SciTech Awards: Honoree Curtis Clark Highlights American Society of Cinematographers' "Significant Success"

Clark received the John A. Bonner Medal and the makers of nine technologies including Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and ILM's John Knoll were also honored.
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Curtis Clark

Cinematographer Curtis Clark began chairing an American Society of Cinematographers' technology committee, now called the Motion Imaging Technology Council, 16 years ago, and for his work and the Council's progress, he was honored Saturday with the John A. Bonner Medal for service during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Technical Awards presentation and dinner at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

The Academy also honored nine technical achievements, represented by 27 individual award recipients, including Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and ILM's John Knoll. Said host David Oyelowo: “It’s easy to get wrapped up in awards season, but the work you do to advance the art and science is invaluable and often unrecognized. Not tonight.”

Accepting his medal, Clark (The Draughtsman's Contract) thanked all those that have participated in the ASC Council's initiatives. "During the past 16 years we have achieved significant success and forged a formidable reputation as an important forum that focuses on the ways that digital imaging technologies impact our traditional cinematographic art form and how they can best serve the filmmaker’s creative intent," he said.

Council initiatives have included the development of the ASC Color Decision List, a format for communicating color information that received an AMPAS Technical Achievement Award in 2014. ASC currently collaborates with AMPAS on the continued development and rollout of the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), a cross-platform color management system. Clark's honor was also a fitting tribute to the ASC, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

During the evening, Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques) were presented to David Simons, Daniel Wilk, James Acquavella, Michael Natkin and David Cotter for Adobe After Effects; Oscar-winning VFX supervisor John Knoll, Thomas Knoll and Mark Hamburg for Adobe Photoshop; and Pixar's Catmull, Tony DeRose and Jos Stam for their subdivision surfaces science.

“Rapidly changing technology is enabling new opportunities [in animation and entertainment],” Catmull, who recently retired, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Unlike the early days when technology was alien to the industry, today there is incredible depth and breadth of technical expertise in animation. There is also a good relationship with artists who want to push the technology in new directions.”

Of where the industry is heading, he added, "Our reality is that audiences have changing expectations resulting from new technology (i.e. streaming). We need the understanding of technology to be in the DNA of the studios. However, through every change in business model, the one constant is that high-quality content is the big driver."

The recipients of this year's Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates) were Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds for the PIX System for distributing media (David Fincher, the first director to use the developing system, was a guest for the presentation); Per-Anders Edwards for the MoGraph toolset in motion graphics software Cinema 4D; and Paul Miller and Marco Paolini for their work on the Silhouette rotoscope and paint system.

Technical Achievement Awards also were presented to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins and Wan-Chun Ma for the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method; Xueming Yu for the related Light Stage X capture system; Thabo Beeler, Derek Bradley, Bernd Bickel and Markus Gross for the Medusa performance capture system offered at ILM (and recently used to create Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War); and Charles Loop for his subdivision surfaces research.