Those Other Oscars

The Academy Awards are undoubtedly the biggest accolades in the film industry. In fact, the Oscars are huge even outside of the film industry. So much so that when any industry holds a prestigious awards ceremonies they often compare themselves to the Academy Awards (“the oscars of the hair-dressing world” et cetera et cetera).
Some of the awards inherently carry more glamour (best actress) than others (best sound effects editing), but you can bet the recipient of any Oscar will consider it one of the high=points of their career.
Naturally, when I worked in visual effects, I was most interested in the winner of that category. Recently though, like most other Oscar punters I suspect, I’ve become less interested in that category, as it doesn’t really matter to me who wins.
But what I am interested in is the Scientific & Technical (Scit-Tech) awards.

These get very little coverage in the press (in part perhaps because the Sci-Tech ceremony doesn’t coincide with the main event). Surprisingly though, there is also very little coverage even within the post-production community (I’d sooner be aware of the best VFX winner than the Sci-Tech award winners on a given year).

Look at the list of previous winners though, and for many of them, their impact is profound. Dolby, Alias’s Maya, Imax, Avid, and Grass Valley’s Spirit technologies have all been recognized over the years, and even today their impact on modern film-making is profound. Granted, some of the awards are a little esoteric, but where would the entire VFX category be without Maya I wonder?

It’s not just abstract technologies and products that get recognition either. This year’s Oscar winner went to Edwin Catmull. Aside from being the president of Disney and Pixar, he’s personally contributed greatly to the fields of digital film-making. He was principally responsible for algorithms that led to (amongst other things) Catmul-Rom interpolation (which itself is used for resizing digital images and creating curves in 3D). Much of his work went into the creation of Pixar’s RenderMan, which itself has won a Sci-Tech award in 1993. No disrespect to Ms. Winslett, but I’m sure the future of film-making will be more determined by these winners than those of the other Oscars…

Posted: February 23rd, 2009
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