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Sci/tech Oscar nods announced

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has selected this year’s recipients of awards for scientific and technical achievements, including one to the pioneers and developers of the MORF digital metamorphosis system, the breakthrough special effect used extensively in last year’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

The awards — voted by the Acad’s Board of Governors based on the recommendations made by the Scientific and Technical Awards committee, chaired by Donald C. Rogers — will be handed out March 6 at the Century Plaza Hotel.

The Scientific and Technical Awards are given out by the Academy for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures, which also have a proven history of use in the film industry.

The awards are granted in three classifications: Academy Award of Merit, which is an Oscar statuette, for basic achievements that have a definite influence upon the advancement of the industry; Scientific and Engineering Award , an 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, an Academy certificate, for those accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the industry.

This year, one Academy Award of Merit Oscar will be presented to Chadwell O’Connor of O’Connor Engineering Laboratories for “the concept and engineering of the fluid-damped camera head for motion picture photography.” It was O’Connor who conceived and produced the first fluid camera head, which provided camera operators with a motion-damped camera support to effect smoothness in camera panning and tilting.

As previously reported, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, also an Oscar statuette, will be presented to Erich Kaestner, “whose technical contributions have brought credit to the motion picture industry.”

Technical Achievement Awards will be presented to:

o Ira Tiffen of the Tiffen Manufacturing Corp. for the production of the Ultra Contrast Filter Series for motion picture photography, which provides a graded range of contrast reduction filters with excellent consistency over the entire frame area.

o Robert R. Burton of Audio Rents Inc., for the development of the Model S-27 4-Band Splitter/Combiner, a method of processing a soundtrack by allowing the sound mixer to work on separate bands of the audio spectrum.

o Iain Neil, for the optical design, and Kaz Fudana, for the mechanical design, of the Panavision Slant Focus Lens, which allows for the focus plane to be tipped and rotated so that near and far objects can be simultaneously brought into focus.

o Tom Brigham, for the original concept and pioneering work and Douglas Smythe and the computer graphics department of Industrial Light & Magic for development and first implementation in feature motion pictures of the MORF system for digital metamorphosis of high resolution images. The MORF system made practical the creation of metamorphosis and transformation effects for films.

Scientific and Engineering Awards will be presented to:

o Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook, Ed Catmull, Tom Porter, Pat Hanrahan, Tony Apodaca and Darwyn Peachy for the development of RenderMan software, which provides the means to digitally create scenes or elements that may be composited with other footage.

o Claus Wiedemann and Robert Orban for the design and Dolby Laboratories for the development of the Dolby Labs’ “Container,” a stereo five-band audio processor that limits signals in the selected band or bands, then removes resulting harmonics, allowing creative use of an analog soundtrack with increased dynamic range.

o Ken Bates for the design and development of the Bates Decelerator System, which provides a means for significantly increasing the safety of very high stunt falls.

o Al Mayer for the camera design; Iain Neil and George Kraemer for the optical design; Hans Spirawski and Bill Eslick for the opto-mechanical design; and Don Earl for technical support in developing the Panavision System 65 Studio Sync Sound Reflex Camera for 65mm motion picture photography.

o Douglas Trumbull for the concept; Geoffrey H. Williamson for the movement design; Robert D. Auguste for the electronic design; and Edmund M. DiGiulio for the camera system of the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for 65mm motion picture photography — the first modern 65mm camera to be developed in 25 years.

o Arriflex Corp., Otto Blaschek and the engineering department of the ARRI, Austria, for the design and development of the Arriflex 765 Camera System for 65 mm motion picture photography.

A Medal of Commendation will be awarded to Petro Vlahos “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.”

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