Academy Scientific and Technical Awards (SciTech)

 

Since 1930 The Academy began recognizing the contributions of the artisans, engineers and inventors that make possible the film industry, known as the Scientific and Technical Awards or Sci_tech for short. A committee of experts in their respective fields is organized each year by a chairman who is appointed by the President of the Academy. Approximately 45 people constitute the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. After several meetings and evaluations the committee makes their recommendations to the Academy Board of Governors who make the final decission.

Award recognition for scientific and technical achievement is given on three levels. Technical Achievement Awards may be made for those accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the industry. A certificate is printed describing the achievement and listing the names of all of the individuals who contributed to its development. If an achievement has had a definite influence on the advancement of the industry, it may qualify for a Scientific and Engineering Award (a bronze tablet with the name of the award in raised lettering, and a representation of the Oscar statuette in bas relief to one side of the plaque). Affixed to the base is a plate engraved with a description of the achievement and the names of the contributors. An Academy Award of Merit, the Oscar, is conferred for basic achievements which have a definite influence on the advancement of the industry (hard-won and most often reserved for some aspect of film making that has changed the way particular achievements have been accomplished since its introduction).

Notes: There are a few discrepancies between ILM's official list and this one. Most had to do with the fact that sometimes work done at ILM was not recognized until many years later when people had left, in particular the Pixar spin-off (for example this applies to the Digital Compositing or the particle systems Sci-Tech awards). One particular case deserves mention as well, the first Sci-Tech to Dykstra, Miller and Jeffress for the VFX facility and motion control camera should definately be included since it was al done for Star Wars. One speculation is that this happened because ILM was on hiatus at the time while Dykstra was setting up Apogee, but nonetheless should definately be included.

1977

Class II, Systems
John C. Dykstra, for the development of a facility uniquely oriented toward visual effects photography, and to Alvah J. Miller and Jerry Jeffress, for the engineering of the Electronic Motion Control System used in concert [with this facility] for multiple exposure visual effects motion picture photography.

1980

Scientific and Engineering Award, Lenses and Filters
David A. Grafton, for the optical design and engineering of a telecentric anamorphic lens for motion picture optical effects printers.

Notes: David Grafton was hired by ILM to design the optics for the optical printers used in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

1981

Scientific and Engineering Award, Camera
Richard Edlund and Industrial Light and Magic Inc., for the engineering of the Empire Motion Picture Camera System.

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Richard Edlund and Industrial Light and Magic Inc., for the concept and engineering of a beam splitter optical composite motion picture printer.

Technical Achievement Award, Stage Operations
Dennis Muren and Stuart Ziff of Industrial Light and Magic Inc., for the development of a Motion Picture Figure Mover for animation photography.

Notes: This was the go-motion rig used for Dragonslayer.

1987

Technical Achievement Award, Stage Operations
Tadeuz Krzanowski, of Industrial Light and Magic Inc., for the development of a Wire Rig Model Support Mechanism used to control the movements of miniatures in special effects.

1992

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
Tom Brigham, for the original concept and pioneering work; Doug Smythe, The Computer Graphics Department of Industrial Light and Magic, for the development and the first implementation in feature motion pictures of the MORF system for digital metamorphosis of high resolution images.

Notes: This was the morphing system first employed on Willow. Tom Brigham was not from ILM, but the original researcher who pioneered the work in the early 1980's at NYIT.

1993

Scientific and Engineering Award, Systems
Doug Smythe, George Joblove, Mark Leather and Les Dittert, for the concept and engineering of the Digital Motion Picture Retouching System for removing visible rigging and dirt/damage artifacts from original motion picture imagery.

1994

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Gary Demos and Dan Cameron of Triple I; Gary Starkweather and David DiFrancesco of Pixar; Scott Squires of Industrial Light and Magic, for their pioneering work in the field of film input scanning.

Notes: David DiFrancesco made some early work as part of the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group before it spun off into Pixar.

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Lincoln Hu and Michael Mackenzie of Industrial Light and Magic, Glenn Kennel and Mike Davis, of Eastman Kodak, for their joint development work on a linear array CCD (Charge Coupled Device) film input scanning system.

1995

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Alvy Ray Smith, Ed Catmull, Thomas Porter and Tom Duff, for their pioneering inventions in Digital Image Compositing.

Notes: This work was done as part of the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group. The SIGGRAPH paper, Compositing Digital Images, was published in 1984 by Thomas Porter and Tom Duff, even though when this award was given all 4 had gone to Pixar.

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
Doug Smythe, Lincoln Hu, Douglas S. Kay and Industrial Light and Magic, for their pioneering efforts in the creation of the ILM Digital Film Compositing System.

1996

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
John Schlag, Brian Knep, Zoran Kacic-Alesic, Thomas Williams, for the development of the ViewPaint 3D Paint System for film production work.

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
William Reeves, for the original concept and the development of particle systems used to create computer generated visual effects in motion pictures.

Notes: The particle systems were developed for the Genesis sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, although at the time the award was given Williams Reeves had already left for Pixar.

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
Brian Knep, Craig Hayes, Rick Sayre and Thomas Williams, for the creation and development of the Direct Input Device.

Notes: This device consisted of an armature with encoders that permitted Phil Tippett and his team of stop motion animators to work on sequences along their ILM counterparts for Jurassic Park.

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
Jeffrey Yost, Christian Rouet, Florian Kainz, David Benson, for the development of a system to create and control computer generated fur and hair in motion pictures.

Notes: The pioneering work was started for Jumanji.

1997

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Richard Shoup, Alvy Ray Smith, Thomas Porter, for their pioneering efforts in the development of digital paint systems used in motion picture production.

Notes: Alvy Ray Smith developed paint systems before going to the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Division in 1980 and later went with Pixar. Tom Porter wrote a paint system for the Graphics Group first used in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

1998

Technical Achievement Award, Camera Cranes
Mike Bolles, Udo Pampel, Michael Mackenzie and Joseph Fulmer, of Industrial Light and Magic, for their pioneering work in motion controlled silent camera dollies. This silent, high-speed motion control modification of a Panther dolly makes it possible to film moving camera composite shots of actors while recording live dialogue.

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
Cary Phillips, for the design and development of the Caricature Animation System at Industrial Light and Magic. By integrating existing tools into a powerful interactive system, and adding an expressive multi-target shape interpolation-based freeform animation system, the "Caricature" system provides a degree of subtlety and refinement not possible with other systems.

Notes: The system was originally developed for the facial animation system needed to complete Dragonheart.

Technical Achievement Award, Special Photographic
David DiFrancesco, Bala S. Manian, Thomas Noggle, for their pioneering efforts in the development of laser film recording technology. This pioneering laser film recorder, designed and used for motion pictures, demonstrated the potential of this technology for recording digital data onto intermediate film stock.

Notes: David DiFrancesco was the lead on the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group working on laser film recording which was later incorporated into the Pixar Image Computer.

2001

Technical Achievement Award, Digital Imaging Technology
John R. Anderson, Jim Hourihan, Cary Phillips and Sebastian Marino, for the development of the ILM Creature Dynamics System. This system makes hair, clothing, skin, flesh and muscle simulation both directable and integrated within a character animation and rigging environment.

Notes: John Anderson wrote the muscle system for The Mummy, Jim Hourihan won a previous Oscar for Dynamation before joining ILM, Cary Phillips also won a previous Oscar for Cari, and Sebastian Marino developed a new muscle dynamics system for Jurassic Park 3.

Technical Achievement Award, Digital Imaging Technology
Steve Sullivan, Eric R.L. Schafer, for the development of the ILM Motion and Structure Recovery System (MARS). The MARS system provides analysis of camera motion and object motion, and their dimensions. It employs a rich set of user-interface tools and sophisticated algorithms.

Notes: this is ILM's newest matchmoving and tracking software.

2003

Technical Achievement Award, Digital Imaging Technology
Christophe Hery, Ken McGaugh and Joe Letteri, for their groundbreaking implementations of practical methods for rendering skin and other translucent materials using subsurface scattering techniques. These groundbreaking techniques were used to create realistic-looking skin on digitally created characters.

Notes: the initial research was done at Stanford, by Henrik Wann Jensen, Stephen R. Marschner and Pat Hanrahan (who also got a Technical Achievement Award for this year and presented the paper at SIGGRAPH 2001). Christophe Hery presented the new approach during Pixar's User Group Meeting at SIGGRAPH 2002, in the Stupid Rat Trick on applications of Shadow Buffers for PRMan. The first major application of this subsurface scattering approach was Dobby in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Joe Letteri and Ken McGaugh would leave ILM and join Weta Digital (Letteri as the VFX Supervisor) where it was eventually applied to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

2006

Scientific and Engineering Award, Digital Imaging Technology
To Steve Sullivan, Colin Davidson, Max Chen and Francesco Callari for the design and development of the ILM Image-based Modeling System. This highly integrated system facilitates interactive construction and editing of 3D models from digital photographs and addresses the three-dimensional scanning needs of motion pictures in unique and innovative ways.

Notes: the system helps in the creation of high resolution digital models of subjects that can't be easily scanned like large environments or subjects that can't hold still for lasr scanning. One of its first major uses was to create a digital model of the Sunny character (from photographs of the Hoffman twins) for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events .

Technical Achievement Award, Digital Imaging Technology
To Florian Kainz for the design and engineering of OpenEXR, a software package implementing 16-bit, floating point, high dynamic range image files. Widely adopted, OpenEXR is engineered to meet the requirements of the visual effects industry by providing for lossless and lossy compression of tiered and tiled images.

Notes: OpenEXR is a set of libraries (C++) and an HDR (high dynamic range) deep raster image file format. Development started around 2000 and it was opened in January 2003. Some early productions that used it include Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Men in Black II, Gangs of New York, Signs and The Time Machine.

2007

Scientific and Engineering Award, Digital Imaging Technology
To Nick Rasmussen, Ron Fedkiw and Frank Losasso Petterson for the development of the Industrial Light and Magic fluid simulation system. This production-proven simulation system achieves large-scale water effects within ILM’s Zeno framework. It includes integrating particle level sets, parallel computation, and tools that enable the artistic direction of the results.

Notes: Ron Fedkiw is an Associate Professor at the Computer Science Department of Stanford University that consults for ILM. Much of his research has been in the area of fluid dynamics. Some early collaborations included fluid sims for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The Stanford team also developed PhysBAM, an object oriented C++ library for physics based modeling (including computational fluid dynamics) which formed the basis of ILM's improved fluid dynamics systems. It has been used in such projects as Poseidon, Evan Almighty and Pirates of the Caribbean: AT World's End.



Number of Tech Oscars awarded: 26 (ILM officially only recognizes 20)

Related Scientific and Technical Academy Awards

Here are some related Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, mainly including awards recognizing historical contributions: in this case work that might have been started or partially developed at ILM, though the award may not have been given strictly speaking to someone at ILM at the time.

Notes: This section mainly includes the RenderMan awards. While RenderMan as a spec and product didn't come about until after the spin-off in 1986 (the spec circa 1991) much of the R&D work was done while still part of the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Division. This included things like compositing math, shade trees (the precursor to the shading language), stochastic sampling (to simulate motion blur, depth of field and filtering) plus actual early renderers at ILM.

1983

Technical Achievement Award, Camera
Douglas Fries, John Lacey and Michael Sigrist, for the design and engineering of a 35mm reflex conversion camera system for special effects photography.

Notes: Fries Engineering was subcontracted by ILM to build components for the optical printers for The Empire Strikes Back.

1988

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
To Bill Tondreau of Tondreau Systems; to Alvah Miller and Paul Johnson of Lynx Robotics; to Peter A. Regla of Elicon; to Dan Slater; to Bud Elam, Joe Parker and Bill Bryan of Interactive Motion Control; and to Jerry Jeffress, Ray Feeney, Bill Holland and Kris Brown, for their individual contributions and the collective advancements they have brought to the motion picture industry in the field of motion control technology.

Notes: Bill Tondreau, Alvah J. Miller, Jerry Jeffress and Kris Brown either worked at ILM or were subcontracted to design and build motion control systems, including the first ones used in Star Wars.

1992

Scientific and Engineering Award, Special Photographic
Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook, Ed Catmull, Tom Porter, Pat Hanrahan, Tony Apodaca and Darwyn Peachey, for the development of RenderMan software which produces images used in motion pictures from 3D computer descriptions of shape and appearance.

Notes: a lot of graphics research at the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Division continued after it's spun off into Pixar, which culminated in the RenderMan standard and its implementation PhotoRealistic RenderMan, based on the REYES architecture.

2000

Academy Award of Merit, Special Photographic
Rob Cook, Loren Carpenter and Ed Catmull, for their significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar's RenderMan. Their broad professional influence in the industry continues to inspire and contribute to the advancement of computer-generated imagery for motion pictures.

Notes: the Academy recognized again the Pixar team, this time issuing a statuette for their hand in the development of RenderMan and its huge impact in the film industry.



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