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Computer Graphics in the Spotlight at 2019 Academy Sci-Tech Awards

Adobe After Effects and Photoshop, the Medusa Performance Capture System, and -- for the first time -- Maxon Cinema 4D among nine scientific & technical achievements to be honored at this year’s annual presentation.

Character avatars in director Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ were created with the help of the Medusa Performance Capture System, which captures exceptionally dense animated meshes without markers or makeup.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hosting its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation this Saturday, February 9, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, where nine scientific and technical achievements represented by 27 individual award recipients will be honored with Technical Achievement Certificates and Scientific and Engineering Plaques. In addition, cinematographer Curtis Clark will receive the John A. Bonner Medallion in recognition of his extraordinary service to the motion picture industry.

Computer graphics mainstay Adobe is one of the big winners this year, with two Scientific and Engineering Awards for Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC for their influence on the advancement of the motion picture industry. From 1993’s Jurassic Park to Avatar, The Bourne Identity, Coco and Blade Runner 2049 -- as well as countless other films -- Photoshop and After Effects have brought to life fantastic new worlds, heart-pumping adventures, and characters that only existed in the imagination.

David Simons, Daniel Wilk, James Acquavella, Michael Natkin and David Cotter will each receive Academy Plaques for the design and development of After Effects, whose efficiency and artist-focused design has made it the preeminent motion graphics tool in film production, allowing motion designers to create complex animated elements for title design, screen graphics, and fictional user interfaces.

Photoshop’s efficient, extensible architecture, innovative virtual-memory design, and powerful layering system introduced a new level of user interactivity, which led to its adoption as the preferred artistic tool for digital painting and image manipulation. Photoshop founders John Knoll and Thomas Knoll will be honored with Academy Plaques for its original architecture, design, and development alongside Mark Hamburg, who will be recognized for his continued development and engineering of the tool.

For the first time ever, Maxon Cinema 4D will be recognized by the Academy with a Certificate for Technical Achievement going to Per-Anders Edwards, software architect and lead developer and designer at MAXON, for his contribution to the initial design and development of the MoGraph toolset.

Providing a fast, non-destructive and intuitive workflow for motion designers to create animated 3D graphics, MAXON introduced the MoGraph procedural modeling and animation module in Cinema 4D in 2006. MoGraph offers artists powerful tools to make it easy to create everything from flying logos to abstract effects to put imagery in motion. It continues to be cited by VFX and animation professionals worldwide for its essential role in the demanding, fast-paced 3D animation and modeling concepts-to-production-process on some of the most highly acclaimed movies of all time, including Blade Runner 2049, winner of the 2018 Best Visual Effects Oscar. Several of this year’s Oscar nominees such as The Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, and Black Panther, nominated for Best Picture, are just a few of the numerous film titles that have relied on MoGraph technology.

Ed Catmull, Tony DeRose and Jos Stam will be recognized with Academy Plaques for the original concept for and pioneering advancement of the underlying science of subdivision surfaces as 3D geometric modeling primitives. Their creation of essential geometric operations and sustained research on the fundamental mathematics of subdivision surfaces helped transform the way digital artists represent 3D geometry throughout the motion picture industry.

The Academy will also recognize Thabo Beeler, Derek Bradley, Bernd Bickel and Markus Gross for the conception, design and engineering of the Medusa Performance Capture System. Developed by Disney Research, the Medusa Performance Capture system consists of a mobile rig of cameras and lights coupled with proprietary software that can reconstruct actor’s faces in full motion, without using traditional motion-capture dots. The result of many years of research and scientific advances in capturing and modeling of human faces, Medusa delivers high-resolution 3D faces, with the ability to track individual pores and wrinkles over time, providing a very realistic facial geometry that is ideal for creating digital doubles for visual effects and computer games. First deployed on Disney’s Maleficent, Medusa has since been utilized on scores of feature films, including The Jungle Book, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Avengers: Infinity War.

The full list of Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements is shown below:

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS (ACADEMY CERTIFICATES)

  • To Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the PIX System’s novel security mechanism for distributing media.
    PIX System’s robust approach to secure media access has enabled wide adoption of their remotely collaborative dailies-review system by the motion picture industry.
  • To Per-Anders Edwards for the initial design and development of the MoGraph toolset in Cinema 4D for motion graphics.
    MoGraph provides a fast, non-destructive and intuitive workflow for motion designers to create animated 3D graphics, as used for title design and fictional user interfaces in motion pictures.
  • To Paul Miller for the software design, principal engineering and continued innovation, and to Marco Paolini for the efficient, artist-friendly workflow design of the Silhouette rotoscope and paint system.
    Silhouette provides a comprehensive solution for painting, rotoscoping and image manipulation of high-resolution image sequences. Its fast, scalable and extensible architecture has resulted in wide adoption in motion picture post-production.
  • To Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins and Wan-Chun Ma for the invention of the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method, and to Xueming Yu for the design and engineering of the Light Stage X capture system.
    Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination was a breakthrough in facial capture technology allowing shape and reflectance capture of an actor’s face with sub-millimeter detail, enabling the faithful recreation of hero character faces. The Light Stage X structure was the foundation for all subsequent innovation and has been the keystone of the method’s evolution into a production system.
  • To Thabo Beeler, Derek Bradley, Bernd Bickel and Markus Gross for the conception, design and engineering of the Medusa Performance Capture System.
    Medusa captures exceptionally dense animated meshes without markers or makeup, pushing the boundaries of visual fidelity and productivity for character facial performances in motion pictures.
  • To Charles Loop for his influential research on the fundamental scientific properties of subdivision surfaces as 3D geometric modeling primitives.
    Loop’s 1987 master’s thesis, “Smooth Subdivision Surfaces Based on Triangles,” together with his subsequent research and publications, extended the theory of subdivision surfaces and inspired further development of methods that transformed the way digital artists represent 3D geometry throughout the motion picture industry.

SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING AWARDS (ACADEMY PLAQUES)

  • To David Simons, Daniel Wilk, James Acquavella, Michael Natkin and David Cotter for the design and development of the Adobe After Effects software for motion graphics.
    After Effects’ pioneering use of consumer hardware to host an application that is extensible, efficient and artist-focused has made it the preeminent motion graphics tool in film production, allowing motion designers to create complex animated elements for title design, screen graphics and fictional user interfaces.
  • To Thomas Knoll and John Knoll for the original architecture, design and development, and to Mark Hamburg for his continued development and engineering of Adobe Photoshop.
    Photoshop’s efficient, extensible architecture, innovative virtual-memory design and powerful layering system introduced a new level of user interactivity, which led to its adoption as the preferred artistic tool for digital painting and image manipulation across the motion picture industry.
  • To Ed Catmull for the original concept, and to Tony DeRose and Jos Stam for their pioneering advancement of the underlying science of subdivision surfaces as 3D geometric modeling primitives.
    Their creation of essential geometric operations and sustained research on the fundamental mathematics of subdivision surfaces helped transform the way digital artists represent 3D geometry throughout the motion picture industry.

JOHN A. BONNER AWARD (Medallion)

  • Curtis Clark -- Presented to an individual in recognition of extraordinary service to the motion picture industry.
Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.

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