Friday, January 6th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

V-Ray and Arnold creators win Sci-Tech Academy Awards

Chaos Group’s 2016 V-Ray showreel. Vladimir Koylazov, V-Ray’s co-creator, wins one of this year’s Sci-Tech Academy Awards, along with fellow rendering pioneer Marcos Fajardo, creator of the Arnold renderer.

The creators of the V-Ray and Arnold renderers have both won Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, along with those of Blue Sky Studios’ in-house renderer and the creator of Open Shading Language.

Other Sci-Tech awards – the Oscars of the technology world – went to pioneers in the fields of facial motion capture and the developers of the current generation of hi-res digital movie cameras.

Arnold and V-Ray creators win awards for popularising raytracing in VFX production
For many CG artists, the best-known names on the list of 2017 technical Academy Award-winners will be Vladimir Koylazov and Marcos Fajardo, both of whom receive Scientific and Engineering Award plaques.

Both began work on their respective renderers 20 years ago this year, with Koylazov co-founding Chaos Group to develop V-Ray, and Fajardo beginning work on what would become Arnold.

In the intervening two decades, both have become industry standards, with Arnold being adopted for VFX and feature animation, first at Sony Pictures Imageworks and subsequently, at over 300 studios worldwide.

Meanwhile, V-Ray was becoming a staple of architectural visualisation – it tops’s 2016 list of most widely used renderers – and has since rapidly gained ground itself in visual effects work.

Together, the two renderers led to the widespread adoption of ray tracing – as opposed to less realistic, but less computationally intensive methods of rendering, such as those provided by RenderMan’s now-deprecated Reyes architecture – within movie effects.

The Academy’s citation describes both renderers as “instrumental in leading a widespread adoption of fully ray-traced rendering for motion pictures”.

Other awards honour pioneers of photorealistic production rendering
This year’s awards also honour other pioneers in the field of production rendering, including Larry Gritz, formerly RenderMan research lead at Pixar and creator of pioneer raytrace-capable renderer BMRT.

Gritz, who is currently software architect at Sony Pictures Imageworks, wins a Technical Achievement certificate for his work on Open Shading Language (OSL).

An advanced shading language for production GI renderers, OSL is now supported in a range of key software, including Arnold, V-Ray, Blender’s Cycles renderer – and, as of last summer, in RenderMan itself.

The Academy’s citation describes OSL as a “de facto industry standard [that] enables artists at all levels of technical proficiency to create physically plausible materials for efficient production rendering”.

The principal developers of Blue Sky Studios’ CGI Studio renderer, Carl Ludwig, Eugene Troubetzkoy and Maurice van Swaaij, also win a Technical Achievement certificate for their work.

Used at Blue Sky since its first projects, including its Oscar-winning 1998 short, Bunny (above), CGI Studio played a pivotal role in demonstrating that photorealistic rendering was feasible for commercial work.

Developers of key facial performance capture tools win Technical Achievement awards
Other Technical Achievement certificates go to the developers of the in-house facial performance capture tools used at Sony Pictures Imageworks, ImageMovers Digital and Digital Domain, and ILM.

Luca Fascione, J. P. Lewis and Iain Matthews, developers of Weta Digital’s FACETS facial performance capture and solving system, win a Scientific and Engineering Award plaque.

The Academy citation describes FACETS as “one of the first reliable systems to demonstrate accurate facial tracking from an actor-mounted camera, combined with rig-based solving, in large-scale productions”.

Key firms in the digital cinematography revolution win Scientific and Engineering plaques
Other plaques go to the key players in the development of modern digital cinema cameras.

Sony wins one award for the development of the F65 CineAlta camera – the original CineAlta having been used by George Lucas on Star Wars Episode II at the turn of the millennium – and shares another with Panavision for another early digital cinema camera, the Genesis.

RED Digital Cinema – which kickstarted the industry’s wider move from 35mm film to digital with the release of its RED One camera in 2007 – wins for the development of its current EPIC product range.

According to the Academy’s citation, “RED’s revolutionary design and innovative manufacturing process have helped facilitate the wide adoption of digital image capture in the motion picture industry”.

ARRI also wins an award for its Alexa camera system, whose 2010 launch was described by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins as the point at which digital “finally surpassed film in terms of quality“.

You can see the most recent Alexa showreel above.

Other winners include Brian Whited, principal developer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Meander drawing system, used on the studio’s Oscar-winning Paperman short (above).

Further awards go to pioneering developers of wireless microphones – and even an animatronic horse puppet. You can read a full list via the link below.

Read a full list of winners of 2017’s Scientific and Technical Academy Awards