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Oscar Sci-Tech Behind the Scenes


The Louma Camera Crane and the Technocrane have revolutionized what images cinematographers can capture and where cameras can go. Now the developers of these two innovative systems have been chosen by the Motion Picture Academy to receive the 2005 Oscars for technical and scientific achievement.Academy Awards will be bestowed to Horst Burbulla, creator of the Technocrane telescoping camera crane; and to the three engineers and developers of the Louma remote-controlled camera head—Jean-Marie Lavalou, Alain Masseron and David Samuelson.The Os-cars will be handed out to the recipients among the 15 achievements to receive commendations at the Academy’s gala annual Scientific and Technical Awards dinner on Feb. 12. Scarlett Johansson will speak tongue-twisting techno lingo and hand out the honors.Panavision’s Takuo Miyagishima will receive the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for a lifetime of technological contributions to the industry.And Arthur Widmer will get a special Award of Commendation for his decade-spanning achievement in the science and technology of compositing images for motion pictures, especially through his development of the Ultra Violet and the bluescreen compositing processes.Unlike other Academy Awards, given out for achievements in 2004, Sci-Tech honors are for devices with long and proven track records of successful employment in the film industry.Burbulla’s invention and continuing development of the Technocrane “has redefined the state-of-the-art in camera crane technology,” according to the Academy. The Technocrane overhauled the old multiple ladder system, with its electronically driven leveling head, adjustable moveable weight carriage, and lightweight, extremely precise telescoping beam elements that allow camera movement during shots.The Technocrane allows smooth lateral moves by cameras which are held up and moved on an arm that technicians on the ground control with a highly sensitive steering wheel. Eye-dazzling scenes in Titanic, The Matrix and both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 could not have been made without the device, which in its largest version stretches 75 feet.Burbulla, born in Germany, said he developed the first version years ago when he was directing his first and last film. After the fall of the iron curtain, he started a factory in the Czech Republic Plzen, famous for its tradition of manufacturing highly engineered goods. The factory turns out about 45 Technocranes a year and there now hundreds available around the world. The Los Angeles area alone boasts some 300, with Panavision Remote Systems the prime source of rentals.The Louma Camera Crane was developed in the 1970s by Englishman Samuelson. The device was enhanced by two French documentary cameramen Lavalou and by Alain Masseron. They were trying to shoot the length of a submarine, moving through small spaces.They jiggered a Camflex camera on a gyroscope pan-and-tilt head at the end of a pole which was on a tripod mounted on a narrow dolly. What evolved into the Louma was used by director Steven Spielberg in a famous jitterbug scene in 1941, where the camera went over and under dancers.Samuelson, 80, and three younger brothers established the Samuelson Film Services Company in 1960, which played a key role in the British Film industry’s evolution. Last year he finally achieved one wish, finally getting bar mitzvahed. Now he’ll get an Oscar for being part of a team that developed a device which revolutionized how movies are shot.Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy plaques):• Gyula Mester (electronic systems design) and Keith Edwards (mechanical engineering) for their significant contributions to and continuing development of the Technocrane telescoping camera crane.• Lindsay Arnold, Guy Grif-fiths, David Hodson, Charlie Lawrence and David Mann for their development of the Cineon Digital Film Workstation.Technical Achievements Awards (Academy Certificate):• Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for the development of their special modified silicone material for makeup applications used in motion pictures.• Jerry Cotts for the original concept and design and Anthony Seaman for the engineering of the Satellight-X HMI Softlight.• Steven E. Boze for the design and implementation of the DNF 001 multi-band digital audio noise suppressor.• Dr. Christopher Hicks and Dave Betts for the design and implementation of the Cedar DNS 1000 multi-band digital noise suppressor.• Nelson Tyler for the development of the Tyler Gyroplatform boat mount stabilizing device for motion picture photography.• Dr. Julian Morris, Michael Birch, Dr. Paul Smyth and Paul Tate for the development of the Vicon motion capture technology.• Dr. John O. B. Greaves, Ned Phipps, Antonie J. van den Bogert and William Hayes for the development of the Motion Analysis motion capture technology.• Dr. Nels Madsen, Vaughn Cato, Matthew Madden and Bill Lorton for the development of the Giant Studios motion capture technology.• Alan Kapler for the design and development of Storm, a software toolkit for artistic control of volumetric effects.

Written by Jack Egan

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