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ZBrush and Mudbox creators win technical Oscars

Thursday, January 9th, 2014 | Posted by Jim Thacker


ZBrush’s tenth anniversary video, released in 2010. Pixologic co-founder Ofer Alon has just been awarded a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for his work on the software and pioneering multi-resolution sculpting.

The creators of digital sculpting packages ZBrush and Mudbox are to be recognised at this year’s Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, along with the pioneers of physically based rendering and deep compositing.

The winners of this year’s awards, spanning 52 individual recipients in 19 categories, were announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last night. The awards ceremony itself takes place on 2 March.

Awards for pioneers of digital sculpting
Pixologic co-founder Ofer ‘Pixolotor’ Alon wins an Academy plaque for his work on ZBrush, and in pioneering the concept of multi-resolution sculpting.

According to AMPAS: “ZBrush [transformed] how artists conceive and realize their final designs. [It] has enabled artists to create models far more quickly and with much greater detail than previous approaches.”

The team behind Mudbox receive an Academy certificate. The software was developed as an in-house tool at Weta Digital, then spun out into a commercial product, and was subsequently acquired by Autodesk.


The pioneers of deep compositing also receive Sci-Tech awards. The video above shows part of Johannes Saam’s original presentation from Siggraph 2010, setting out the basics of deep image data. (Note: no sound).

Former Weta Digital effects TD and Peregrine Labs founder Colin Doncaster gets a certificate for his work in pioneering deep compositing, along with Johannes Saam, Areito Echevarria, Janne Kontkanen and Chris Cooper.

Deep images store scene depth data on a per-pixel basis, minimising edge artefacts during compositing. The workflow has quickly become an industry standard, and is now supported in the OpenEXR 2.0 file format.

Matt Pharr, Greg Humphreys and Pat Hanrahan also get a certificate for formalising the concepts behind physically based rendering, as set out in their 2004 book of the same title.

The development strategies they pioneered were widely adopted in VFX production, in a new wave of off-the-shelf software spearheaded by Next Limit’s Maxwell Render, and now, increasingly, in videogames.

YouTube Preview Image
ILM’s VFX breakdown reel from The Avengers. The developers of Plume, its in-house tool for gaseous fluid simulation, used here for smoke and flame effects, also win Academy Award certificates.

ILM artists bring home a brace of certificates: one for Plume, the studio’s gaseous fluid simulation system; and one for Zeno, its in-house application framework.

The developers of Voodoo, Rhythm & Hues’ own application framework, and Weta Digital’s spherical harmonics-based lighting system, also win Academy certificates.

Read the full list of Scientific and Technical Academy Award winners

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