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David A. Grafton to Receive Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted the Gordon E. Sawyer Award to David A. Grafton, a pioneering designer of lenses for optical effects printers, which at the time of their development were adopted by nearly every visual effects facility in the movie industry.

The award, an Oscar statuette, will be presented to Grafton at the Scientific and Technical Awards Dinner on Feb. 9 at The Beverly Wilshire.

"David's innovative designs have enabled audiences to see the 'impossible' on movie screens, and his work has dramatically improved the quality of visual effects in the motion picture industry," said Academy President Sid Ganis.

Born in England in 1924, Grafton immigrated to the U.S. in 1953. For more than 30 years, he designed electro-optical systems for IBM, NCR, EG&G and Xerox.

In the 1970s, Grafton also began consulting in the movie industry, where the highly specialized lenses he designed for optical effects printers enabled the seamless blending of multiple images from different sources. Working with Industrial Light & Magic and Boss Film Studios, he contributed to the production of numerous feature films, including STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and BLADE RUNNER.

Grafton previously received two Scientific and Engineering Academy Awards: in 1980 for the optical design of a telecentric anamorphic lens for motion picture optical effects printers; and in 1986 as part of the team responsible for the design and development of the Zoom Aerial 65mm Optical Printer.

Established in 1981, the Sawyer Award is "presented to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry." Grafton will be the 21st recipient of the award.

Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards presentation will be included in the Oscar ceremony next month.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on Feb. 24 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by ABC beginning at 5:00 pm. PT. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.