Inventors have their own Oscars: The Sci-Tech Awards

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In this still image from a video posted on YouTube, an engineer demonstrates how an innovation called Stop Motion Animator can be used in filmmaking. (Oscars.Org video via YouTube)
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In this still image from a video posted on YouTube, an engineer demonstrates how an innovation called Stop Motion Animator can be used in filmmaking. (Oscars.Org video via YouTube)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Inventors have their own Oscars: The Sci-Tech Awards

LOS ANGELES: Engineers and inventors who create innovations for the movie business have their own Academy Awards.
Presented since 1931, the film academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards recognize engineering and design achievements that have had a lasting influence on the art of filmmaking, from newfangled camera rigs to advanced computer software that makes animated renderings more precise.
“The academy tries to recognize cleverness and the things that change the movies,” said Doug Roble, creative director of software at Digital Domain and vice-chair of the academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards committee.
Since 1977, these prizes have been awarded at a dinner ceremony ahead of the Academy Awards. The private, untelevised event is generally hosted by a celebrity or two, who often struggle to explain the inventions being honored.
This year’s ceremony, set for Saturday, will be hosted by Patrick Stewart.
The Sci-Tech Awards, as they are colloquially known, comprise certificates, plaques and Oscar statuettes. Unlike the Academy Awards, Sci-Tech prizes aren’t for the previous year’s work. Inventions aren’t generally considered for Sci-Tech Awards until they’ve been used in various productions, Roble said.
“We take the long view,” he said. “We are awarding software or hardware or engineering that has stood the test of time... One of the things we look for is adoption of the technology beyond just the people who created it.”
All kinds of game-changing inventions are eligible for consideration.
“Last year we gave a mechanical horse puppet a Sci-Tech Award,” Roble said.
The creation makes it easier to film scenes on “horseback,” for both the performer and director. But it’s not just a hydraulic marvel.
“It had to be horsey enough that the horses around the actor will accept it,” Roble said, adding that the puppet has a tail that swishes back and forth. It was used in 2015’s “The Revenant,” among other films.
Other inventions that have been recognized include a pump device that helps flip cars in action films and software (created by Roble) that digitized certain shots of food that were previously done with practical effects.
This year’s awardees include an advanced camera rig mount that makes aerial shots easier and several software developments critical to modern animated movies.
The Presto and Premo character animation systems allow artists to see their fully rendered characters interact with other characters in real time. The old process was far less detailed and way more time consuming, Roble said.
“The technology these guys built is just beautiful, and it’s optimized to take full advantage of the latest hardware,” he said, adding that it’s been used in Pixar and DreamWorks Animation productions.
Three Oscar statuettes will be presented Saturday as well, with two of them recognizing the Houdini visual effects and animation system.
“It has become the de-facto standard for doing visual effects at studios,” Roble said. “It’s like a Photoshop for destruction.”
Where Photoshop allows users to manipulate images, Houdini allows them to manipulate three-dimensional objects. Artists can program specific details that are then extrapolated out to entire structures or scenes.
It’s this technology that created the warped buildings in Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” and galactic destruction in “Rogue One.”
The program’s pioneer, Mark Elendt, and the company he works for, Side Effects Software, will each receive the Academy Award of Merit, an Oscar statuette. Visual effects artist Jonathan Erland will receive the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, an Oscar statuette for his career contributions that include pioneering effects for “Star Wars” in 1977 and “Star Trek” two years later.
Roble noted that the innovations recognized with the film academy’s Sci-Tech Awards all share one thing in common: “This is all in service of art.”


Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

Videographic looking at the importance of ice shelves. A study shows that Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will continue to shrink this century, even if warming is limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

  • The discovery was initially made in the 2015 but an international team of researchers has been working to verify the findings ever since
  • There would have been debris projected into the atmosphere that would affect the climate and the potential for melting a lot of ice

TAMPA: A massive iron meteorite smashed into Greenland as recently as 12,000 years ago, leaving a crater bigger than Paris that was recently discovered beneath the ice with sophisticated radar, researchers said Wednesday.
The crater is the first of its kind ever found on Greenland — or under any of the Earth’s ice sheets — and is among the 25 largest known on Earth, said the report in the journal Science Advances.
The impact of the 19-mile (31 kilometers) wide crater under the Hiawatha Glacier would have had significant ripple effects in the region, possible even globally, researchers said.
But its story is just beginning to be told.
“There would have been debris projected into the atmosphere that would affect the climate and the potential for melting a lot of ice, so there could have been a sudden freshwater influx into the Nares Strait between Canada and Greenland that would have affected the ocean flow in that whole region,” said co-author John Paden, courtesy associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Kansas University.
“The evidence indicates that the impact probably happened after the Greenland Ice Sheet formed, but the research team is still working on the precise dating.”
The discovery was initially made in the 2015 but an international team of researchers has been working to verify the findings ever since.
The initial finding was made with data from NASA’s Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment and Operation IceBridge.
More data was collected since then, using more advanced radar technology.
“So far, it has not been possible to date the crater directly, but its condition strongly suggests that it formed after ice began to cover Greenland, so younger than three million years old and possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago — toward the end of the last ice age” said co-author professor Kurt Kjaer from the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
Researchers plan to try and recover material that melted from the bottom of the glacier to learn more about its timing and effects on life on Earth at the time.