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Behind the 2014 Sci-Tech Oscars: 6 Cool Facts

1) The Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards—also known as the Sci-Tech Awards—were part of the main Academy Awards ceremony (and handed out during the commercial breaks once the Oscars were televised) until 1959, when they were presented at the Governor's Ball after the primary ceremony. They returned to the main ceremony the following year until 1974, when the "ceremony" was actually a 4 p.m. press call at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The awards ceremony as we know it today has been at the Beverly Hilton and at other similar hotel ballrooms since 1978.

2) As one might expect, Industrial Light and Magic already has a mighty collection of Sci-Tech Awards to its credit. This year, the visual effects company will take home its 25th and 26th for the ILM Plume software that renders in record time VFX fire, smoke and explosions on top of NVIDIA's GPU-accelerated CUDA parallel computing architecture and the Zeno framework that has given birth to countless ILM VFX tools. Plume's architects, Olivier Maury, Ian Saches and Dan Piponi, and Zeno's developers, Florian Kainz, Jeffery Yost, Philip Hubbard and Jim Hourihan, will be honored at the ceremony on February 15 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

3) VFX supervisor John Frazier first developed the Pneumatic Car Flipper for Michael Bay's 1998 blockbuster Armageddon. According to an interview Frazier did with the Los Angeles Times seven years ago, cars weren't the only things subsequently "launched" from this car-flipping device. For Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Frazier and his team used the flipper to send foam culvert pipes 50 feet in the air around the actors during a simulated explosion in a steel mill. Frazier will be honored for the creation of the Pneumatic Car Flipper along with co-creators Chuck Gaspar and Clay Pinney.

4) Sculpting and painting tool Mudbox—conceived and designed by former Weta Digital artists Andrew Camenisch, David Cardwell and Tibor Madjar, and implemented by WETA programmers Csaba Kohegyi and Imre Major, to create Peter Jackson's surprisingly tactile and lovable digital star in King Kong, is one of two Sci-Tech Awards for current Autodesk products. The other is virtual production powerhouse MotionBuilder, developed by FiLMBOX creators Andre Gauthier, Benoit Sevigny, Yves Boudreault and Robert Lanciault.

5) This year's ceremony, like the Oscar segment that honors the recently deceased, will make a somber tip of the head to the waning use of 35 mm film. Even though film's not quite dead yet, a single collective Academy Award of Merit, in the form of an Oscar statuette, will honor every film lab and those who "built and operated" them "for over a century of service to the motion picture industry." 

6) Two individuals will receive actual golden statuettes on February 15 (the other honorees will receive either a certificate or a plaque): Visual effects supervisor, 3D and large-format expert and cinematographer Peter W. Anderson, ASC, who was a former head of facilities for both Walt Disney and Universal and worked on Close Encounters and TRON, and digital cinema pioneer Tad Marburg.

Read the full list of Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards here.

2 Comments

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  • DGK

    Thanks for recognizing the magic-makers, who don’t get enough kudos IMHO.

  • Christopher M. Anthony

    Whoah there on the ‘film’s not quite dead’ comment. Have a look at how many BAFTA and Oscar nominated films have been shot on celluloid. You’ll find it’s in the majority.