Canadian technical Oscar winners admit to nerves
Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 12:19PM EST
TORONTO - First-time technical Oscar winner Andrew Clinton has been briefed on what to expect this Saturday when he and Side Effects Software colleague Mark Elendt attend the black-tie awards gala in Beverly Hills, Calif.
He's been warned that it'll be a bit terrifying.
It'll be Elendt's third time receiving a technical achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that hands out the Oscars. The previous two times he walked up to the stage he was warmly welcomed by Hollywood stars Ashley Judd and Kate Hudson.
This year, Milla Jovovich is hosting the show and handing out awards.
"You're up on stage with a very, very beautiful actress and you've got to say a speech too at the ceremony, just like the Oscars," said Clinton with a nervous chuckle.
"So for a bunch of technical people it's not the easiest thing in the world."
Canada will be well represented when the academy honours behind-the-scenes innovators this weekend, taking home two of 10 awards. Also being honoured are Burlington, Ont., residents Michael Lewis, Greg Marsden, Raigo Alas and Michael Vellekoop for the development of Pictorvision Eclipse, a stabilized camera mount used for shooting scenes from helicopters.
The technology has been used in a long list of recent feature films -- including "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," The Hangover" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," to name just a few -- but the Pictorvision Eclipse is the evolution of decades of work, said Lewis.
"It's been a lot of years and a lot of late nights that went into developing that product," said Lewis, noting that the team also has government and military clients for its technology.
"I used to get the motivational speeches, 'Spielberg needs a new camera system!' and I'd be there working very late at night trying to build those things to make it happen."
Side Effects, based in Toronto, is being honoured for software that "allowed, for the first time, unified and efficient rendering of volumetric effects such as smoke and clouds, together with other computer graphics objects, in a micro-polygon imaging pipeline," according to the academy's award announcement.
In plain English, the Canadian-made software helps Hollywood create digital special effects that can be overlayed in post-production.
"Prior to our invention it was really difficult for studios -- it wasn't impossible -- but it was really difficult to render sandstorms, or puffs of smoke, or clouds. And our invention made this a lot easier for them," explained Elendt.
"When you've got splashing water, falling rain or explosions that are blowing up, those kinds of things are our real forte."
In the last year alone, the company's Houdini software has been used to help create the likes of "Green Hornet," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," "Moneyball," "Puss in Boots," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "The Tree of Life."
Elendt said it's a huge honour to be acknowledged by the academy and he's excited to be attending the awards again.
"There aren't a whole lot of places where scientists and mathematicians can be sort of recognized in this way. And the academy does a ton of research, they really determine whether this invention is worthy of receiving an award," he said.
"It's really an honour to be recognized in that kind of way by your peers, so it's really, really a thrill."