Oscar 2021: Three Women From Disney and Pixar Among Sci-Tech Awards Honorees

Oscar Statuettes

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Seventeen scientific and technical developments representing 55 individuals — including three women, which may be a first in a single season — will be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Scientific and Technical Awards. The honorees and their work, which includes advancement in hair simulation and sound tech, will be recognized during a virtual presentation hosted by filmmaker Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) on Feb. 13 starting at 1 p.m. PT on the Oscars’ website.Science and technology for filmmaking is an area still largely dominated by men. In fact, since 1961, only 20 women have received Scientific and Technical Awards. This year three women will join that list: Hayley Iben, a simulation research engineer at Pixar Animation Studios, who will be honored as part of the Taz hair simulation tech team, as well as Kelly Ward Hammel, a senior software engineer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Maryann Simmons, a software engineer/technical lead hair and cloth at the studio, who will both receive awards among the Walt Disney Animation Studios hair simulation system team. The presentation will feature a segment hosted by Kathleen Kennedy, highlighting the achievements of women working in these technical roles.This will be the first SciTech presentation in two years, as the last such ceremony was held on Feb. 9, 2019. When the Academy revised its awards season schedule for 2020, this presentation, which was typically held in February, was scheduled for June 20, 2020. It was subsequently canceled due to the pandemic. Scientific and Technical accolades are awarded to developments that demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures and generally have been in use over a period of years, so it’s unsurprising that technologies and processes initiated this past year to enable production amid the COVID-19 pandemic are not represented among this year’s honorees.

This year Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates) will be presented to the aforementioned Hayley Iben alongside Mark Meyer, John Anderson and Andrew Witkin for Pixar’s Taz hair simulation system that was first used on Brave to create Merida’s long curls and can be used to create any type of hair style from straight to wavy on digital characters; and the aforementioned Kelly Ward Hammel and Maryann Simmons, alongside Aleka McAdams, Toby Jones and Andy Milne for the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Hair Simulation System used in animated features such as Tangled, to manage Rapunzel’s ultra-long waves.

Technical Achievement Awards will also be bestowed on Stephen Bowline, for Industrial Light + Magic’s HairCraft dynamics system, initially developed for the Warcraft feature film and more recently used to create underwater hair in Aquaman; and Niall Ryan, Christoph Sprenger and Gilles Daviet for Weta’s Synapse hair simulation system used on movies such as Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book for digital characters and digital stunt doubles.

Academy Certificates will also be awarded to Alejandro Arango, Gary Martinez, Robert Derry and Glenn Derry for the head-mounted camera system used on Avatar and adopted by Technoprops; Ian Kelly and Dejan Momcilovic for the Standard Deviation head-mounted camera system also used on Avatar; Masato Nakashima, Koichi Ueno, Junji Sakuda and Junro Yonemitsu for the EIZO auto-calibrating SDR monitors; and Babak Beheshti and Scott Robitille for the development of a genlock synchronization and recording module.

Additionally, this group of honorees includes Sven Woop, Carsten Benthin, Attila T. Áfra, Manfred Ernst and Ingo Wald for the Intel Embree Ray Tracing Library; Jens-Jørn Stokholm and Ole Moesmann for the DPA lavalier microphones; Chris Countryman and Omer T. Inan for Countryman Associates lavalier microphones; Fredrik Limsäter, Björn Rydahl and Mattias Lagergren for Ftrack Studio tracking software; and Don Parker, Matt Daw and Isaac Reuben, Colin Withers and Neil Brandt for the Shotgun tracking system.

During the virtual ceremony, Scientific and Engineering Awards, which are Academy plaques, will be presented to Alexey Lukin and iZotope team for iZotope’s RX audio processing system; Jeff Bloom, Guy McNally and Nick Rose for the Wordfit System for automatic ADR synchronization; John Ellwood and Jonathan Newland for VocALign and Revoice Pro sound editing software; and Sanken Microphone Company for its COS-11 series of miniature lavalier microphones.

Academy Plaques will also be awarded to Zvi Reznic, Meir Feder, Guy Dorman and Ron Yogev for the Amimon wireless chipset that has found application in digital video monitoring and to Nicolaas Verheem, Greg Smokler and Ilya Issenin for the Teradek Bolt wireless video transmission system for on-set remote monitoring.