Individuals, Technologies Honored at Sci-Tech Academy Awards

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A pair of suspended cable camera technologies and several render queue management systems were among the honorees at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual Scientific and Technical Awards presentation Saturday in Beverly Hills. Marisa Tomei hosted the event.

The Academy recognized four technologies with Scientific and Engineering Awards and five with Technical Achievement Awards. Additionally, Denny Clairmont was awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation. Accepting the honor, Clairmont thanked his coworkers and his family, and paid tribute to his late brother Terry, "He encouraged me...he is a very important part of this." 

The brothers co-founded Clairmont Camera in 1976; today the company is among the world's largest camera rental companies. In facilitating the exchange of ideas between camera users and manufacturers, Clairmont Camera has helped to bring new features and products into the marketplace.
Scientific and Engineering Awards, presented as Academy Plaques, were given to Dr. Mark Sagar, for development of a facial motion retargeting technique; Mark Noel and John Frazier for the NAC Servo Winch system; Tim Drnec, Ben Britten Smith and Matt Davis for the development of the Spydercam 3D volumetric suspended cable camera technologies; and James RodnunskyAlex MacDonald and Mark Chapman for the Cablecam 3D volumetric suspended cable camera technologies. Rodnunsky received a standing ovation after his colleagues revealed on stage that he was battling cancer.
The Cablecam and Spydercam -- think of the cameras suspended on wires that you might see at a sporting event -- previously received Technical Achievement Awards, presented as Academy Certificates, but this year were upgraded to Academy Plaques. "They keep working on them and the systems keep getting better; there are both ubiquitous systems," explained Awards Committee chair Richard Edlund.
This year, Technical Achievement Awards went to Greg Ercolano for software used in the Rush render queue management system; David M. Laur for the Alfred render queue management system; Chris Allen, Gautham Krishnamurti, Mark A. Brown and Lance Kimes for render queue management; Florian Kainz for the ObaQ render queue management system; Eric Tabellion and Arnauld Lamorlette for computer graphics bounce lighting methodology; and Tony Clark, Alan Rogers, Neil Wilson and Rory McGregor for cineSync, a tool for remote collaboration and review of visual effects.
Meanwhile, Edlund discussed the reason why -- despite the buzz -- a digital camera has yet to receive a SciTech Award. "The committee feels the yardstick is film," Edlund told The Hollywood Reporter. "The reason that the Academy has not reached out and given an award to a digital camera is because they are 2K cameras. They don't measure up to film, and film is the bar. It seemed to me that the digital camera that comes out being the ubiquitous camera is going to be a 4K camera."
AMPAS president Tom Sherak introduced a new distinction at the ceremony: science fellow. Richard GlickmanTak Miyagishima and Donald Rogers are the inaugural fellows.
Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation will be incorporated into the 83rd Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.