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Panavision, Michelson nab scientific/technical Oscars

Panavision and its Auto Panatar anamorphic lens and Manfred G. Michelson, who designed and developed the first sprocket-driven film transport system for color print film processors, were among those given scientific and technical awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at a dinner Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Both Panavision and Michelson received Oscar statuettes — the technical awards’ highest honor — at the ceremony, which was hosted by Laura Dern and attended by a crowd of several hundred, including past Academy presidents Daniel Taradash, Richard Kahn, Karl Malden, VP Fay Kanin and current president Arthur Hiller.

Also in attendance were Academy VP Donn Cambern, treasurer Arthur Hamilton, secretary Donald Rogers and Oscarcast producer Gilbert Cates and director Jeff Margolis.

The awards are voted by the Academy Board of Governors based on recommendations from the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, chaired by Edmund M. Di Giulio.

The Awards are granted in three classifications: AcademyAward of Merit (Oscar statuette), for basic achievements that have a definite influence upon the advancement of the industry; Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy plaque), for those achievements that exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the industry; and Technical Achievement Award (Academy certificate), for those accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the industry.

Hiller kicked off the festivities, noting that this year’s Academy Awards show would be a celebration of those behind the camera.

“This has always been the theme of the Scientific and Technical Awards,” Hiller said. “I guess that means that these awards are 66 years ahead of the times.”

Acknowledging that she had “developed a healthy respect for the technical side of filmmaking” after her role in “Jurassic Park,” Dern took the stage for the evening, introducing the winners.

Before awarding the Oscar statuette to Panavision and its Auto Panatar anamorphic photographic lens, director Sydney Pollack appeared in a brief video clip, extolling the virtues of the device.

Petro Vlahos received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, which recognizes a lifetime of achievement by an individual “whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.” The award is named in honor of the multiple-Academy Award-winning sound director of the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.

Short speeches

Vlahos, who received a standing ovation, showed his sense of humor when he announced that he was going to give three speeches — five seconds, 10 seconds and 30 seconds — to accommodate the Academy Awards show, since the presentation of his award will be shown as part of the Oscar show broadcast on ABC March 21.

This year’s winners are:

Technical Achievement:

Wally Mills for the concept and Gary Stadler and Gustave Parada for the design of the Cinemills Lamp Protection System, which provides a process that prevents the early failure of 20 kilowatt lamps by maintaining essentially uniform current flow to the lamp filament as it heats and changes resistance.

Gary Nuzzi, David Johnsrud and William Blethen for the design and development of the Unilux H3000 Strobe Lighting System, a high-speed strobe lighting system that generates a high intensity light pulse with a duration of only 1/100,000 of a second, the effect of which is to freeze an object moving at a high rate of speed so it can be photographed with extraordinary sharpness.

Harry J. Baker for the design and development of the Ronford-Baker Metal Tripods for motion picture photography, which have proved to be more rigid, durable and trouble-free than the wooden tripods previously used.

Michael Dorrough for the design and development of the compound meter known as the Dorrough Audio Level Meter, which provides a single-scale presentation of peak levels and energy content with a high correlation between the complex signals present and the acoustic output.

David Degenkolb for the development of a Silver Recovery Ion Exchange System to eliminate hazardous waste (silver ion) in wash water and allow recycling of this water, resulting in significantly lower environmental impact and reduced water consumption.

Scientific and Engineering:

Mark Leather, Les Dittert, Douglas Smythe and George Joblove for the concept and development of the Digital Motion Picture Retouching System for removing visible rigging and dirt/damage artifacts from original motion picture imagery.

Fritz Gabriel Bauer for the design, development and manufacture of the Moviecam Compact Modular 35mm motion picture camera system, which features quiet operation, light weight and ease in reconfiguring from one mode to another.

Academy Award of Merit:

Panavision Inc. for the Auto Panatar anamorphic photographic lens, which originally received a Scientific and Engineering Award in 1958. The Auto Panatar is a complete motion picture camera lens system containing both the prime and anamorphotic elements, which substantially reduces photographic lateral distortion.

Manfred G. Michelson of Technical Film Systems Inc. for the design and development of the first sprocket-driven film transport system for color print film processors, which permits transport speeds in excess of 600 feet per minute , which originally received a Scientific and Engineering Award in 1990. This film transport system has had significant effect on the design of film processors and on the economics of the film processing industry.

Gordon E. Sawyer:

Petro Vlahos, whose technical contributions have brought credit to the industry.

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