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. The film won six trophies, including the top prize for outstanding 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 can be found at www.holly woodreporter.com.
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