Mari and RV’s creators win Sci-Tech Academy Awards
The creators of Mari, The Foundry’s industry-standard 3D texture painting tool, and RV, Tweak Software’s image-viewing and dailies playback application, have both won Scientific and Technical Academy Awards.
This year’s other ‘technical Oscars’ go to in-house teams at Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm & Hues and Sony Pictures Imageworks, and to the pioneers of Laika’s 3D prototyping workflow.
Mari: a ‘ubiquitous 3D digital paint system’
Since The Foundry released it commercially in 2010, Mari has rapidly become an industry standard, thanks to its powerful, multilayer painting tools, and its ability to handle very large production assets.
Described in the Academy Awards citation as a “ubiquitous” application that has “often supplant[ed] long-term in-house systems”, it was originally developed in-house at Weta Digital for use on Avatar.
Two Weta veterans – Jack Greasley, now The Foundry’s head of new technology, and Kiyoyuki Nakagaki, now its senior software engineer – win a Scientific and Engineering Award plaque for their work on the software.
They are joined by software engineers Duncan Hopkins and Carl Rand, who came to The Foundry from a games programming background, and did not previously work at Weta.
Laika’s use of 3D printing: advancing the quality of stop-motion
This year’s other Scientific and Engineering plaque goes to Laika’s director of rapid prototype, Brian McLean, and Martin Meunier, the studio’s former facial animation designer, for their work with rapid prototyping.
The duo pioneered the use of 3D printing in stop-motion animation to create facial expressions for Coraline, Laika’s debut animated feature, going on to win a 2009 Annie Award for the work.
Since then, Laika has used the workflow to more and more ambitious effect: interviewed by Cartoon Brew, McLean noted that where Coraline used around 20,000 printed faces, 2014’s The Boxtrolls needed over 52,000.
The Academy Award citation notes how the consistency of form and colour provided by 3D printing has “significantly enhanced” stop-motion animation over traditional manual methods of creating facial models.
You can read more about Laika’s current 3D printing workflow in this short article on fxguide.
RV: a pro-quality media player for studios of all sizes
Formerly an in-house tool at boutique VFX studio Tweak Films, image and sequence viewing application RV became widely adopted on its commercial release, initially at Weta Digital, then throughout the industry.
On its closure, Tweak Films spun off a separate company, Tweak Software, to develop RV. The firm was acquired by Autodesk last year, with all of the staff joining Autodesk’s Shotgun team.
Three of RV’s creators win a Technical Achievement Academy Award certificate: Tweak Films co-founder Jim Hourihan and president Seth Rosenthal, and Tweak Software director of product development Alan Trombla.
Awards to in-house teams at ILM, DreamWorks, Imageworks and Rhythm & Hues
Three other in-house shot review systems win Technical Achievement certificates, including DreamWorks Animation’s Media Review System, in use at the studio for nearly two decades.
The Academy Award citation describes it as a “pioneering system enabl[ing] desktop and digital theater review” and providing “artist-driven, integrated, consistent and highly scalable studio-wide playback”.
The creators of Rhythm & Hues’ Global DDR System and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Itview also win awards, with the citation noting their ability to provide an efficient global platform when deployed across multiple sites.
In addition, the team behind another key in-house tool receives a Technical Achievement certificate: Ronald Mallet and Christoph Bregler pick up their award for Industrial Light & Magic’s Geometry Tracker.
The Academy Awards citation describes it as a “novel, general-purpose tracker and solver” that enabled ILM to “solve a wider range of match-animation challenges than previously possible”.
Other awards: from camera shakers to air walls
This year’s other Sci-Tech Awards all go to physical technologies, including Clairmont Camera’s Image Shaker, which creates repeatable camera shake, and Dolby Laboratories’ PRM Series Reference Color Monitors.
However, the most eye-catching of the winners is Aircover Inflatables’ Air Wall greenscreen system (shown above), which provides a reusable alternative to traditional metal-and-cloth rigs for outdoor shoots.
As the firm’s marketing slogan puts it: “Even if it is bluescreen, it is still ‘green’.”
You can read a full list of the winners via the link below. The awards themselves will be presented at a ceremony in Beverly Hills on 13 February 2016.