tops visual effects awards

James Cameron's film wins six VES nods; 'Up' takes three

"Avatar" earned six Visual Effects Society awards, including the top honor for outstanding visual effects in a VFX-driven feature, at the 8th annual VES Awards.

Also Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Pixar Animation Studio's "Up" -- the leading contender in this year's animated feature Oscar race -- won three trophies: for outstanding animation, outstanding animated character and outstanding effects animation in an animated feature.

In addition to the top honor for outstanding visual effects, 3D scifi epic "Avatar" earned trophies for best single visual effect of the year, outstanding character animation in a live-action feature, outstanding matte paintings, outstanding models and miniatures, and outstanding created environment.

Since the VES launched its awards in 2002, the winner of the top category has gone on to win the VFX Oscar each year but two. Those instances occurred in 2005, when "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" won the VES trophy and "Spider-Man 2" earned the Oscar; and in 2008, when "Transformers" collected the VES prize and "The Golden Compass" won the Academy Award.

This year, to win the top category for outstanding visual effects in a VFX-driven feature, VFX Oscar frontrunner "Avatar" bested fellow Oscar nominees "District 9" and "Star Trek," as well as "2012" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."
 

"District 9" earned one VES Award, for outstanding compositing; and "Sherlock Holmes" won the trophy for supporting VFX in a feature.

Also during Sunday's ceremony, "Avatar" director James Cameron received the VES Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Bill Paxton.

"Computers don't make visual effects -- people do," the helmer emphasized. "We didn't use one (on 'The Terminator'). Now it is all done in the computer. It doesn't matter. It is the artist. That is what makes the magic."

Cameron also paid tribute to his longtime collaborator, special effects pioneer Stan Winston, who passed away in 2008. Recalling several years ago when the director showed Winston a stereoscopic 3D test, Cameron related: "I said, 'I want to do something small.' Stan said, 'No, you do your 'Star Wars.' ' So we decided to make 'Avatar,' I owe that to him."

Dr. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, was honored with the Georges Melies Award for significant and lasting contribution to the art and science of the visual effects industry. Pixar general manager Jim Morris, who produced "Wall-E," presented the award to Catmull.

In television categories, "CSI Crime Scene Investigation" earned a pair of awards, for supporting VFX and outstanding compositing. An episode of "Battlestar Galactica" won the trophy for outstanding VFX in a series, while "Disney Prep and Landing -- Gadgets, Globes and other Garish Gizmos" topped the outstanding VFX category for a miniseries, movie or special.

A complete list of winners can be found on the next page.



Eighth Annual Visual Effects Society Award Winners

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
"Avatar"
Joe Letteri, Joyce Cox, Eileen Moran, Richard Baneham

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
"Sherlock Holmes"
Jonathan Fawkner, Chas Jarrett, David Vickery, Dan Barrow

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Up"
Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera, Steve May, Gary Bruins

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special
"Disney Prep and Landing -- Gadgets, Globes, and other Garish Gizmos"
Dorothy McKim, Scott Kersavage, David Hutchins, Kee Suong

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
"Battlestar Galactica," Season 4 -Ep. 421 "Daybreak"
Michael Gibson, Gary Hutzel, Jesse Toves, Dave Morton

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," Ep. 1001 Opening Sequence
Rik Shorten, Sabrina Arnold, Steve Meyer, Derek Smith

Best Single Visual Effect of the Year
"Avatar" - Neytiri Drinking
Joe Letteri, Joyce Cox, Eileen Moran, Thelvin Cabezas

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
"Audi - Intelligently Combined"
Jay Barton, Rafael F. Colon,Ronald Herbst, Chris Fieldhouse

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
"Dance of the Dragons - Eastern"
Derry Frost, Michael Morreale

Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Gulag Extraction"
Mark Rubin, Richard Kriegler, Robert Gaines, David Johnson

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Video Game Trailer
"Halo 3: ODST - The Life"
Robert Moggach, Ryan Meredith, Jens Zalzala, Michael Pardee

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live-Action Feature Motion Picture
"Avatar" - Neytiri
Joe Letteri, Andrew R. Jones, Jeff Unay, Zoe Saldana

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Up" - Carl ("No Dad" scene)
Ed Asner, Ron Zorman, Brian Tindall, Carmen Ngai

Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
"AMF" - The Caterpillar
Robert Sethi, Jamie O'Hara, Becky Porter, Steve Beck

Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Up"
Jason Johnston, Alexis Angelidis, Jon Reisch, Eric Froemling

Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Feature Motion Picture
"Avatar" - Pandora
Yvonne Muinde, Brenton Cottman, Peter Baustaedter, Jean-Luc Azzis

Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Kaiser Permanente - Emerald City
Ben Walker, David Woodland, Kim Taylor, Ben Walsh

Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture
"Avatar" - Samson/Home Tree/Floating Mountains/Ampsuit
Paul Jenness, Rainer Zoettl, John Stevenson-Galvin, Simon Cheung

Outstanding Created Environment in a Feature Motion Picture
"Avatar" - Jungle/Biolume
Eric Saindon, Shadi Almassizadeh, Dan Cox, Ula Rademeyer

Outstanding Created Environment in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
"V" - Pilot: "Atrium and Ship Interiors"
Chris Zapara, Chris Irving, David Morton, Trevor Adams

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
"District 9"
Shervin Shogian, Hamish Schumacher, Janeen Elliott, Simon Hughes

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" - Ep. "1001" Opening Sequence
Derek Smith, Christina Spring, Steve Meyer, Zach Zaubi

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
"They Will Come to Town"
Thilo Ewers