Geeks Rule! Academy’s Science & Tech Awards Always Come First

We all know that the 85th star-studded, red-carpeted, Hollywood night-of-nights will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 24, to TVs across the U.S. and more than 225 countries around the world. But last Saturday at the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel, it was nerds night out for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards. In all, nine awards were presented to 25 individual winners, and though I won’t even pretend to have even a hint of understanding most of this stuff, I do know that these wicked smart guys’ contributions to the hardware and software used in live action and animated film production have made the movies more engaging and exciting for us. They may not get a lot of exposure during the big show, but their achievements play every day at the multiplex, on FiOS TV On Demand, and on Flex View.

If they gave an award for humility and humor it may have gone to Richard Mall, who was honored for creating the Matthews Max Menace Arm, a portable rig that allows studio lights to be placed and moved anywhere on sets where regular lighting isn’t an option. "I am a little humbled to be up here with all this technology, because basically I built something in my garage," Mall said to applause and cheers. "I'm a little nervous," he added, "because as a key grip for 36 years, if I see a camera in front of me, I’m in the wrong place." His invention has been sold in more than 40 countries and used in more than 300 films. Click here to hear interviews with Mall and fellow award winner Theodore Kim, as well as the chairman of the Sci-Tech Awards committee Richard Edlund.

Here are a few links to more coverage of the event: Time //Reuters //Deadline Hollywood // CNET // Inside Science News Service

Enjoy the rest of the awards on Feb. 24!

Technical Achievement Award

J.P. Lewis, Matt Cordner and Nickson Fong for the invention and publication of the Pose Space Deformation technique.

Lawrence Kesteloot, Drew Olbrich and Daniel Wexler for the creation of the Light system for computer graphics lighting at PDI/DreamWorks.

Steve LaVietes, Brian Hall and Jeremy Selan for the creation of the Katana computer graphics scene management and lighting software at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Theodore Kim, Nils Thuerey, Dr. Markus Gross and Doug James for the invention, publication and dissemination of Wavelet Turbulence software.

Richard Mall for the design and development of the Matthews Max Menace Arm.

Scientific and Engineering Award

Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling for the development of the Tissue Physically–Based Character Simulation Framework.

Dr. Philip McLauchlan, Allan Jaenicke, John–Paul Smith and Ross Shain for the creation of the Mocha planar tracking and rotoscoping software at Imagineer Systems Ltd.

Joe Murtha, William Frederick and Jim Markland of Anton/Bauer, Inc. for the design and creation of the CINE VCLX Portable Power System.

Academy Award® of Merit

Cooke Optics Limited for their continuing innovation in the design, development and manufacture of advanced camera lenses that have helped define the look of motion pictures over the last century.