2010 Scientific and Technical Awards
Awards Given for Significant Industry Accomplishments
Honorees from as far away as France and Australia traveled to Beverly Hills, California for the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards, which are traditionally held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel about two weeks before the Academy Awards ceremony. Technological achievements that have made a notable and lasting impact in the motion picture industry are celebrated each year, and this year eleven achievements were recognized.
One of the first to arrive at the event on Saturday, February 12, was Denny Clairmont, recipient of the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation. This particular award is not necessarily given every year; the medallion is only bestowed when an individual’s accomplishments are deemed particularly worthy. Clairmont, one of the industry’s premier motion picture technologists, has become a familiar name to countless film productions since co-founding Clairmont Camera with his brother Terry, now deceased, in 1976. This camera rental company has since grown into one of the world’s largest and has stayed on the cutting edge of production demands while also helping film students with their projects as well.
Clairmont was greeted by his friend Richard Edlund, a governor of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch and the chair of the Academy’s Science and Technology Awards Committee. The two cheerfully answered questions for the press and conversed in the lobby before the presentations began. And over the next hour, each of the evening’s other honorees arrived in black tie apparel and was presented with a red rose boutonniere before answering questions from reporters.
The host of this year’s event, actress Marisa Tomei, arrived in a striking black and white evening dress. An Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in “My Cousin Vinny” in 1993, Tomei also answered questions for press and posed for photographers with a large Oscar statue in the main entranceway.
After an elegant dinner, Edlund introduced the musical entertainment of the evening, The Backbeats, an a cappella group of young Los Angeles singers who were finalists on the reality competition program “The Sing Off.” The energetic performers won over the crowd with a rousing selection of songs including a Lady Gaga medley, “Love Shack,” “Landslide,” and a rendition of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
Following dessert, the presentation of awards began with Academy President Tom Sherak introducing Tomei, who quipped, “You will hear words out of my mouth that you will never hear me utter again for the rest of my life! Things like ‘robust highly scalable distributed architectures.’ Just never comes up in my normal conversation!”
Awards were divided into two classifications, with certificates presented for Technical Achievement Awards and plaques for Scientific and Engineering Awards. There were six awards in the first classification this year:
Greg Ercolano for the design and engineering of a series of software systems which led to the Rush render queue management system. His 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, which was the first robust, scalable, widely adopted commercial solution for queue management in the industry and an influence on 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 and one of the first systems that allowed for statistical analysis and process introspection.
Florian Kainz, for the design and development of the ObaQ render queue management system, which 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 which impacted the evolution of global illumination techniques, first used on the film "Shrek 2," and which 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 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.
The Scientific and Engineering Awards were presented for four achievements, with nine individual honorees:
Dr. Mark Sagar, whose development of influential facial motion retargeting solutions has impacted the creation of computer animated feature films. Dr. Sagar's work led to a method of transforming facial motion capture data into an expression-based, editable character animation system to create more lifelike digital characters.
Mark Noel, for the design, engineering, and development, and John Frazier, for his contributions to the design and safety features, of the NAC Servo Winch System, which 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.
James Rodnunsky, Alex MacDonald and Mark Chapman, for the development of the Cablecam 3-D volumetric suspended cable camera technologies. Cablecam technological evolution 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, whose evolution made it possible to move a camera safely and accurately anywhere through a three-dimensional space. Unfortunately all three recipients were on a production in Thailand, so the award was accepted by Tomei on their behalf.
The ceremony proved emotional at times, with recipients offering heartfelt thanks to their families and discussing the long processes that led them to their night in the spotlight. Tomei nimbly handled the technical jargon as she presented each of the accomplishments for each recipient, congratulating all of them in her closing and then joking, "Now, could I get a glass of water!" Following the closing remarks, all of the honorees were invited to the stage to pose with Tomei for a group photo.