Oscars 2014: Sci-tech awards honor film’s ‘alchemists’


From a miniature helicopter camera system to a pneumatic car-flipping device, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored the people behind the scenes who make special effects come to life at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards banquet.

Hundreds gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Saturday evening to honor 52 individual recipients for 19 scientific and technical achievements in the industry.

For the first time in the event’s history, the Academy Award of Merit -- presented by director Christopher Nolan -- was given to a group of people who built and operated film laboratories for more than a century of service to the motion picture industry.


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Nolan, who called the processing of photochemical film “the technology that livened the heart of filmmaking and still represents the gold standard of imaging technology,” commended the “alchemists…turning silver and plastic into dreams.”

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills will put the Oscar statuette on display until the new Academy Museum is completed.

“It will be on display as a permanent reminder to future generations of the fine work of all these men and women,” Nolan said. “This award is in recognition of the first 100 years of this fine work. I personally am very excited for the next 100 years.”

Oscar statuettes were also given to Peter W. Anderson, who received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for technical contributions, and Charles “Tad” Marburg, who received the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for his service to the academy.

Both Anderson and Marburg, who received standing ovations, touched on how arts and sciences go hand-in-hand.


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“To the world at large, [art and science] may appear to be two separate disciplines. However, I don’t think they are unrelated at all, “ said Marburg, a post-production and distribution executive.

“Without the sciences, what would the art be? Without the art, what would the sciences be?” Anderson, a visual effects supervisor and director of photography, echoed in his speech.

Throughout the awards ceremony, actors and co-hosts Kristen Bell and Michael B. Jordan cracked jokes while attempting to maneuver through technical terms when presenting the awards.

“I might want to quit acting and work with those guys,” Bell said about honorees. “They are so cool.”

Many recipients poked fun at themselves and others in the room when accepting their awards.


“It’s an honor to be here competing at this year’s annual winter Olympics for geeks,” joked honoree Joshua Pines, as he walked to the podium to accept his technical achievement award for the development of the American Society of Cinematographers Color Decision List, which provides reproduction of color values across color correction devices.

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Ofer Alon, who received a scientific and engineering award for a ZBrush software tool for multi-resolution sculpting of digital models, paused onstage to take a “selfie.”

“I have never tweeted in my life, but this would be a reason to do so,” he said.

The Academy Awards will be held March 2 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.