SciTech Awards: Chris Nolan Salutes Those Who 'Turned Silver and Plastic Into Dreams'

An Oscar honoring the men and women who built and operated film laboratories will be on display at AMPAS' Samuel Goldwyn Theater and then moved to the Academy Museum when it opens.
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Saluting the men and women that “turned silver and plastic into dreams,” Christopher Nolan presented an Academy Award of Merit – an Oscar Statuette – honoring “all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry,” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.

Nolan --who is passionate about film, and has used it on all of his movie’s including the upcoming Interstellar--noted that this unprecedented award would “serve as a permanent reminder of the fine work of these men and women. This recognizes the first 100 years [of motion pictures]. I’m very excited about the next 100 years.”

The Oscar will initially be displayed in the lobby of the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, and then moved to the Academy Museum when it is completed.

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“This year may be the last full year that the movie labs are going to be running,” Richard Edlund, Academy Award-winning visual effects artist and Scientific and Technical Awards committee chair, said, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. “Paramount has said that they are not going to release on film anymore, Fox is going to follow very soon. Over 90 percent of the theaters in America are already digital. Those who worked in the labs made movies possible. They are the unsung heroes. We decided to give a blanket award so all of those people who worked in labs in the last 100 years can feel they earned an Oscar.”

Also Saturday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, visual effects supervisor and director of photography Peter W. Anderson received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, an Oscar Statuette, for his technical contributions; postproduction and distribution executive Charles “Tad” Marburg was awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for service to the Academy; four technologies were honored with Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques); and 14 technologies received Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates).

Anderson and Marburg received standing ovations and shared a similar message. “One of the most interesting aspects of the industry is the coexistence of science and the art. To the world at large, they appear to be two disparate disciplines. However, I don’t think they are unrelated at all, " said Marburg, who currently serves as vp of operations for the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition.

“Without the art what would the science be, without the science, what would the art be,” said Anderson, who was presented his award by Douglas Trumbull.

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With the large number of awards, honorees tried to keep their acceptance speeches short. “Please wrap up?” quipped Joshua Pines as he approached the podium to  accept a Technical Achievement Award for the American Society of Cinematographers Color Decision List (ASC CDL), technology developed to provide faithful interchange of color corrections across different color correction systems. This award was presented to the ASC Technology Committee’s Pines, David Reisner, Lou Levinson, David Register and committee chair Curtis Clark, who thanked the entire committee, noting that the CDL “represents the best of what the committee is all about.”

In explaining the goal of the ASC CDL, Pines got a big laugh when he said, “cinematographers lamented no longer having a mechanism to accurately and repeatedly describe their creative looks, as things went downhill, I mean as things went digital."

As these honorees left the stage, Kristen Bell, who co-hosted with Michael B. Jordan said, “I might want to quit acting and work with those guys; they are so cool.”

Scientific and Engineering Awards were presented for technologies including ZBrush software for multi-resolution sculpting of digital models. Accepting the award, Ofer Alon said, “I have never tweeted in my life, but this would be a reason to do so.”

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Also receiving Scientific and Engineering Awards were Andre Gauthier, Benoit Sevigny, Yves Boudreault and Robert Lanciault for FiLMBOX (originally developed at Kaydara), the foundation of Autodesk’s MotionBuilder, which is widely used in virtual production;  Eric Veach, for his foundational research on efficient Monte Carlo path tracing for image synthesis; and Emmanuel Prévinaire, Jan Sperling, Etienne Brandt and Tony Postiau for the Flying-Cam SARAH 3.0 battery-powered, radio-controlled, miniature helicopter camera system.

Teams representing developments at Industrial Light & Magic received the company's 25th and 26th Academy Awards for SciTech advancements. Accepting Technical Achievement Awards were Olivier Maury, Ian Sachs and Dan Piponi, who were honored for the ILM Plume system that simulates and renders fire, smoke and explosions; and Florian Kainz, Jeffery Yost, Philip Hubbard and Jim Hourihan for ILM’s Zeno application framework.

Technical Achievement Awards were also presented to Peter Huang, Chris Perry, Hans Rijpkema and Joe Mancewicz for the Voodoo application framework used at Rhythm & Hues. Accepting for this development, the recipients thanked the hundreds that they have worked with at R&H, and Ripkema saluted company founder John Hughes “who created this excellent environment that instills in us a community spirit.”

Technical Achievement Awards were additionally awarded to Martin Hill, Jon Allitt and Nick McKenzie, for the creation of the spherical harmonics-based efficient lighting system at Weta Digital; Ronald D. Henderson, for the FLUX gas simulation system, developed at DreamWorks Animation; Andrew Camenisch, David Cardwell, Tibor Madjar, Csaba Kohegyi and Imre Major for Mudbox software (now part of Autodesk); Jeremy Selan for the OpenColorIO color management framework, developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Recipients also included Matt Pharr, Greg Humphreys and Pat Hanrahan for the concepts behind physically based rendering, as shared in their book Physically Based Rendering; Peter Hillman for deep compositing advancements; Colin Doncaster, Johannes Saam, Areito Echevarria, Janne Kontkanen and Chris Cooper for deep compositing advancements; Thomas Lokovic and Eric Veach for deep shadowing technology concepts; Gifford Hooper and Philip George of HoverCam for the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system; and John Frazier, Chuck Gaspar and Clay Pinney for the Pneumatic Car Flipper.

Twitter: @ CGinLA