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'Apes,' 'Hugo,' 'Transformers 3' Win Two Categories Each at VES Awards

“Rango” takes four trophies in categories for animated films.

The Eyes Have It
Twentieth Century Fox

Three Oscar contenders in the visual effects category -- Hugo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Dark of the Moon -- took home two awards each in live-action feature categories at the 10th annual Visual Effects Society Awards, held Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton. Rango won the most trophies, earning four awards in the animated feature competitions.

Apes, with VFX led by Weta Digital, won the category of outstanding visual effects in a visual effects-driven feature, topping a category that included Transformers 3, Captain America: The First Avenger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Apes also won the animated character category for Caesar, the performance capture-based ape that was played by Andy Serkis.

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Oscar contender Hugo won the competition for outstanding supporting visual effects, which is awarded where the work is intended to be more “invisible” rather than “visual effects driven.” It also was recognized in the virtual cinematography category. Pixomondo was the primary VFX house.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with VFX work led by Industrial Light & Magic, was honored for models and created environment.

In the previous nine years that the VES Awards were handed out, the winner of the category for outstanding visual effects in a visual effects driven feature has gone on to win the Oscar in every year but two. In 2005, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban won the VES Award and Spider-Man 2 claimed in the Oscar. In 2008, The Golden Compass collected the Academy Award even though the first Transformers earned the VES Award.

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At this year’s VES Awards, Rango, ILM's first animated film, won four awards in animated feature categories including outstanding visual effects, animated character (Rango), created environment and virtual cinematography.

ILM had a big night, winning seven trophies including four for Rango; two for VFX in Transformers 3 and one for Transformers the Ride. “To be recognized for an animated feature, VFX and in ride films  was such an honor,” ILM president and GM Lynwen Brennan said following the ceremony. Asked if ILM would do another animated film, she responded, “I certainly hope so.”

In television, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones each garnered two awards. The VES Awards additionally recognized visual effects in commercials, special venues and video games.

Stan Lee received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull received the Georges Méliès Award during the ceremony.

In his opening remarks, VES executive director Eric Roth addressed the state of the industry.

Calling visual effects “the biggest movie star in the entire world,” he said, “visual effects, globally, are in transition. Studios are looking at how they can get work done for the least cost, taking advantage of tax incentives and low wage rates wherever they can. (VFX) facilities need to continually evaluate their business models in order to keep their doors open, and artists continue to do amazing work though they are not always treated with the level of respect that they should — and are often forced to work overtime for weeks and months on end. That is not really the best way to do business under any model.”

Roth asserted: “VES will continue to work with all parties … and use the collective clout of our membership worldwide to see if it is possible to find win-wins for all parties.”

Patton Oswalt hosted the ceremony.

The winners of the 10th annual VES Awards are: 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Rise of the Planet of the Apes:  Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri, Cyndi Ochs, Kurt Williams

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Hugo:  Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning, Rob Legato, Karen Murphy

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Rango:  Tim Alexander, Hal Hickel, Jacqui Lopez, Katie Lynch

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie, or Special
Inside the Human Body: Phil Dobree, Sophie Orde, Dan Upton

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Terra Nova – Occupation & Resistance:  Kevin Blank, Colin Brady, Adica Manis, Jason Zimmerman

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones - Winter is Coming: Lucy Ainsworth-Taylor, Angela Barson, Ed Bruce, Adam McInnes

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Live Action Commercial
Dior J'adore:  Pascal Giroux, Julien Meesters, Stephane Pivron, Manuel Souillac

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Commercial or Video Game Trailer
Diablo III: The Black Soulstone:  Nicholas S. Carpenter, Graham Cunningham, Chris Thunig, Taka Yasuda

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Transformers the Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle:  Lori Arnold, Yanick Dusseault, Delio Tramontozzi, Jeff White

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Caesar:  Daniel Barrett, Florian Fernandez, Matthew Muntean, Eric Reynolds

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Rango – Rango:  Frank Gravatt, Kevin Martel, Brian Paik, Steve Walton

Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Canal + The Bear:  Laurent Creusot, Guillaume Ho, Olivier Mitonneau, Michal Nauzin

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 155 Wacker Drive:  Giles Hancock, John Hanson, Tom Martinek, Scott Younkin

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Rango - Main Street Dirt:  John Bell, Polly Ing, Martin Murphy, Russell Paul

Outstanding Created Environment in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Game of Thrones - The Icewall:  Markus Kuha, Dante Harbridge Robinson, Damien Mac, Fani Vassiadi

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Hugo:  Martin Chamney, Rob Legato, Adam Watkins, Fabio Zangla

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Rango – The Dirt Saloon:  Colin Benoit, Philippe Rebours, Nelson Sepulveda, Nick Walker

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Gears of War 3 - Dust to Dust:  Niles Heckman, Richard Morton, Vernon Wilbert Jr.

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Driller:  Tim Brakensiek, Kelvin Chu, David Fogler, Rene Garcia

Outstanding Models in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Boardwalk Empire – Georgia Peaches:  Matthew Conner, Eran Dinur, David Reynolds, Szymon Weglarski

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Captain America: The First Avenger – Skinny Steve:  Casey Allen, Trent Claus, Brian Hajek, Cliff Welsh

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Boardwalk Empire - Gimcrack & Bunkum:  Anton Dawson. Eran Dinur, Austin Meyers, David Reynolds

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
a.maize:  Roman Kaelin, Falko Paeper, Florian Wittmann