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‘The Midnight Sky,’ ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Soul’ Take Top VES Awards

Star-studded virtual ceremony, hosted by barb-slinging Patton Oswalt, included 25 category awards and special honors for VFX supervisor Rob Legato and director Sir Peter Jackson.

In a virtual show replete with casual clothes and exciting montages, the Visual Effects Society’s 19th Annual VES Awards streamed live this evening, handing out awards in 25 categories as well as special honors to Rob Legato and Sir Peter Jackson.

The preshow and intro were both filled with one spectacular VFX clip after another, something especially well-suited for a virtual show. The ceremony began, as it does each year, with VES executive director Eric Roth addressing the audience. Tonight, via the magic of greenscreens and virtual production, he lounged lazily at a serene forest campsite, sharing his annual list of “Thank Yous” while acknowledging how tough 2020 was as we all suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic. Have to say, done virtually, Roth’s comments and obligatory list reading felt more warm than perfunctory. And then…

… as Roth cheerfully reasoned that a virtual ceremony meant he’d be spared the annual onslaught of barbs from host Patton Oswalt, the cherubic comedian walked into view… as a big green Shrek-like creature, microphone in hand, reminding us all that as far as VES Awards go, physical or virtual, there is no cover for Roth. And the digital diss began. A crack about Roth’s speech being the only thing Zack Snyder could cut and make shorter. Much to our enjoyment.

Soon leaving the forest and bulbous creature avatar for a new virtual set and proper suit, Oswalt launched into his always welcome jabs at the VFX industry; he joked about how boring it must be to watch the VES Awards from home, admonishing the audience that maybe we’d forgotten we can watch porn instead. His joke about Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet being nominated, questioning when the film will actually finish shooting hit the perfect note, as did his follow-up about hoping to see the film in a theatre so afterwards, he’d be surrounded by other people who also had no idea what the fuck just happened. There was a joke that nominee The Crown VFX not needing any white balancing because the Royal family does that on their own… inbreeding… Like each of the ten times he’s hosted the event, his jokes were snappy and short, mostly on point; part of his charm is seeing how much he amuses himself. The pivot to first presenter VES Chair Lisa Cooke happened quickly, and the awards began.

Each year, the VES Awards celebrate outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials, video games and special venues, and the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on artists who bring this work to life.

This year, awards were presented in 25 awards. The Midnight Sky was named the photoreal feature winner, garnering two awards. Soul was named top animated film, winning five awards.  The Mandalorian was named best photoreal episode and garnered three awards. Walmart won top commercial honors.

Sacha Baron Cohen presented the VES Award for Creative Excellence to acclaimed visual effects supervisor, second unit director and director of photography Robert Legato, ASC.  Cate Blanchett presented the VES Lifetime Achievement Award to award-winning filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson – along with a star-studded tribute from Andy Serkis, Naomi Watts, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, James Cameron, and Gollum.  Presenters also included:  helmers Zack Snyder and Pete Docter, actors Lauren Cohan, Danny DeVito, Jenna Elfman, Marcus Scribner, Chris Sullivan, Colman Domingo, Demian Bichir and Anson Mount and VES Chair Lisa Cooke. Jocelyn Moffatt, Autodesk Entertainment Industry Marketing Manager, presented the Autodesk Student Award. 

Winners of the 19th Annual VES Awards are as follows:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

The Midnight Sky Matt Kasmir, Greg Baxter, Chris Lawrence, Max Solomon, and David Watkins

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Mank Wei Zheng, Peter Mavromates, Simon Carr, and James Pastorius

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

Soul Pete Docter, Dana Murray, Michael Fong, and Bill Watral

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

The Mandalorian, The Marshal  - Joe Bauer, Abbigail Keller, Hal Hickel, Richard Bluff, and Roy Cancino

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

The Crown; Gold Stick Ben Turner, Reece Ewing, Andrew Scrase, and Jonathan Wood

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project

Ghost of Tsushima Jason Connell, Matt Vainio, Jasmin Patry, and Joanna Wang

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

Walmart; Famous Visitors Chris “Badger” Knight, Lori Talley, Yarin Manes, and Matt Fuller

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

The Bourne Stuntacular Salvador Zalvidea, Tracey Gibbons, George Allan, Matthías Bjarnason, and Scott Smith

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

The One and Only Ivan; Ivan Valentina Rosselli, Thomas Huizer, Andrea De Martis, and William Bell

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

Soul; Terry  - Jonathan Hoffman, Jonathan Page, Peter Tieryas, and Ron Zorman

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project

The Mandalorian; The Jedi; The Child John Rosengrant, Peter Clarke, Scott Patton, and Hal Hickel

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

Arm & Hammer; Once Upon a Time; Tuxedo Tom Shiny Rajan, Silvia Bartoli, Matías Heker, and Tiago Dias Mota

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Mulan; Imperial City Jeremy Fort, Matt Fitzgerald, Ben Walker, and Adrian Vercoe

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

Soul; You Seminar Hosuk Chang, Sungyeon Joh, Peter Roe, and Frank Tai

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

The Mandalorian; The Believer; Morak Jungle Enrico Damm, Johanes Kurnia, Phi Tran, and Tong Tran

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project

Soul Matt Aspbury and Ian Megibben

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project

The Midnight Sky; Aether Michael Balthazart, Jonathan Opgenhaffen, John-Peter Li, and Simon Aluze

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

Project Power Yin Lai Jimmy Leung, Jonathan Edward Lyddon-Towl, Pierpaolo Navarini, and Michelle Lee

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

Soul Alexis Angelidis, Keith Daniel Klohn, Aimei Kutt, and Melissa Tseng

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

Lovecraft Country; Strange Case; Chrysalis Federica Foresti, Johan Gabrielsson, Hugo Medda, and Andreas Krieg

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature

Project Power Russell Horth, Matthew Patience, and Julien Rousseau

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode

Lovecraft Country; Strange Case; Chrysalis Viktor Andersson, Linus Lindblom, Mattias Sandelius, and Crawford Reilly

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

Burberry; Festive Alex Lovejoy, Mithun Alex, David Filipe, and Amresh Kumar

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project

Fear the Walking Dead; Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg Frank Iudica, Scott Roark, and Daniel J. Yates

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

Migrants Antoine Dupriez, Hugo Caby, Lucas Lermytte, and Zoé Devise

The Visual Effects Society is a professional global honorary society dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences and applications of visual effects and to upholding the highest standards and procedures for the visual effects profession. It is the entertainment industry's only official organization representing the extended global community of visual effects practitioners, including supervisors, artists, producers, technology developers, educators, and studio executives.  VES’ more than 4,000 members in over 40 countries worldwide contribute to all areas of entertainment – film, television, commercials, animation, music videos, games, new media, and special venues.  

Source: Visual Effects Society

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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