It was SPIDER-MAN 2 and THE AVIATOR running neck and neck for the most awards, taking three each, at the 3rd Annual VES Awards Wednesday night, Feb. 16, 2005, but it was HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN that pulled out with the top honor for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture at a black-tie gala at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.
Actor Tom Hanks made the most entertaining presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, along with visual effects artist Ken Ralston, to director Robert Zemeckis. Most vfx houses and studio departments could trace their roots back to Robert Abel, posthumously awarded the first Georges Melies Award for his pioneering, significant and lasting contribution to the art and science of the visual effects industry, which his daughter happily accepted on his behalf.
The HARRY POTTER winners Roger Guyett, Tim Burke, Theresa Corrao and Emma Norton were surprised and happy to see the vfx professionals choose their often more subtle work over giant sweeping and explosive works. The winners were generously spread around.
CINEFEX publisher and founder Don Shay was the recipient of the second Board of Directors Award just as his magazine publishes its 100th issue, chronicling a history of visual effects, artists and techniques for more than 25 years.
Here are some remarks and tidbits VFXWORLD and AWN picked up during the VES Awards ceremony and backstage with the winners.
Anthony Ocampo on SPARTACUS: We made Rome in CG buildings, the main palace; a fly-through blending live footage with CG. We used Maya, After Effects and AI Implant for crowd simulation.
Tom Hanks on the phenomenal success of POLAR EXPRESS in IMAX 3D: POLAR EXPRESS will run in 3D forever.
Tom Hanks intro to Robert Zemeckis: No one works harder than Bob Zemeckis [He] is tortured by films, hes devoured by the movies he makes. He looks forward to going to hell and back in the future with the director using visual effects.
Zemeckis acceptance: Visual effects are the forefront of the history of cinema. When we do them first, we call them spectacular. Then they become part of the language. He singled out visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, whom hes collaborated with for 20 years, as the real wizard. There hasnt been a moment when Ralston told him that a shot couldnt be done.
When he was reminded backstage that he has realized his dream to make a movie inside the computer, Zemeckis replied, POLAR EXPRESS is the closest to making a movie at a keypad. He added, As images become more virtual, the visual effects supervisor will become more important and a digital imaging guy [will be key.]
Technical supervisor Tim Burke of ILM on HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, which took the top prize: POTTER is a great mix of character work and set extensions. We pushed the technical boundaries with the Hippogriff (sic) and Dementors with feathers and muscles and cloth simulation. The attention to detail on this one was critical. Its all about making it believable, even when you have fantasy characters.
R. Bruce Steinheimer on THE AVIATOR crash: It was a great blend of reality and full-scale models. The key for the VES is to see the manipulation of old and new techniques and to realize that it is not just a matter of digital fixes, because this couldnt have been done if it was all digital.
THE INCREDIBLES Bill Sheffler on the Brad Bird influence at Pixar: Hes given us freedom the characters [on future projects] are uninhibited, more flexible; theres more realtime, no limits. Its hard to describe, but theres a balance between flexible and controllable thats THE INCREDIBLES trend.
Framestores William Sargeant on The Hippogriff: The challenge was to make this character thats a combination of an eagle and a horse move naturally. Those were individual feathers that were created and they werent cheated were talking 6 terabytes a night of data. Its about the tiny things that come together. You can see the body language of the key creators in these CG characters. I dont think anybodys ever taken notice of that before. Theyve taken their own DNA and embedded it. And they dont even realize it.
Of the fourth POTTER film (THE GOBLET OF FIRE), Sargeant said that they are trying to concentrate less on Hogwarts and more on the story's imaginative underwater world, which comprised only a small part of the novel.
The final winners (www.vesawards.com) were:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion PictureHARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABANRoger Guyett, Tim Burke, Theresa Corrao, Emma Norton
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion PictureTHE AVIATORRob Legato, Ron Ames, Matthew Gratzner, Pete Travers
Best Single Visual Effect of the YearTHE DAY AFTER TOMORROW - Tidal WaveKaren Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Chris Horvath, Matthew Butler
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast SeriesSTAR TREK ENTERPRISE, Storm Front Part 2Ronald Moore, Daniel Curry, David Takemura
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialVIRTUAL HISTORY - THE SECRET PLOT TO KILL HITLERJim Radford, Tom Phillips, Simon Thomas, Loraine Cooper
Outstanding Visual Effects in a CommercialCitroen 'Alive With Technology'Trevor Cawood, Neill Blomkamp, Simon Van de Lagemaat, Winston Helgason
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music VideoBritney Spears TOXICBert Yukich
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast ProgramLOST, Pilot - Part 2Kevin Blank, Mitch Suskin, Benoit Girard, Jerome Morin
Outstanding Visuals in a Video GameHALF-LIFE 2Viktor Antonov, Randy Lundeen, Gary McTaggart, Bill Fletcher
Outstanding Performance by an Animated Character in a Live Action Motion PictureHARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABANMichael Eames, David Lomax, Felix Balbas, Pablo Grillo
Outstanding Performance by an Animated Character in an Animated Motion PictureTHE INCREDIBLES Bob Parr/Mr. IncredibleCraig T. Nelson, Bill Wise, Bill Sheffler, Bolhem Bouchiba
Outstanding Performance by an Animated Character in a Live Action Broadcast ProgramSTEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITALWilliam de Bosch Kemper, Brian Harder, Patrick Kalyn, Scott Paquin
Outstanding Special Effects in Service to Visual Effects in a Motion PictureTHE AVIATORRobert Spurlock, Richard Stutsman, Matthew Gratzner, Roy Goode
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion PictureSPIDER-MAN 2 - NYC Street - NightDan Abrams, David Emery, Andrew Nawrot, John Hart
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast ProgramSPARTACUS - OpeningEric Grenaudier, Anthony Ocampo, Cedric Tomacruz, Michael Cook
Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion PictureTHE AVIATOR - XF11 CrashMatthew Gratzner, Scott Schneider, Adam Gelbart, Leigh-Alexandra Jacob
Outstanding Compositing in a Motion PictureSPIDER-MAN 2- Train SequenceColin Drobnis, Greg Derochie, Blaine Kennison, Kenny Lam
Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast ProgramSPACE ODYSSEY - VOYAGE TO THE PLANETSGeorge Roper, Christian Manz, Sirio Quintavalle, Pedro Sabrosa
Outstanding Performance by an Actor or Actress in a Visual Effects FilmSPIDER-MAN 2Alfred Molina
For the first time in the VES Awards three-year history, final viewing and voting took place online via the VES Website from January 31 to February 12. This groundbreaking method allowed VES members worldwide to view encrypted clips of the nominees work and vote in a safe and secure online environment. Only VES members could vote and needed a special password to view and vote online.
Founded in 1997, the Visual Effects Society (www.visualeffectssociety.com) is an organization comprised of distinguished visual effects artists desiring to honor, advance and promote visual effects for its membership and the industry as a whole. The Society promotes continuous awareness about the visual effects industry, supports combined technology research and development, and designs and implements educational programs for its membership and the public interested in the production of visual effects. Society headquarters are located in Los Angeles, California with approximately 1,100 global members.