Rule Nineteen: Special Rules for the Short Film Awards

Please note: Failure to follow all instructions could result in disqualification.

  1. DEFINITIONS
    1. A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.
    2. This excludes from consideration such works as:
      1. previews and advertising films
      2. sequences from feature-length films such as credit sequences
      3. unaired episodes of established TV series
      4. unsold TV series pilots
  2. CATEGORIES

    An award shall be given for the best achievement in each of two categories.

    1. Animated Short Film
      An animated film is created by using a frame-by-frame technique, and usually falls into one of the two general fields of animation: character or abstract.  Some of the techniques of animating films include cel animation, computer animation, stop-motion, clay animation, pixilation, cutouts, pins, camera multiple pass imagery, kaleidoscopic effects, and drawing on the film frame itself.  Documentary short subjects that are animated may be submitted in either the Animated Short Film category or the Documentary Short Subject category, but not both.
    2. Live Action Short Film
      A live action film uses live action techniques as the basic medium of entertainment.  Documentary short subjects will not be accepted in the live action category. 
  3. ELIGIBILITY
    1. To be eligible for award consideration for the 87th Awards year, a short film must fulfill one of the following qualifying criteria between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014.  This qualification must take place within two years of the film’s completion date:
      1. The picture must have been publicly exhibited for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County for a run of at least three consecutive days with at least two screenings a day prior to public exhibition or distribution by any nontheatrical means.

        All eligible motion pictures must be publicly exhibited using 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24- or 48- frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Image Characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound file formats suitable for exhibition in commercial Digital Cinema sites. 

        The audio in a typical Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is typically 5.1 or 7.1 channels of discrete audio and these are the preferred audio configurations. The minimum for a non-mono configuration of the audio shall be three channels as Left, Center, Right (a Left/Right configuration is not acceptable in a theatrical environment).

        The audio data shall be formatted in conformance with ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Characteristics and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling.

        Student films cannot qualify with a theatrical release.

      2. OR

      3. The film must have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival, as specified in the Short Film Qualifying Festival List, regardless of any prior public exhibition or distribution by nontheatrical means.  Proof of the award must be submitted with the entry.  The Short Film Qualifying Festival List is available at www.oscars.org or may be obtained from the Academy.
      4. OR

      5. The film must have won a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal award in the Academy’s 2014 Student Academy Awards competition in the Animation, Narrative, Alternative, or Foreign Film category.  Winners in the Documentary category are not eligible.

      All films must be submitted in a standard theatrical exhibition aspect ratio, in formats currently accepted by the Academy (see Paragraph III.A.1 above), no matter which other formats may have been used during their theatrical run or festival screening.  Producers may provide screenings of films in specialized formats for Academy members, but attendance at such screenings is not required for voting purposes.

    2. A short film qualifying under Paragraph III.A.1 above may not be exhibited publicly or distributed anywhere in any nontheatrical form until after its Los Angeles theatrical release.
      Nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution includes but is not limited to:
      • Broadcast and cable television
      • PPV/VOD
      • DVD distribution
      • Internet transmission
      Excerpts of the film totaling no more than ten percent of its running time are exempted from this rule.  Films qualifying under Paragraph III.A.2 or III.A.3 above are exempted from this rule.
  4. SUBMISSION
    1. Short films must be submitted to the Academy on 35mm or 70mm film, or as a DCP formatted according to the digital qualification standards described in Paragraph III.A.1 above.  Encrypted films will not be accepted.  Formats requiring special technical presentation that meet the technical specifications above will be given consideration if made available for Academy voting screenings in Los Angeles County.
    2. The print or DCP of the short film submitted for Academy Awards consideration must be identical in content and length to the print or DCP that qualified.
    3. Dialogue or narration must be substantially in English or the film must have English-language subtitles.
    4. Prints or DCPs should be marked “Short Film Entry” and shipped prepaid to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  Prints or DCPs submitted will be retained by the Academy throughout the voting process.
    5. The deadline for receiving the entry form, all required materials and film print or DCP is 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, October 1, 2014.  Foreign entries also must comply with this rule.
    6. If a short film advances to the second round of voting, an additional film print or DCP must be received by the Academy by 5p.m. PT five business days after the shortlist is announced.  If a DCP was submitted, a second DCP must be sent to the Academy.  If a film print was submitted, a second print of the picture must be sent to the Academy.  In addition, five Region 0/NTSC DVDs of the shortlisted film must be submitted for Academy records.  Shortlisted films must have the necessary clearances for commercial theatrical exhibition.  Festival clearances are not sufficient.
    7. The Academy will retain for its archives one film print or DCP and DVDs of every short film receiving a nomination for final balloting.  The Academy will have the right, but not the obligation to create a preservation copy of the picture at its own expense.  All pictures that are not nominated will be returned at Academy expense.  By submitting a film, the filmmaker agrees that the Academy has the right to make copies and distribute them for voting purposes only.
    8. The recipient of the statuette will be the individual most directly responsible for the concept and the creative execution of the film.  In the event that more than one individual has been directly and importantly involved in creative decisions, a second statuette may be awarded.  However, no more than two awards will be given to a winning production.  Companies or organized groups shall not receive nominations or awards.
    9. No short film may be submitted more than once for Academy Awards consideration.  A short film must be submitted in the same Awards year in which it qualifies.
  5. VOTING
    1. Excellence of the entries shall be judged on the basis of originality, entertainment and production quality without regard to cost of production or subject matter.
    2. A reviewing process will take place, in which volunteer active and life members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch will view all motion pictures entered and mark all entries 10, 9, 8, 7, or 6 with the guidelines of 10 (excellent), 8 (good), 7 (fair) or 6 (poor).  In each category not more than ten pictures receiving the highest average numerical scores above 7.5 shall be considered further.  In the event that fewer than six pictures receive average numerical scores above 7.5, those with the next highest average numerical scores shall be included until six pictures are selected.
    3. To determine nominations, all entries selected during the reviewing process shall be screened by the Branch Nominating Committee consisting of all active and life members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch.  A member must see all shortlisted films for the ballot to be counted.  Those members of the branch who participated in the reviewing process and who viewed all of the selected pictures, in either or both categories, will receive mail ballots.  The running order of the films in each category shall be determined by lot.  The 10-to-6 point system will be used for voting at this screening.  Those films receiving an average score of 7.5 or more shall be eligible for nomination.  However, there may be not more than five nor fewer than three nominations in each category.
    4. Final voting for the Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film awards shall be restricted to active and life members of the Academy who have viewed all of the nominated short films.  Academy members may vote for only one film in each of the two categories. 
  6. ADVERTISING AND PUBLICITY RESTRICTIONS

    Only short films that receive nominations or Academy Awards may refer to their Academy endorsements in advertising and publicity materials.  A film that is selected for the shortlist may not identify itself as an “Academy Award finalist,” “Academy Award shortlist film” or the like except when it appears in a program consisting entirely of such films.

Digital Qualifications and Submission Rules

Most of the Academy's Award categories allow for eligibility for award consideration by means of digital presentation, as outlined in "Rule Two—Eligibility" in the Academy's "Rules for Distinguished Achievements."

Here is the language (in bold type) in Rule Two that applies to digital presentation:

"All eligible motion pictures must be publicly exhibited using 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24- or 48- frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master—Image Characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound file formats suitable for exhibition in commercial Digital Cinema sites.

The audio in a typical Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is typically 5.1 or 7.1 channels of discrete audio and these are the preferred audio configurations. The minimum for a non-mono configuration of the audio shall be three channels as Left, Center, Right (a Left/Right configuration is not acceptable in a theatrical environment).

The audio data shall be formatted in conformance with ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Characteristics and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling.

What does this mean for filmmakers?

The first thing that you will need is what is now called a Digital Cinema Package, commonly abbreviated as DCP. The SMPTE and ISO/IEC documents mentioned in the general rule are international standards that define the technical characteristics of the DCP. As a practical matter, you can rely on specialized digital cinema mastering facilities to provide you with a DCP that will comply with these standards. Your original image capture can be whatever you want (film, digital video, CGI, and so on), but ultimately you will need individual, "one per frame" digital image files for the compression step of the mastering process.

Once you choose a mastering facility, you may discuss with them the most efficient and cost-effective method of conversion for your project. Your finished DCP will be provided to you on a computer Linux-formatted HDD (hard disk drive)—typically a USB drive or preferably a universal 7200 rpm SATA drive in a CRU drive carrier.

OK. I have a DCP. What next?

For your qualification screenings, as defined in Rule Two and the special rules for the various categories, you will need to find a commercial theater equipped with a digital cinema projector that meets the requirements outlined in Rule Two, as well as a digital cinema server that will play the SMPTE DCP you have received from your mastering facility.

In practice, there are only two types of DCI-compliant digital cinema projectors that are acceptable for your qualification screenings. The first type uses DLP Digital Cinema technology licensed by Texas Instruments to projector manufacturers. Be sure your cinema has a true DLP Digital Cinema projector, one that has a pixel count of 2048 x 1080, and not one of the industrial grade DLP projectors that typically have pixel counts of 1920 x 1024 with reduced color and other image performance characteristics. The second type of projector is the Sony SXRD Ultra HiRes Cinema "4K" series intended for digital cinema applications.

There are several companies who manufacture digital cinema servers that meet the applicable SMPTE specifications, and will play DCPs that are mastered according to these specifications.

These companies include:

  • Dolby Laboratories
  • Doremi Labs
  • GDC
  • DVS
Be sure the server system in your cinema can play a SMPTE DCP as defined in Rule Two above.
If you are not sure, you may confirm with the manufacturer that the server you plan to use is "compliant" with the applicable SMPTE digital cinema specifications.

I've heard about encrypted DCPs and KDMs. What do these terms mean for me?

ENCRYPTED DCPS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED! NO KDM KEYS.

I've completed my qualification screenings. What do I need to submit to the Academy?

You will need to submit a copy of your DCP, as supplied to you by your mastering facility. As noted above, this will be a computer hard drive—typically a native SATA drive or a much-slower-to-load USB drive.

The encoding format of your DCP should be JPEG2K/Interop.
The image size for a "Flat" 1.85 aspect ratio should be 1998 x 1080.
For a 2.39 "Scope" aspect ratio, image size should be 2048 x 858.
Please specify the Target Color Gamut Data (TCGD). We prefer X'Y'Z'

** Your DCP should be pre-tested before arriving here and must be able to be played on a Dolby Showplayer DSP 100.

** Please include only one version of one film per hard drive.

Where can I find a mastering facility to make my DCP?

There are DCP mastering facilities worldwide. Please contact us for facilities in the Los Angeles area who can convert your submission to that of a legal DCP package playable on standard theater playout equipment.

** Please note that the Academy is not responsible for fixing badly transferred data.

Note: Facilities owning a DVS "Clipster" or "Fuze" product can create/author legal DCPs without encryption if enhanced with the DCP package option.

Note: There is also a non-encrypted DCP creation program that runs on Final Cut Pro 7 from Doremi Labs.
http://www.doremilabs.com/products/cinema-products/final-cut-pro-plug-in/

Remember, Digital content on a hard drive is fragile! Please ship carefully!

For more info on DCI specifications and the state of the Digital Cinema progress please go to:
http://www.dcimovies.com

And for up to date Digital Cinema goings on go to: 
www.dcinematoday.com


Definition of a Commercial Venue

To be considered a commercial motion picture venue for Academy Awards purposes, a theater must meet the following criteria:

  1. Regularly show new releases
  2. Charge admission
  3. Have regular non-specialized programming open to the general public
  4. Exploit and market films through regular listings and advertising
  5. Generally run films for seven consecutive days, with multiple showings daily
  1. Can my film play on television, cable, pay per view, video on demand, the Internet, on airlines or in other similar venues and still be eligible for Academy Award consideration?
    Yes, but not until after the film's Los Angeles theatrical release or after it receives its qualifying festival award or Student Academy Award.
  2. But I want to show part of my film on the Internet to raise money.
    You may show excerpts of the film totaling up to ten percent of the film's total running time.
  3. My film was broadcast on television in a foreign country for one night before it opened theatrically in the U.S. Is it still eligible?
    No. A television broadcast of any kind anywhere in the world that takes place before a short film wins its qualifying award or before its theatrical release disqualifies it from Awards consideration.
  4. I want to submit a 3-D short. Will the Academy play it in 3-D?
    Yes. However it must be Dolby 3-D.
  5. My assistant filled out the form and made some mistakes. Will you make the changes?
    It is your responsibility as the filmmaker to make sure that all information on the entry form is accurate. When you sign the entry form, you are agreeing that the information on the form is correct.
  6. I have trouble writing a synopsis. Any tips?
    A synopsis should convey the film's story in two to three sentences. It should include the protagonist, antagonist and a significant conflict. It may also indicate setting, time period and overall tone (i.e., violent, romantic, comic, horrific, etc.). Do not tell us how great the film is, how many people love it, or how it has changed film history.
  7. My film was shot on HD-Cam and it looks great. Can I submit it that way?
    No. Only a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) meets our digital requirements.
  8. My film is a combination of live action and animation. Which category should I choose?
    That is up to you. You know your film better than anyone and are the best person to determine if animation or live action predominates.
  9. I am screening my film in a theater for three days in order to qualify it for Awards consideration. Will my film be eligible if I screen it for three days in a museum? How about a theater that exclusively presents revivals and special events?
    In order to be eligible for Awards consideration, a film must play in a commercial motion picture theater. Please see the definition of a commercial venue posted on this website. Museums, universities and special events venues are not considered commercial venues for Awards qualification purposes.
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