U.S. vfx shops shut out in features; "Dragon" soars

“Inception” took home the most awards, but the biggest winners at Tuesday night’s VES Awards were Warner Bros. and, not coincidentally, the London visual effects biz.

Warner’s “Inception” won four awards, including the event’s top nod — vfx in a vfx-driven feature — and kudos for compositing and created environment and models & miniatures. London’s Double Negative took the first three, while New Deal Studios of Los Angeles did the model work.

But beyond “Inception,” Warner also took two other important plaudits, giving it a sweep of the live-action feature nods. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” also from Warner, picked up honors for animated character, for Dobby the elf. Dobby was animated by Framestore in London.

“Hereafter” won for supporting effects, primarily for its tsunami sequence, which was done by German company Scanline.

California’s vfx companies drew scant recognition at this year’s VES Awards, with Digital Domain’s “Tron: Legacy,” ILM’s “Iron Man 2″ and Sony ImageWorks’ “Alice in Wonderland” all shut out.

On the topic of Warner’s success, Chris de Faria, Warner exec VP for digital production, animation and visual effects, told Variety, “A lot of it is the luck of the draw, the films we’re making. We’re working with extraordinary directors.

But de Faria added, “We’re able to match their talent with talent we know about around the world that can deliver what these directors are after. We’re playing the role of a bit of a matchmaker, having access to sourcing and knowing what artists around the world are doing extraordinary work.”

All three of Warner’s winners are Oscar nommed for visual effects, with “Hereafter” breaking new ground by garnering a nom for supporting effects.

Warner brought its vfx money to London in search of a tax break on the early “Harry Potter” movies and nurtured the SoHo vfx hub with “Potter” and other tentpole pics, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.

He noted that while much of the winning work came from London, “The people who were working on those shots came from all over the world,” including transplanted Americans.

The other big feature winner was DreamWorks Animation’s “How To Train Your Dragon,” which won all three awards for which it was nominated: animation, effects animation and animated character in an animated feature.

“Dragon” is up against overwhelming favorite “Toy Story 3″ for the animated feature Oscar but beat out its Pixar rival on this night.

The success of Warner and London dovetailed nicely with the VES’ presentation of its first-ever Visionary Award to Nolan. The “Inception” helmer acknowledged his preference for capturing the action in-camera, without CGI, saying, “I’m often quoted in the press talking about visual effects like an actress talks about her use of Botox.” He went on to admit, “I’m as dependent on vfx, maybe more so, as any other director out there.”

On the TV side, “The Pacific” won three awards, including the prestigious kudo for vfx in a broadcast movie, mini or special. Syfy’s “Caprica” won for broadcast series vfx, while “Boardwalk Empire” picked up two kudos, including supporting vfx in a broadcast program.

“Halo: Reach” won two vidgame awards, and “Starcraft II” character Sarah Kerrigan took honors for animated vidgame character.

Complete list of winners of the 9th Annual VES Awards:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual-Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture
Inception
Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Mike Chambers, Matthew Plummer

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Hereafter
Michael Owens, Joel Mendias, Bryan Grill, Danielle Plantec

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
How to Train Your Dragon
Simon Otto, Craig Ring, Bonnie Arnold

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or a Special
The Pacific
John Sullivan, David Taritero, William Mesa, Marco Requay

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Caprica
Michael Gibson, Gary Hutzel, Davey Morton, Jesse Mesa Toves

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Boardwalk Empire
Robert Stromberg, Dave Taritero, Richard Friedlander, Paul Graff

Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short
Day & Night
Teddy Newton, Kevin Reher, Michael Fu, Tom Gately

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Live Action Commercial
Halo: Reach
Dan Glass, Dan Seddon, Matt Dessero, Stephanie Gilgar

Outstanding Animated Commercial
Cadbury’s Spots V Stripes
Jake Mengers, Julie Evans, Jorge Montiel Meurer, Michael Gregory

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
King Kong 360 3D
Matt Aitken, Kevin Sherwood, Eric Reynolds, R. Christopher White

Outstanding Real-Time Visual Effects in a Video Game
Halo: Reach
Marcus Lehto, Joseph Tung, Stephen Scott, CJ Cowan

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Video Game Trailer
World of Warcraft
Marc Messenger, Phillip Hillenbrand, Jr.

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Dobby
Mathieu Vig, Ben Lambert, Laurie Brugger, Marine Poirson

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
How to Train Your Dragon – Toothless
Gabe Hordos, Cassidy Curtis, Mariette Marinus, Brent Watkins

Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Citron C3 The Spacebox – Citro
Michael Nauzin, Anne Chatelain, Gregory Mougne, Cedric Nicolas

Outstanding Animated Character in a Video Game
StarCraft II – Sarah Kerrigan
Fausto De Martini, Xin Wang, Glenn Ramos, Scott Lange

Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
How to Train Your Dragon
Andy Hayes, Laurent Kermel, Jason Mayer, Brett Miller

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Inception – Paris Dreamscape
Bruno Baron, Dan Neal, Graham Page, Per Mork-Jensen

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program
The Pacific – The Battle of Iwo Jima
Marco Recuay, Morgan McDermott, Nick Lund-Ulrich

Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture
Inception – Hospital Fortress Destruction
Ian Hunter, Scott Beverly, Forest Fischer, Robert Spurlock

Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Boardwalk Empire – The Ivory Tower
J. John Corbett, Matthew Conner, Brendan Fitzgerald

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Inception
Astrid Busser-Casas, Scott Pritchard, Jan Maroske, George Zwier

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
The Pacific – Peleliu landing
Jeremy Nelson, John P. Mesa, Dan Novy, Tyler Cote

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
LOOM
Regina Welker, Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, Csaba Letay

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