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.”


Samsung receives reports of Galaxy Fold screen problems, says to investigate

Updated 18 April 2019
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Samsung receives reports of Galaxy Fold screen problems, says to investigate

  • Some tech reviewers of the Galaxy Fold said the phone malfunctioned after only a day or two of use
  • The splashy $1,980 phone resembles a conventional smartphone but opens like a book to reveal a second display

NEW YORK/SEOUL: South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said it has received “a few” reports of damage to the main display of samples of its upcoming foldable smartphone and that it will investigate.
Some tech reviewers of the Galaxy Fold, a splashy $1,980 phone that opens into a tablet and that goes on sale in the United States on April 26, said the phone malfunctioned after only a day or two of use.
“We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” Samsung said in a statement, noting that a limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review.
The problem seems to be related to the unit’s screen either cracking or flickering, according to Twitter posts by technology journalists from Bloomberg, The Verge and CNBC who received the phone this week for review purposes.
Samsung, which has advertised the phone as “the future,” said removing a protective layer of its main display might cause damage, and that it will clearly inform customers such.
The company said it has closed pre-orders for the Galaxy Fold due to “high demand.” It told Reuters there is no change to its release schedule following the malfunction reports.
The South Korean company’s Galaxy Fold resembles a conventional smartphone but opens like a book to reveal a second display the size of a small tablet at 7.3 inches (18.5 cm).
Although Galaxy Fold and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd’s Mate X foldable phones are not expected to be big sellers, the new designs were hailed as framing the future of smartphones this year in a field that has seen few surprises since Apple Inc. introduced the screen slab iPhone in 2007.
The problems with the new phone drew comparisons to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone in 2016. Battery and design flaws in the Note 7 led to some units catching fire or exploding, forcing Samsung to recall and cancel sales of the phone. The recall wiped out nearly all of the profit in Samsung’s mobile division in the third quarter of 2016.
Samsung has said it plans to churn out at least 1 million foldable Galaxy Fold handsets globally, compared with its total estimated 300 million mobile phones it produces annually.
Reviewers of the new Galaxy Fold said they did not know what the problem was and Samsung did not provide answers.
Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman tweeted: “The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not.”
According to Gurman’s tweets, he removed a plastic layer on the screen that was not meant to be removed and the phone malfunctioned afterwards.
Dieter Bohn, executive editor of The Verge, said that a “small bulge” appeared on the crease of the phone screen, which appeared to be something pressing from underneath the screen. Bohn said Samsung replaced his test phone but did not offer a reason for the problem.
“It is very troubling,” Bohn told Reuters, adding that he did not remove the plastic screen cover.
Steve Kovach, tech editor at CNBC.com tweeted a video of half of his phone’s screen flickering after using it for just a day.