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Visual f/x spark controversy

LIKE RICHARD KIMBLE, the doctor wrongly accused of his wife’s murder in “The Fugitive,” Tom Naud thinks somebody’s after him. And that somebody happens to be the visual effects branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Naud owns Introvision, the 14-year-old company that created the stunning train wreck sequence for “The Fugitive.” To the surprise of many, it failed to get a nomination for its visual effects, one of the most talked-about features of the hit film. Instead, the nominations went to “Cliffhanger,””Jurassic Park” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

The film wasn’t even among the seven chosen by the branch’s steering committee for submission to the entire branch for voting. The original seven films chosen also included “Addams Family Values,””Alive,””Hocus Pocus” and “Super Mario Bros.”

According to the outspoken Naud, there’s a conspiracy against him and his company.

Unlike conventional — and phony-looking — rear projection effects, Introvision is a technology that uses projected images in front of and behind the actors, creating the illusion that the performer is inside the scene.

The process was also used in more than 60% of 1992’s “Under Siege,” in the plane crash sequence in “Fearless” (which was also overlooked), “Darkman, “”Flight of the Intruder,””Stand By Me” and “Outland.”

Naud claims that the visual effects branch is biased against his Introvision system. Naud said that the branch is made up primarily of technicians and designers in the optical effects business, who feel threatened by the Introvision process, which could encroach on their livelihood.

Members of the visual effects branch deny Naud’s charges.

“It’s unfortunate that Tom has such a perception,” said Jonathan Erland, branch chairman. “His contention is incorrect that the effects branch is made up of optical people. It’s made up of the whole spectrum of effects people. It’s a broad cross section; the committee is made up of people from each of those areas.

“Nobody has it in for Tom Naud or the Introvision process. Introvision in the hands of an accomplished artist is quite remarkable.”

According to Erland, the steering committee, which is made up of about 30 members of the branch, meet for one evening and hash out the merits of the year’s films to be considered, which number over 200.

“There’s no formula,” Erland said of criteria for making it onto the list of seven. “It is the collective judgment expressed in a ballot which determines which films get in. We discuss how relevant the effects were to the script and how it advanced the story. We’re looking at the effect from an artistic point of view as well as the craft of the effect.”

Erland also pointed out that in 1986, a sci-tech award was presented to many of the people involved with front-projection technology, Introvision among them. Naud, however, turned down the award, claiming that Introvision was not a front-projection system but rather based on its own technology.

“Tom is fixated on his particular technology and sees awards in this area as awards for the technology,” Erland said. “Tom may fault the committee’s choices on an artistic basis and everyone can, but not all of these people vote the same way.

“What I find sad in Tom’s views is that he doesn’t base his view on faulting the committee’s choices on artistic choices, but on his conviction that the branch of the academy is making the decision on the basis of the technology and that the branch has a bias against his technology, which just isn’t true.”

And though Naud and his Introvision failed to get a nomination from the Academy, perhaps he will feel a little better knowing that the British Academy of Film & Television Arts just nominated the visual effects from “The Fugitive” for an award.

STAY HOME: The way things are going, most people will be able to just stay home and do everything, even make movies.

Opus Global is planning to roll out their Electronic Library, which will soon give film, television and advertising companies their own onramp to the information superhighway. The Electronic Library will offer a 24-hour-a-day video-on-demand system that will offer stock images, music and sound in full-motion and broadcast quality video in real time via the phone lines directly into computers.

Noting that library research is time-intensive, involving a client having to sift through large volumes of videotapes, slides or CD-ROMS to select the exact images required for a particular production, company executive Carl Hartman said the Opus Global will allow high-speed access to critically needed images and information.

“The system can send an image from our central computer to be downloaded to the client instantly,” Hartman said. “It won’t require several days or weeks as is currently the case, saving both time and money.”

Opus Global worked with Whittaker Communications, Mosaic Integration Services and IBM in the development of the proprietary systems.

According to Hartman, in addition to stock footage, music and sound will expand the system to include talent and model databases. This will give casting directors, producers and directors real-time access to still and moving pictures , in addition to resumes of performers.

(Andy Marx can be reached by computer on PAGE and CompuServe. His CompuServe number is 70324,3424.)

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