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Bullet and Naiad creators win Academy Awards

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted by Jim Thacker


Bullet physics running within Blender in a demo by Alain ‘Phymec‘ Ducharme. Bullet’s original architect – and former Blender developer – Erwin Coumans has won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for his work.

The creators of the Bullet physics system, Naiad fluid simulation software and the SpeedTree Cinema vegetation-generation system have all won Scientific and Technical Academy Awards.

This year’s other awards reflect pioneering work done in the fields of performance capture, destruction physics and the representation of volumetric data in visual effects.

Bangs and flashes
The most widely used of the technologies to receive an award this year is undoubtedly Bullet, the open-source physics framework now incorporated into almost every DCC tool imaginable, both proprietary and commercial.

As well as original developer Eriwn Coumans, DreamWorks’ Nafees Bin Zafar and Pixar’s Stephen Marshall receive awards for their work on developing large-scale destruction simulation systems using the technology.

Another proprietary destruction system – ILM’s PhysBAM – also netted awards for creators Brice Criswell and Ron Fedkiw; as did Pixelux’s Digital Molecular Matter, available as a Maya plugin and games middleware.


A VFX breakdown from Shark Night 3D, showing fluid simulations created by Reliance MediaWorks using Naiad. Software co-creator Robert Bridson won an Academy Award for his work on voxel data structures.

Wisps and splashes
The representation of volumetric data was another focus for this year’s awards, with the creators of both the OpenVDB and Field3D libraries for storing and manipulating voxel data winning prizes.

Robert Bridson, co-creator of Naiad – and its successor, Bifrost, integrated into Maya 2015 – also won an award for his pioneering work on voxel data structures “and its subsequent validation in fluid-simulation tools”.

Leaves and branches
Vegetation-generation tools, in the shape of the proprietary DreamWorks Animation Foliage systema, and IDV’s commercially available SpeedTree Cinema also won awards.

The latter, interestingly, was recognised for its user interface design as well as its underlying technology.

SpeedTree’s workflow, which enables artists to create vegetation by drawing forms directly as well as editing parameters or wiring node networks, has since been adopted by newer tools like PlantFactory.

Other Scientific and Technology Academy Awards reflected pioneering work done in the reconstruction of photorealistic digital characters from real-world measurements of actors.

Dan Piponi, Kim Libreri and George Borshukov were recognised for their work on ESC Entertainment’s Universal Capture system (shown in the demo reel above), used on the Matrix sequels.

Other awards went to the creators of the Mova Contour markerless facial-capture system, used on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, ILM’s Shape Sculpting toolset, and Weta’s Barbershop hair-grooming system.

This year’s Scientific and Technical Academy Awards are due to be presented at an official ceremony in Beverly Hills on 7 February.

Read a full list of the winners of this year’s Scientific and Technical Academy Awards

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