Top techs behind moviemaking get their star turn from Academy

Sun Feb 16, 2014 3:55am EST
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By Mary Milliken

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - From the inventors of the pneumatic car flipper to the software developers who replaced clay modeling with digital sculpture, dozens of behind-the-scenes cinematic innovators turned out on Saturday to receive recognition from the film industry.

Two weeks before the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out its Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards for the visual effects behind groundbreaking films such as "Avatar", "Life of Pi" and "Gravity".

While the Academy Awards on March 2 will reward films released in 2013, the yearly scientific and technical awards honor contributions to filmmaking for innovations that developed over years and even decades.

This year, the Academy gave certificates or plaques to 52 individuals for 19 scientific and technical achievements, and two golden Oscar statuettes as well as a medal of commendation.

Joshua Pines, who got his award for color correction technology, called it "the Winter Olympics for geeks".

One of the first awards of the night went to the men behind the pneumatic car flipper used in films including "Independence Day" and "Total Recall". As films moved off movie sets and into real places such as downtown Los Angeles, they had to develop a method to safely and reliably launch cars.

"We had to know exactly where cars were going to land when we launched them," said prize winner John Frazier.

Awards were also given for the flying camera that can be programmed to whizz through a house with exact precision and for the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system.   Continued...

Actor Chris Hemsworth (L) and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominees for Best Animated Feature at the 86th Academy Awards nominee announcements in Beverly Hills, California January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Phil McCarten