Traditionally held on the last Sunday of February, this year’s Academy Awards show was pushed back a week due to the Winter Olympics and will be held this Sunday, on March 2nd). So now that the hubbub of the Sochi Games has wrapped up, we can sheepishly turn our attention away from amateur, under-funded athletes and back to the engrossing spectacle that is Hollywood’s A-list.


Hmm. Maybe we shouldn’t just yet. Perhaps we should take a moment to recognize the brilliant individuals behind the scientific and technical innovations that captivate moviegoers around the world instead of shining the light on big name celebrities. Of course, Lupita Nyong'o was exceptional in her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave and deserves generous praise. The same goes for Matthew McConaughey for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. But for now, let’s recognize a couple of the men who were quietly honored at The Academy Awards’ Scientific and Technical Achievements ceremony, held on February 15.


Cinema Seats 


Peter W. Anderson

Pioneering 3D technologies

Visual Effects Supervisor and Director of Photography Peter W. Anderson received the prestigious Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy this month for his contributions to the development 3D technology. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award honors an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.


Anderson is an expert in filming 3D, large format, high frame rate, visual effects, and digital productions. Over his 40-year career, he has been instrumental in the development of these technologies. He developed modern 3D systems for Disney’s theme parks and has supervised IMAX 3D projects for Cirque du Soleil. His 60 frame-per-second digital 3D jumbo screen is a main attraction at Universal Studios theme parks.


 “Whenever I need insight or information on 3D or some other obscure aspect of old or new technology, I have to figure out who I’m going to call,” said visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull as he presented Anderson with his Oscar statuette. “Peter is the go-to guy, and that commands my deepest personal respect.”


Ofer Alon

Design and implementation of the ZBrush software tool

Ofer Alon’s ZBrush digital sculpting tool is used widely in the movie, animation, and gaming industries to enhance digital 3D sculptures to create superior resolution models. The ZBrush tool has been critical in the development of a number of technologically groundbreaking films including Avatar, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Gravity (which leads the pack of nominees at this year’s Oscar ceremony with 10 nods). Alon was honored this year with a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy. 


Here are a few of the films that have featured ZBrush technology:



Charles “Tad” Marburg

Service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy

Charles “Tad” Marburg received the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation in honor of his outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


In his role as a post-production and distribution executive, Marburg has used a cross-functional approach to filmmaking, bringing together artists and scientists in order to develop and share beautiful and captivating stories with audiences around the globe.


“One of the most interesting aspects of [the film] industry is the coexistence of science and art. To the world at large they may appear to be two disparate disciplines,” explained Marburg in his acceptance speech. “However, I don’t think they are unrelated at all. Without the science, we would not have the art. And without the art, we wouldn’t have the science – at least not in motion pictures.”



Emmanuel Prevenaire, Jan Sperling, Etienne Brandt, and Tony Postiau

Flying-Cam SARAH 3.0 System

Emmanuel Prevenaire, Jan Sperling, Etienne Brandt, and Tony Postiau received a Scientific and Engineering Award for their development of the Flying-Cam 3.0 SARAH system. The remote control-operated, mini-helicopter camera provides unparalleled aerial filming capabilities thanks to its gyrohead, its GPS and velocity controls, and its superior smoothness, among other things. Check it out:



Fifty-two individuals were recognized this year at the Academy Awards’ Scientific and Technical Achievements ceremony. To read about the rest of the honorees, click here


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