The 84th Academy Awards – “The Oscars” – will be on TV this Sunday. Most people are familiar with the drama and suspense around seeing their favorite actors and actresses being nominated for and winning (or losing!) the coveted golden statue. I have watched the Oscars many times since I was a child for that very reason. I used to get frustrated when they would pause and quickly rattle of the winners of the technical awards for lighting, sound, and other obscura that, to me, had nothing to do with the movies that I saw.

But there is so much that goes on behind the scenes of a movie, even decades ago, that make what we enjoy so much even possible. As technology has advanced, more and more really geeky folks have become a required part of movie making that I think they deserve a show of their own now. The Oscars have always recognized them with their own awards ceremonies, they just don’t broadcast them which is a shame. With as much technology that people use now and the vastly greater number of technical folks we have in technical industries than ever before, I believe they would have really good audience. besides, advertisers just might eat it up since those same technical folks make a pretty good living these days.

But until that day comes (I have faith it will!), we can still find out what the Academy is recognizing some very talented technical people for.

Every year now, there is a ceremony that takes places a couple of weeks prior to the televised Oscars that recognize the folks who’s technical achievements, discoveries, and innovations have made it possible for some of the cool stuff we see today. Consider all of the CGI work alone that has taken place in the last decade and I hope you can appreciate what some of these folks have done (I will exclude the CGI work done on the revamped versions of first three Star Wars movies….shame on you George Lucas!)

Here are a few examples of what the Scientific and Technical Awards Oscars recognize – (source)

“The invention and integration of micro-voxels in the Mantra software. - This work 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.”

“The development of a unique and efficient system for the reduction of noise and other artifacts, thereby providing high-quality images required by the filmmaking process. - The “Lowry Process” uses advanced GPU-accelerated, motion estimation-based image processing tools to enhance image quality.”

“The design and engineering of the Phantom family of high-speed cameras for motion picture production. - The Phantom family of high-speed digital cameras, including the Phantom Flex and HD Gold, provide imagery at speeds and efficacy surpassing photochemical technology, while seamlessly intercutting with conventional film production.”

That is some pretty nerdy stuff!  But modern film making would not be the same without it. Check out more of what goes on behind the scenes at the movies and how us nerds are making it all happen at the Sci-Tech Awards sub-site at oscars.org.

Cheers!