VES opens the hatches for 'Pirates'

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"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" dominated Sunday's fifth annual Visual Effects Society awards, winning six trophies including the top prize for outstanding visual effects in a visual effects-driven film.

"Pirates" also picked up prizes for single visual effect of the year, created environment in a live-action film, compositing in a film, models and miniatures in a film and animated character in a live-action film.

In the top category, "Pirates" bested competition from "Charlotte's Web" and "The Fountain." While the nominees do not mirror this year's Academy Award noms for VFX -- "Pirates," "Superman Returns" and "Poseidon" -- it should be noted that in three of the past four years the winner of the VES' top prize did go on to win the Oscar. The exception was in 2004 when the VES recognized "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and the Academy honored "Spider-Man 2."

An Oscar win for "Pirates" would end a dry spell for pioneering VFX house Industrial Light + Magic. The company last brought home a VFX Academy Award when "Forrest Gump" won the category in 1994. In recent years, the category has been competitive with the emergence of such companies as Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks and WETA Digital.

ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll -- who was honored with the "Pirates" VES win for VFX along with Jill Brooks, Hal Hickel and Charlie Gibson -- said that central to the success of the VFX in "Pirates" was the performance of the CG Davy Jones and crew. ILM used a new technique -- iMoCap -- that allows the effects team to shoot the actors' performances for the CG characters on set during the actual shoot, rather than separately on a motion-capture stage.

In other categories, "Cars" took home the trophy for animated character in an animated motion picture, "Casino Royale" was recognized for special effects in a motion picture and "Flags of Our Fathers" was honored for supporting visual effects in a motion picture.

In television, an episode of Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" was honored for visual effects in a broadcast series, and TNT's "Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Battleground" was recognized for visual effects in a broadcast miniseries, movie or special. An episode of NBC's "ER" topped the category for supporting visual effects in a broadcast program.

The VES presented 21 awards for work in features, television, commercials, music videos and video games on Sunday at the Kodak Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. The society presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to VFX pioneer Dennis Muren.

A complete list of winners follows.

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
John Knoll
Jill Brooks
Hal Hickel
Charlie Gibson

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture
"Flags of Our Fathers"
Michael Owens
Matthew Butler
Bryan Grill
Julian Levi

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special   
"Nightmares and Dreamscapes - Battleground"
Eric Grenaudier
Sam Nicholson
Mark Spatny
Adalberto Lopez

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Battlestar Galactica - Episode 303b "Exodus"
Gary Hutzel
Michael Gibson
Alec McClymont
Brenda Campbell

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
ER - "Scoop and Run"
Sam Nicholson
Scott Ramsey
Adam Ealovega
Anthony Ocampo

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Travelers "Snowball"
Dan Lemmon
Eileen Moran
R. Christopher White
Paul Story

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video
U2 and Green Day "The Saints are Coming"
Matt Winkel
Ben Looram
Wayne England
Graham Fyffe

Best Single Visual Effect of the Year
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"-Flying Dutchman Sequence
John Knoll
Ned Gorman
Jakub Pistecky
Tom Fejes

Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game
"Fight Night Round 3" for PS3
Christopher Sjoholm
Kat Kelly Hayduk
Rob Hilson
Celia Jepson

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
"Roving Mars"
Alan Markowitz
Dan Maas
Jeremy Nicolaides
Johnathan Banta

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" Davy Jones
Steve Walton
Jung-Seung Hong
Marc Chu
James Tooley

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture
"Cars" - Mater
Larry The Cable Guy
Mike Krummhoefener
Tom Sanocki
Nancy Kato

Outstanding Animated Character in a    Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
Geico "Chat"
David Hulin
Seth Gollub
Andy Walker
Jenny Bichsel

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Chris Stoski
Susumu Yukuhiro
Jack Mongovan
Greg Salter

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
"Elisabeth" Episode 1
Dave Bowman
Jimmy Kidell
Russell Horth
Gurel Mehmet

Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Bruce Holcomb
Ron Woodall
Charlie Bailey
Carl Miller

Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Broadcast Program
Battlestar Galactica - Season 2, Episode 218 "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"
Steve Graves
Jose Perez
Mark Shimer
Chris Zapara

Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Eddie Pasquarello
Francois Lambert
Jeff Sutherland
Tory Mercer

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program, Commercial, or Music Video
Travelers "Snowball"
Laure Lacroix
Lyse Beck
Steve McGillen
Matt Holland

Outstanding Special Effects in a Motion Picture
"Casino Royale"
Chris Corbould
Peter Notley
Ian Lowe
Roy Quinn
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