The attention they get doesn't even begin to compare with that lavished on many other Oscar winners. But the technical gizmos and gadgets singled out for Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards each year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have their stars, too.
This year's standouts, whose designers and inventors were recognized at a ceremony and dinner Sunday, include an optical printer that looks like one of the battle machines from "Star Wars." This is appropriate, because the current stage of technical film wizardry began with that 1977 film, said Joseph Westheimer, chairman of the academy committee that chooses these awards.
"George Lucas hired people who were incredibly inventive," said Westheimer, "especially in the special-effects area, where they came up with new, computer-driven ways to shoot one model from different angles and make it seem like a whole fleet."
Due to such spectacular advances, Westheimer said, the film-going public has grown more interested in and knowledgeable about how movie magic is accomplished.
"We get a lot of mail from fans who want to know how a certain scene was shot," he said. "Of course," he added with a laugh, "many of them want to know how they can get jobs in the industry, too."
Or as Daniel Ross, who has administered the scientific awards for 18 years, put it: "A lot of people like looking under the hood now."
Under the hood is a lot more than the expensive contraptions that make dogfights in space seem so real. This year's winners include a car-crane setup that allowed the camera to swoop all around moving vehicles in "Ruthless People" and "Golden Child," and a new, safe machine-gun-like device making it unnecessary to plant explosives that look like bullet hits, plus such supporting "actors" as a new kind of microphone and even an improved power supply unit.
Here are the winners.
Bran Ferren, Charles Harrison and Kenneth Wisner of Associates & Ferren for the concept and design of an advanced optical printer.
Richard Benjamin Grant and Ron Grant of Auricale Control Systems for their invention of the Film Composer's Time Processor.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Laboratories Inc. and Technical Film Systems Inc. for the design and engineering of a continuous-feed printer.
Robert Greenberg, Joel Hynek and Eugene Mamut of R/Greenberg Associates Inc. and Dr. Alfred Thumin, Elan Lipschitz and Darryl A. Armour of the Oxberry Division of Richmark Camera Service Inc. for the design and development of the RGA/Oxberry Compu-Quad special-effects optical printer.
Dr. Fritz Sennheiser of Sennheiser Electronic Corp. for the invention of an interference tube directional microphone.
Boss Film Corp. for the design and development of a zoom aerial (ZAP) 65-millimeter optical printer.
William L. Frederick and Hal Needham for design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane.
Lee Electric Ltd. for design and development of an electronic, flicker-free discharge lamp control system.
Peter D. Parks of Oxford Scientific Films' Image Quest Division for development of a live aero-compositor for special-effects photography.
Matt Sweeney and Lucinda Strub for development of an automatic capsule gun for motion picture special effects.
Carl E. Holmes of Carl E. Holmes Co. and Alexander Bryce of the Burbank Studios for the development of a mobile DC power supply unit for motion-picture production photography.
Bran Ferren of Associates & Ferren for the invention of a laser synchro-cue system for applications in the motion-picture industry.
John L. Baptista of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Laboratories Inc. for development and installation of a computerized silver recovery operation.
David W. Samuelson for the development of programs incorporated into a portable computer for motion-picture cinematographers based on new algorithms developed in conjunction with W. B. Pollard.
Hal Landaker and Alan Landaker of the Burbank Studios for development of the Beat System low-frequency cue track for motion-picture production sound recording.
MEDAL OF COMMENDATION
E. M. (Al) Lewis in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.