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Trivia: The Oscar's Sci-Tech Awards

Fri, 2013-02-08 11:13 -- cnicolini
Feb 8 2013 - 12:30pm
By: Emilie Lorditch
Streamlining graphics and lighting instruction software for stunning visuals. | Katana (Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Imagework)

I love movies. Becoming completely immersed in another time, place, or situation is my favorite way to escape the stress of daily life.

If I am sad, I can cry while watching a tear-jerker or change my mood completely by viewing a comedy. Then, there are times when I desperately want to be thrilled by visual effects. I look forward to the Oscar awards every year and during the broadcast, there are always a few minutes dedicated to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science's Scientific and Technical Achievements awards.

These Oscar awards are given to the inspiring scientists and ingenious engineers that work behind the scenes to blend art and science seamlessly. Here are some cool facts that I learned while researching this year's award winners.

  • Richard Mall invented the Matthews Max Menace Arm (MAX) because the crew wasn't able to touch the building to hang a light inside the historic Grauman's Chinese theater.
  • MAX can support a 175 pound light on the end of its eight-foot arm.
  • The Wavelet Turbulence software (used to create smoke and fire effects) was used in the upcoming "Iron Man 3" (2013)  film.
  • Theodore Kim, one of the creators of the Wavelet Turbulence software, was inspired to become an animator after watching "Toy Story" (1995).
  • Dan Wexler, one of the developers of the Light system (which combines the process of lighting and  rendering a movie scene into one program),   said, "My wife says that it is my job to make things blurry, but making things look blurry is really difficult because I have to simulate flaws in the camera lens."
  • Trial by fire is one way to describe the creation of Katana (a way to streamline graphics and lighting instructions). "Originally, we were only doing 40 test shots," said John Selan, one of the inventors, "Then, we were working on "Spider Man 3" "Surfs Up" and  "Beowulf" (2007) simultaneously.
  • The Mocha planar and tracking software (it solves common technical problems for visual effects artists) can be used to replace content on a TV screen, computer screen or phone in a film.
  • Matt Cordner, one of the designers of the Pose Space Deformation technique for fixing skin problems on animated characters, said "It is cool to see other movie studios (such as Sony and Weta) develop their own custom Pose Space Deformation solutions."
  • "I've often met young scientists who had no idea that there are hugely rewarding scientific and engineering jobs in the film industry, " said John-Paul Smith at Imagineer Systems Ltd who was one of the designers of the Mocha software.

Please follow this link for an Inside Science News Service article featuring more interviews and details on this year's award winners.

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