While much of the world will be focusing on the creative talents up for Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, the technical geniuses behind the cameras were honored for their contributions at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on February 12, at the Beverly Wilshire. Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei hosted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards, presenting 11 awards to 23 individual recipients during the evening. . The event is not televised, although portions will be included in the Oscar presentation at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
Unlike other Academy Awards to be presented this year, achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures and need not have been developed and introduced during 2010.
Denny Clairmont, one of the industry’s premier motion picture camera technologists, received the A. Bonner Medal of Commendation by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which did not award the medal in 2010). Named in honor of the late director of special projects at Warner Hollywood Studios, the John A. Bonner Medal is awarded for “outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”
In 1976 Clairmont, along with his brother Terry, co-founded Clairmont Camera, a camera rental company that has grown into one of the largest in the world. In facilitating the exchange of ideas between camera users and manufacturers, Clairmont Camera has helped to bring new features and products into the marketplace. The company also assists student filmmakers by providing advice and equipment packages for use on thesis films.
“For more than three decades Denny has been at the forefront of camera technology, helping cinematographers, camera assistants and film students with evolving technologies and related equipment,” said Academy President Tom Sherak. “His dedication to his craft and service to the Academy are well-known throughout the industry.”
A member of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee since 1993, Clairmont has served for several years on that and numerous other subcommittees.
The winners of the academy’s Scientific and Engineering Awards awarded the Academy Plaque, are:
• Dr. Mark Sagar for his early and continuing development of influential facial motion retargeting solutions. Dr. Sagar’s work led to a method for transforming facial motion capture data into an expression-based, editable character animation system that has been used in motion pictures with a high volume of digital characters. Sagar won a plaque last year as well.
• Mark Noel for the design, engineering, and development, and to John Frazier for his contributions to the design and safety features, of the NAC Servo Winch System. The NAC System allows full-size cars, aircraft and other heavy props to be flown on wires with unprecedented freedom of motion and a high degree of safety, on-set and in real time. The intuitive control system responds to the motion of the operator’s hand, permitting the recording and playback of all axes of motion simultaneously, which may be edited and refined for playback in subsequent takes.
• James Rodnunsky, Alex MacDonald and Mark Chapman for the development of the Cablecam 3-D volumetric suspended cable camera technologies. The evolution of the Cablecam technology has made it possible to move a camera safely and accurately anywhere through a three-dimensional space.
• Tim Drnec, Ben Britten Smith and Matt Davis for the development of the Spydercam 3D volumetric suspended cable camera technologies. The evolution of the Spydercam technology has made it possible to move a camera safely and accurately anywhere through a three-dimensional space.
The winners of the academy’s Technical Achievement Award, for which they received an Academy Certificate, are:
• Greg Ercolano for the design and engineering of a series of software systems culminating in the Rush render queue management system. Mr. Ercolano’s work has been influential across the industry, and has enabled scalable render farms at numerous studios.
• David M. Laur for the development of the Alfred render queue management system. This system was the first robust, scalable, widely adopted commercial solution for queue management in the motion picture industry. Its user interface and support for multi-machine assignment influenced the design of modern day queue management tools.
• Chris Allen, Gautham Krishnamurti, Mark A. Brown and Lance Kimes for the development of Queue, a robust, scalable approach to render queue management. Queue was one of the first systems that allowed for statistical analysis and process introspection, providing a framework for the efficient use of render farms.
• Florian Kainz for the design and development of the robust, highly scalable distributed architecture of the ObaQ render queue management system. ObaQ has scaled from managing a few hundred processors in 1997 to many thousands today, with minimal changes to the original design.
• Eric Tabellion and Arnauld Lamorlette for the creation of a computer graphics bounce lighting methodology that is practical at feature film scale. This important step in the evolution of global illumination techniques first used on the motion picture “Shrek 2,” was shared with the industry in their technical paper “An Approximate Global Illumination System for Computer Generated Films.”
• Tony Clark, Alan Rogers, Neil Wilson and Rory McGregor for the software design and continued development of cineSync, a tool for remote collaboration and review of visual effects. Easy to use, cineSync has become a widely accepted solution for remote production collaboration.
Tomei made it through a difficult evening of pronouncing technical verbiage, joining a roster of screen beauties that have emceed this part of the Oscars over the years. Last year, Elizabeth Banks presided and before that Jessical Biel (2008) Jessica Alba (2007), Maggie Gyllenhaal (2006), Rachel McAdams (2005), Scarlett Johansson (2004), Jennifer Garner (2003), Kate Hudson (2002), Charlize Theron (2001), Renee Zellweger (2000) and Salma Hayek (1999).
Tomei won a Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1992 for her performance in “My Cousin Vinny.” She has since received nominations in the category for her roles in “In the Bedroom” (2001) and “The Wrestler” (2008). Tomei will next be seen in the features “The Lincoln Lawyer,” with Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” with Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and “The Ides of March” with George Clooney, Gosling and Paul Giamatti.
For two years running now, the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee has not awarded an Oscar statuette for the Gordon E. Sawyer Award. It was last awarded in 2009 to Ed Catmull, a computer scientist, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, and president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios