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- Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievement shall be made by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. Awards may be given for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures. Posthumous awards for achievements in prior years will not be voted in this category.
- The Academy President shall annually appoint outstanding representatives of the motion picture and technical fields to serve on the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. The committee will be dissolved upon the completion of its annual term.
- Awards for scientific and technical achievement may be granted in any of the three following classifications:
- ACADEMY AWARD OF MERIT (Academy Statuette)
For basic achievements which have a definite influence upon the advancement of the industry.
- SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING AWARD (Academy Plaque)
For those achievements which exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the industry.
- TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (Academy Certificate)
For those accomplishments which contribute to the progress of the industry.
- ACADEMY AWARD OF MERIT (Academy Statuette)
- The committee shall endeavor to acquaint itself with all motion picture scientific and technical achievements of the awards year. To assist the committee, letters shall be sent to individuals and organizations engaged in scientific and technical developments for motion pictures, requesting that they submit any information they may have regarding achievements which may have been developed in their own or any other organizations.
- A list of all achievements being considered shall be widely publicized to permit anyone with claims of prior art or with devices similar to those under consideration to bring them to the attention of the committee.
- The committee shall then conduct a series of meetings and examinations and, when feasible, shall arrange for such demonstrations as are necessary to evaluate the achievements properly and make recommendations for action by the Board of Governors.
- In evaluating the achievements, the committee shall strive to seek out other items similar to those being considered for awards. If such items are discovered, they may be considered on an equal basis.
- Where achievements are covered by patents, the committee shall request that copies of the patent be made available to it. If a patent is pending, the date of filing, name(s) of author(s) and application number must be submitted.
- Full claim for originality and development of each achievement must be established to the satisfaction of the committee. If any controversy should arise as to the origin or authorship of an achievement, the committee may request that the Academy Board of Governors postpone action until proper credit shall have been established.
- The committee may appoint advisory groups for each technical classification in which there are achievements to be considered. The chairman of each advisory group shall be one of the members of the advisory group and shall conduct its meetings and discussions.
- Each advisory group shall consider all achievements in its field. The advisory groups shall evaluate those achievements and forward their conclusions to the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee in the form of a written report prepared by the respective advisory group chairmen.
- All voting by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee shall be done by secret ballot. Committee members may voluntarily abstain from voting on any item. All decisions as to award recommendations and classifications shall require a two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting. Members of the committee having a personal connection with any achievement shall not be present during discussion of that achievement except by invitation of the chairman. Members of the committee who do not have a personal connection with the achievement but who are affiliated with the organization responsible for the achievement may be present at the discussion and voting at the discretion of the chairman, but may not vote on the achievement.
- The committee shall recommend to the Academy Board of Governors the person(s) and/or organization(s) to whom an award shall be made, the type of award and the text thereof. The committee shall carefully evaluate all information regarding actual authorship of each item being considered for an award and shall, at its sole discretion, identify the individual(s) and/or organization(s) to be recognized.
- In recommending awards, the committee will judge to the best of its ability the scientific and technical merits of the achievements, but does not warrant that the person or persons named are responsible for the origin or development of the achievement named in the award.
- It shall be within the discretion of the committee to recommend no awards if, in its judgment, there have been no achievements worthy of recognition. It shall also be within the discretion of the committee, but only on its own motion, to review any Academy Award conferred for scientific and technical achievement to determine whether the classification of such achievement should be elevated by reason of its contribution to the arts and sciences of motion pictures subsequent to the granting of such award, and to recommend elevation in classification to the Academy Board of Governors.
- Such other rules as may be considered necessary for the proper conduct of this award shall be adopted by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, subject to the approval of the Academy Board of Governors.
Since 1930/31 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has honored the efforts of people in the fields of science and technology, and artisans whose work ensures that the motion picture production can avail itself of the latest advances in fields that are applicable to the motion picture industry. Awards are made in recognition of those original developments that result in such improvements as expanded production capabilities and cost reduction.
Any device, method, formula, discovery or invention of special and outstanding value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures can be considered for recognition. Inventions re-purposed from the other industries cannot qualify for an award unless the vast preponderance of the development was motion picture-specific. The steps involved in the process have been carefully determined, and with the Awards rules, are reviewed annually. (If you have suggestions or comments to offer, they will be appreciated.)
A committee of experts in their respective fields is organized each year by a chairperson who is appointed by the Academy President. Approximately 45 people constitute the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee: representing cinematography (production and technical), digital imaging, electronics and research, film and laboratory processes, lighting and equipment, mechanical or optical effects and engineering, production, projection, exhibition techniques, and sound.
Letters are sent to individuals and companies known to be concerned with the tools and techniques of filmmaking in an annual canvass asking for information about new devices or methods that have been used on the production of feature films. Submission forms must be filed electronically by the deadline date and are accepted only by the Academy on this site.
All of the submissions are numbered and sent electronically to each of the committee members. A meeting notice is attached, and the committee begins an arduous program of study and debate on the submitted items.
The Selection Process
At its first meeting, held in late August, the committee discusses the merits of each submission. The validity of claims made about the submission is accepted or challenged, but the determination of whether a submission is eligible for consideration must be made. Does it meet the qualifications as outlined in the rules? Is the item new to the industry (or an improvement over something already available), and is it being used by anyone? Does it fall within the parameters and guidelines for Scientific and Technical Awards? When it is decided to give further consideration to a submission, surrogates are assigned to make detailed evaluations on behalf of the committee.
If all of the criteria are met, an invitation may be extended to the applicant offering them the opportunity to make a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation of the item to the committee. If similar devices are available to the industry (but have not been submitted), their manufacturers also may be invited to participate. Subcommittees are enlisted to provide the main committee with their particular evaluations of certain items. Items that are too large or impractical to participate in such a presentation will be reviewed separately by surrogates assigned on behalf of the committee.
The submissions are updated to include those items retained by the committee at its initial meeting. Not all of the submissions are carried forward beyond that first meeting. An item might be tabled for evaluation at a later date if the committee decides that its impact on the industry is not yet clear. (Recommending an award prematurely might not reflect the actual contribution an item makes to filmmaking.) Some of the submissions do not meet the qualifications of the rules or the guidelines. The committee is obligated to pass over those. (If an originally rejected item experiences significant improvements or advancements, it may be resubmitted at another time.)
Presentations are made and surrogates conduct their private studies. All of the respective opinions and evaluations are combined and sent to the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee and the Academy’s Board of Governors with an announcement of the date for the second meeting.
The submissions remaining under consideration are discussed again with particular emphasis on whether an award should be recommended. (The committee itself does not confer the Scientific and Technical Awards. Those are determined by a vote of the Academy Board of Governors.) Through a series of ballots, decisions are reached on the award recommendations and their appropriate levels of recognition. Some of the items may not be recommended – even though they were under consideration. Some might be tabled for another year.
Award recognition for scientific and technical achievement is given on three levels. No more than four awardees may be recognized for any single submission.
A Technical Achievement Award may be made for those accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the industry. A certificate is printed describing the achievement and listing the names of all of the individuals who contributed to its development.
If an achievement has had a definite influence on the advancement of the industry, it may qualify for a Scientific and Engineering Award (a bronze tablet with the name of the award in raised lettering, and a representation of the Oscar statuette in bas relief to one side of the plaque). Affixed to the base is a plate engraved with a description of the achievement and the names of the contributors.
- An Academy Award of Merit, the Oscar, is conferred for basic achievements which have a definite influence on the advancement of the industry (hard-won and most often reserved for some aspect of filmmaking that has changed the way particular achievements have been accomplished since its introduction).
Lists of past awards, arranged both chronologically and by category, are available at www.oscars.org/sci-tech/ceremonies/2016. Gordon E. Sawyer, former head of the sound department at Samuel Goldwyn Studios and a member of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee from 1936 to 1977, claimed that the lists represented a history of the development of motion pictures. After his death, a Special Award was established in his name to recognize an individual whose technological contributions have brought credit to the motion picture industry. Recommendations for this award are made through the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee.
Presentations of the year’s honors are made at a formal dinner which has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season. The function is separate and apart from the Oscar ceremony by design of the committee and concurrence of the Academy Board of Governors. The event is recorded, and portions are edited and included in the Oscar telecast.