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Avid has fan in Oscar at Sci-tech ceremony

Company wins for editing system

HOLLYWOOD — Avid Technology took home the only Oscar given Saturday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences during the Scientific and Technical Awards gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Avid won the statuette for its digital nonlinear 24-frame per second film editing system, the widely used Avid Film Composer.

Actress Anne Heche hosted the event, handing out 88 certificates, plaques and medals to creators of everything from motion-controlled camera dollies, laser recorders and light meters, to bar code readers, time code slates and eye piece levelers. All awards had been announced previously (Daily Variety, Jan. 7).

“It’s an honor for me to be in a room with people who can honestly say they know what they’re doing in this business,” Heche said as she got the event under way. Later, when weariness threatened, she compelled the black-tie audience to perform the wave — twice.

“That was good!” she exclaimed. “I thought I was going to have to make a joke about how you can’t take direction.”

AMPAS received a total of 72 product entries, said Ed Di Giulio, chairman of the sci-tech committee. Winners were selected in December.

Boston-based Avid received the highest honor from AMPAS for its nonlinear film editing system, used by at least half of the industry’s film editors. Other editors use the 30-frames-per-second LightWorks system, while some still cut film by hand.

A group effort

Avid chairman and CEO Bill Miller and founder Bill Warner accepted for the company. “Getting the award has gotten everyone excited. This belongs to all the 2,000 people that are Avid,” he said.

Added Michael Phillips, Avid’s senior product designer: “It feels like a sigh of relief. The system was introduced in 1992. Now, seven years later, we’re being given the highest honor. It’s a dream come true.”

The system was first shipped to film editors in 1992 and was used to edit “Titanic,” “The English Patient” and this year’s best-picture nominees “Life Is Beautiful,” “The Thin Red Line” and “Elizabeth.”

The latter two films were also nominated for best editing. “Out of Sight,” another best-editing contender, was also cut on Avid.

David W. Gray received the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for his work in sound.

Pacific Data Image’s research and design staffer Nick Foster received kudos for his research and development of software tools to simulate water and fluid effects for the special f/x industry using computer graphics.

His research was recently used in PDI and DreamWorks’ “Antz,” and will next be seen in Warner Bros.’ “The Perfect Storm” and Universal’s “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.”

“It’s great to have my work acknowledged in this way,” Foster said. “It’s nice, too, that it’s being widely used in the industry.”

Gary Tregaskis, Dominique Boisvert, Philippe Panzini and Andre LeBlanc took home honors for developing the Flame and Inferno f/x-design software for Discreet Logic.

The Scientific and Technical Awards presentation was taped for inclusion in the March 21 Academy Awards broadcast, when Heche will appear again to introduce the abbreviated segment.

Heche adeptly walked the line between giving the highly technical innovations the seriousness they merited and keeping the evening light.

Before presenting Manfred N. Klemme and Donald E. Wetzel a certificate for developing the K-Tek Microphone Boom Pole, Heche raised her arms above her head and left them there for a while “in homage to boom operators who keep their arms in the air all day.”

Musical parody

Then she suggested that someone should develop a boom belt, rather like the belts that marching flag-bearers wear, in time for next year’s awards. With that, she launched into some new lyrics for an old Cat Stevens song: “I’m being followed by a boom shadow…”

Dr. A. Tulsi Ram, Richard C. Sehlin, Dr. Carl F. Holtz and David F. Kopperl of the Eastman Kodak Co., took home the Academy’s second award ever given to the preservation of motion picture film.

Ram, who shared the prize for researching and developing molecular sieves used in archiving film, said motion picture conservation is crucial.

“Whether it’s Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg or some unknown filmmaker in India,” Ram said, “we all want film to be preserved.”

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