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Techies Put On The Ritz At Oscar Ceremony

Technical wizards receiving honors in the first bout of Oscar awards were displaced from their usually PRETTY WOMAN hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, and had to spend their Valentines Day on Feb. 14, 2004, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena to receive their awards. However, a very pretty actress, Jennifer Garner, star of TVs ALIAS and DAREDEVIL, spent the evening for sweethearts with them, confessing to being a super-nerd herself, which may be why she so comfortably presented the 11 statuettes, plaques, certificates and medals at the Academy's scientific and technical achievements awards.

She earned loads of applause and appreciation for not stumbling through the technical terminology in front of a ballroom packed full of engineers and scientists who receive their accolades in the untelevised black-tie gala a few weeks before the big Oscar night. The earlier date for the main event trigged the change to the location in Pasadena on the big dinner date night. The hotel was elegant but overwhelmed at the valet with the volume.

The winners had been previously announced, so the gathering is an opportunity for the honorees and members of the scientific committee to truly celebrate without the theatrics of waiting for the envelope.

"Pardon me if I use the term 'super-nerds, " sci-tech awards committee chairman Richard Edlund said in his opening remarks. "But I love super-nerds. These are the people who make it all work." Those who are later feted on the televised event Feb. 29, and work in all movies, would not see their work on the screen, if not for the inventions and innovations by the people recognized by committee.

Statuettes went to Digidesign for its Pro Tools, a digital audio workstation used throughout the industry, and the other to Bill Tondreau, one of the pioneers of motion control technology, which controls robotic camera systems.

Peter D. Parks, founder of Imagequest, took home the Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar for lifetime achievement. He thanked his wife, Susie, for making sure he always kept his priorities in life straight: "Mortgage first, health insurance second, education third, pension fourth, and then you can buy that lens you want."

The audience stood up for Douglas Greenfield, awarded the John A. Bonner medal of commendation for service to the Academy. The award is not given out every year, but was presented to Greenfield, a Technicolor audio engineer from Dolby Laboratories and Academy governor who helped oversee the design of the theater at AMPAS' new Pickford Center.

Recipients of scientific and engineering plaques were German company Kinoton for a new high-speed studio projector; several Eastman Kodak employees (Kenneth L. Tingler, Charles C. Anderson, Diane E. Kestner and Brian A Schnell) who designed an antistatic layer for motion picture film; audio engineers from AMS AudioFile, WaveFrame and Fairlight (Christopher Alfred, Andrew J. Cannon, Michael C. Carlos, Mark Crabtree, Chuck Grindstaff and John Melanson) for contributions to digital audio editing technology; and Stephen Regelous, who designed the Massive software used to control hundreds of thousands of individual characters in battle sequences in the LORD OF THE RINGS films.

Technical achievement certificates went to the designers of the Ultimate Director's Finder (Kish Sadhvani, Paul Duclos and Carl Pernicone), a telescope-like device that simulates the views from a variety of camera lenses; several visual effects supervisors (Christophe Hery, Ken McGaugh and Joe Letteri), who implemented new technology for improving the look of digitally created skin and other translucent materials; and professors Henrik Wann Jensen, Stephen R. Marschner and Pat Hanrahan, who wrote a paper that first introduced the ideas used for digitally created skin, a technique called subsurface light transport.