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Academy’s Sci-Tech Awards Honor Motion Graphics, Facial Capture Technology, Adobe

Ahead of this year’s hostless Oscars, the Motion Picture Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards, held Saturday night, proved it was possible to have an uncontroversial, enjoyable ceremony…complete with an emcee.

The Sci-Tech Awards honor technological innovators from the film industry who are rarely seen in front of the camera. The evening’s master of ceremonies, actor David Oyelowo, kept the mood light by lauding the tech award show over the Oscars and connecting with the honorees over the common mispronunciation of their foreign last names.

“These are the real unsung heroes of moviemaking, and I just love how selfless they are,” Oyelowo told Variety. “These guys spend tireless amounts of hours perfecting the things that make movies great. It’s a real honor to get to serve them tonight.”

Honorees were previously announced in December after being chosen by the Academy for their groundbreaking contributions to filmmaking and special effects. Three levels of awards—certificates, plaques and statuettes—were given to achievements that have made a significant impact over time.

Held at the Beverly Wilshire ballroom on Saturday, the ceremony recognized innovators in motion graphics, animation editing and facial capture technology. Special effects seen in nearly every CGI blockbuster, like “Avatar,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” would not be possible without these Sci-Tech revolutionaries. Marvel fans can thank the Medusa Performance Capture System and Light Stage X for the realistic faces on Thanos and the Hulk. Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, two of the most recognizable editing softwares, also took home Academy plaques.

Cinematographer Curtis Clark, who worked on films such as “The Draughtsman’s Contract” and “Alamo Bay,” was honored with the John A. Bonner Award.

It’s a collective effort. I can only inspire and encourage and lead,” he told Variety. “I’m not a technologist, I’m a filmmaker that understands technology. I have a tremendous respect for the Academy and Scientific Council. It was a very satisfying endorsement of what we’ve been doing.”

Ed Catmull, co-founder and former president of Pixar, took home a plaque for subdivision surfaces in 3D animation. He pioneered the way characters look in animated movies. Lightning McQueen in “Cars” and Russell from “Up” would not look as smooth and lifelike without Catmull’s work.

We’re doing things that are so phenomenal and amazing that most of the world looks at it and they don’t even think about what it is,” Catmull told Variety. “It’s been amazing to be a part of this industry as it’s changed. What we do here affects people around the world, not just in the stories, but inspiring young people to look at technology and programming and realize there’s something pretty deep behind this.”

With eyes now on the Oscars on Feb. 24, many wonder how the hostless ceremony will turn out. Oyelowo and Catmull both said they were looking forward to the format.

“I’ve always been an advocate that the Academy should do something different every year,” Catmull said. “This industry is built upon the fact that every year we change something. Change the way we celebrate. It’s OK. It’s good.”

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