Academy Honors 10 Scientific and Technical Achievements

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The Scientific and Technical Achievements are one of the less-covered areas of the annual Academy Awards, generally because they go to people and companies few people know about for things that may not make a lot of sense.

But they are important, because this is where the technology that will give us the next great advances in cinema technology will come from.

Of particular interest to the animation world is the award to Eric Tabellion and Arnauld Lamorlette for creating a bounce lighting methodology for feature films that was first used on DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek 2.

Lamorlette, who is now chief technology officer and product manager at French 3D computer graphics software company The Bakery, spent eight years at PDI/DreamWorks and also contributed to Shrek the Third and Shrek the Halls. “Eric (Tabellion) and I were sent on one of the most challenging quests of the 3D animation community: usable global illumination,” says Lamorlette. “Creating the solution was a long journey — we had to implement it step by step and prove the goal was reachable. In the end, it was DreamWorks confidence and support that enabled our success. To be recognized by the Academy with a Technical Achievement Award for this work is very gratifying.”

So, with no further delay, here is the full list of this year’s winners of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Achievements:

Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques)

  • To 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.
  • To 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.
  • To James RodnunskyAlex 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.
  • To Tim DrnecBen 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.

Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates)

  • To 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.
  • To 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.
  • To Chris AllenGautham 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.
  • To 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.
  • To 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.”
  • To Tony ClarkAlan RogersNeil 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.