It seems many of the winners at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2002 Scientific and Technical Awards are jumping onto other teams. The first Oscars of the season were given out, three weeks before the televised Oscar ceremony on Saturday, March 1, 2003 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Hostess Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) handed out Oscar statuettes, plaques and certificates recognizing devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special value to the industry, which are increasingly going to more software and hardware creators for the pervasive use of animation and digital effects in films. The awards continue to be untelevised with a few highlights to be shown during the March 23 Academy Awards telecast. The festivities started with bloopers from previous technical ceremonies that frequently featured the Side Effects team cutting up while accepting an award for its Prisms program five years ago. The team of Mark Elendt, Paul Breslin, Greg Hermanovic and Kim Davidson were on hand again to receive a scientific and engineering plaque for Houdini, the extension and new name for Prisms, used to simulate natural phenomena using particle effects and complex 3D models. Hermanovic recently started a spin-off company from Side Effects in Toronto called Derivative, offering a design mixer for performing live 3D visuals. Breslin has left Side Effects to join the big winner of the night Alias/Wavefront, also in Toronto, as a team leader on shared architecture. Eric Daniels and his Deep Canvas rendering software team of George Katanics, Tasso Lappas and Chris Springfield were on hand to collect a technical achievement award for their work designed for Disney's TARZAN movie. Daniels commented on how great it was to see TARZAN again projected on the big screen at the ceremony, some six years after they created it. Daniels has just gone over to DreamWorks to do visual effects with Craig Ring on OVER THE HEDGE. Technical Achievement Award-winner Thomas Driemeyer from Mental Images was rendered nearly speechless, unable to keep his eyes off the lovely presenter Hudson during his acceptance speech for the team of mathematicians, physicists and software engineers who created Mental Ray rendering software. This moment, along with her dress constantly coming unbuttoned in front are sure to end up on next year's memorable moments reel. Alias/Wavefront carried off the big hardware of the night, winning an Oscar statuette for its 3D production tool Maya. Arnold & Richter Cine Technik and Panavasion also received Oscars for innovations in their camera systems. One Panavision exec commented it's been hard to forecast what their future product line should consist of as they carefully watch the growth of HDTV and try to guess not if, but when, it will become commonly used. Richard Edlund, chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, sported a new hairdo and is busy at work as visual effects supervisor on director Mike Nichols' ANGELS IN AMERICA for HBO Films, as well as a few other projects he couldn't share all the details on quite yet. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios and member of the technical committee, reflected on the animation Oscar race. He predicted if the vote were entirely up to the animation branch, then the winner would be SPIRITED AWAY, but it's harder to tell since the entire Academy gets to vote on the winner. Cutmull said the animation and VFX branches always pick the best in a category. Cutmull also said early screenings of his studio's LITTLE NEMO show "it's the most emotional film" Pixar has ever made. For a complete list of winners go to www.oscars.org/scitech/2002/winners.html.
Ed Catmull takes Animation World Magazine's 10-question challenge.