Lens-Maker Cooke Receives SciTech Oscar

Oscar Statuette Generic Art - H 2013
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Oscar Statuette Generic Art - H 2013

Cooke Optics—a UK-based lens maker founded in 1886—received an Academy Award of Merit for “continuing innovation” in its motion picture camera lenses. The Oscar statuette was presented at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards presentation and dinner, Saturday at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Also during the evening, three teams of innovators received Scientific and Engineering Awards (an Academy Plaque), five teams were honored with Technical Achievement Awards (an Academy Certificate), and visual effects supervisor and director of photography Bill Taylor was awarded the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for service to the Academy.

Kicking off the ceremony, Academy president Hawk Koch told the SciTech audience “Movies wouldn’t be movies without [you] and the people you work with."

Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, both of whom are reprising their Star Trek roles in the upcoming sequel, Star Trek into Darkness, hosted the evening. A clip from Star Trek Into Darkness was featured during the ceremony.

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Les Zellan, chairman and owner of Cooke Optics, accepted the Oscar statuette on behalf of his company, whose lenses have been used to shoot many notable Hollywood titles from Wings—which was honored for “Outstanding Picture” at the first Academy Awards in 1929—to Hugo, which a year ago won the Oscar for cinematography.

Its popular lenses produce what is commonly referred to as the "Cooke Look.”

“The Cooke look, if it is anything, is a personality,” Zellan said, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter. “It is a warm look and a very dimensional look.”

Accepting the Bonner Medal from Scitech Awards committee chair Richard Edlund, Taylor paid a heartfelt tribute to one of his mentors, special effects inventor and engineer Petro Vlahos, who “created the whole of composite photography as we know it.”

Receiving Scientific and Engineering Awards during the ceremony were Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling for the development of the Tissue character simulation framework, which was developed at Weta Digital and has been used for the creation of such creatures as Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; Dr. Philip McLauchlan, Allan Jaenicke, John–Paul Smith and Ross Shain for the creation of the Mocha planar tracking and rotoscoping software at Imagineer Systems; and Joe Murtha, William Frederick and Jim Markland of Anton/Bauer for the Cine VCLX portable power system which gives extended run times to digital cinema cameras and other gear.

Technical Achievement Awards honorees were J.P. Lewis, Matt Cordner and Nickson Fong for the invention and publication of the Pose Space Deformation technique; Lawrence Kesteloot, Drew Olbrich and Daniel Wexler for the creation of the Light system for CG lighting at PDI/DreamWorks, which has been used on the company's movies since 1998's Antz; Steve LaVietes, Brian Hall and Jeremy Selan for the creation of the Katana CG scene management and lighting software at Sony Pictures Imageworks, used on films since Surf's Up (and now offered through software developer The Foundry); Theodore Kim, Nils Thuerey, Markus Gross and Doug James for the Wavelet Turbulence software; and Richard Mall for the Matthews Max Menace Arm.

“We have the gamut between the Menace arm and the ultra algorithmic world, but at the same time we are honoring Cooke Optics for 120 year of making lenses for the movies business,” said Edlund. “I think that is a great thing.”

During his remarks, Koch praised the Academy's Science and Technology Council's recent accomplishments, including the development of the Academy Color Encoding Specification (ACES) color management architecture and translation of its “Digital Dilemma” report on movie preservation into a fourth language, Korean.