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HomeAwardsVES Awards – A Good Night for Richard Parker

VES Awards – A Good Night for Richard Parker

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If the Visual Effects Society awards are any indication, it would appear to be increasingly certain that we live in uncertain times. Once again, in opening remarks, executive director Eric Roth referred to the precariousness of the very industry that a thousand or so folks had gathered to celebrate at the Beverly Hilton, referring to a “game of chicken” that has beset the industry. He was talking about the news of the last 24 hours, which was on everyone’s mind in the room, without being specific. But the unspoken topic was: Would leading FX house Rhythm & Hues get the cash infusion it needed to stay afloat, or, worse, somehow go under?

Word was that R&H would likely take a $20-million cash infusion, from three studios (Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox) to stay afloat, in part so it could finish some key projects for those studios.

This was particularly ironic in that R&H, led by Bill Westenhofer and crew, was one of the biggest winners of the night. Its work on Life of Pi, and its iconic, and mostly digital tiger, Richard Parker, left an indelible paw print on the feature film side of the evening, copping four awards, including “outstanding animated character in a live action feature motion picture” (for raft-voyaging Mr. Parker) and the evening’s marquee award, outstanding visual effects in a visual effects-driven feature motion picture.

The film’s director, Ang Lee, was also given the VES Visionary award, as he talked about his first experience using effects in his earlier, pre-Avengers version of The Hulk, then needing to retreat to merely doing straightforward dramas, (like Brokeback Mountain), before scaling back up to heavy greenscreen use for the mystical opus that’s also become both a box office hit, and the odds-on favorite to win similar FX accolades at Oscar time.

Richard Edlund, of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other fame, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, and talked of his journey from Navy camera duties to the “photo-masochism” he endured while helping to pioneer visual effects for TV commercials at Robert Abel & Associates. With a fortuitous meeting of a young, wiry director named George Lucas, in between.

And on a night where a massive earthquake was sending tsunamis over the Solomon Islands, The Impossible, based on family’s survival story from the 2004 Indian Ocean quake and tsunami, won an award for outstanding supporting visual effects in a feature motion picture.

Game of Thrones grabbed its own quartet of awards on the television side, and Brave proved to be the big winner in animation, with its own four wins, including outstanding animation in an animated feature motion picture. Whether this signals some momentum heading into Oscars, after Wreck-It-Ralph won big at the Annies a few days earlier, remains to be seen.

Brave director Mark Andrews was one of the presenters for the evening, dispensing envelopes in several compositing-related categories, and enthused that “compositing makes all this shit look good.”

Indeed, it all looked good. And at a time when movies and TV shows are looking more remarkable than ever, the pervasive irony remains that working to make them look that way can still be a very geographically unreliable form of employment.

That’s the stuff of drama, rather than visual effects – suited, perhaps, to one of the smaller scale films director Lee prefers when working between his own FX opuses.

The winners of The 11th Annual VES Awards are:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture

Life of Pi
Donald R. Elliott
Susan Macleod
Guillaume Rocheron
Bill Westenhofer

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture

The Impossible
Felix Bergés
Sandra Hermida
Pau Costa Moeller

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

Brave
Mark Andrews
Steve May
Katherine Sarafian
Bill Wise

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

Game of Thrones, Volar Morghulis
Rainer Gombos
Steve Kullback
Sven Martin
Juri Stanossek

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

Boardwalk Empire, Episode 308
John Bair
Parker Chehak
Paul Graff
Lesley Robson-Foster

Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game

“Call of Duty: Black Ops II”
Jason Blundell
Barry Whitney
Colin Whitney

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

Nike, “Biomorph”
Rafael Colon
Aladino Debert
David Liu
Nicola Wiseman

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Despicable Me, Minion Mayhem
Heather Drummons
Joel Friesch
Brooke Breton
Chris Bailey

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

Life of Pi, Richard Parker
Erik De Boer
Sean Comer
Betsy Asher Hall
Kai-Hua Lan

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

Brave, Merida
Travis Hathaway
Olivier Soares
Peter Sumanaseni
Brian Tindall

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

Game of Thrones, Training the Dragons
Irfan Celik
Florian Friedmann
Ingo Schachner
Chris Stenner

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

The Avengers, Midtown Manhattan
Richard Bluff
Barry Williams
David Meny
Andy Proctor

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

Brave, The Forest
Tim Best
Steve Pilcher
Inigo Quilez
Andrew Whittock

Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

Game of Thrones, Pyke
Rene Borst
Thilo Ewers
Adam Figielski
Jonas Stuckenbrock

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Matt Aitken
Victor Huang
Christian Rivers
R. Christopher White

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

ZombiU
Dominique Boidin
Léon Bérelle
Rémi Kozyra
Maxime Luère

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture

The Avengers, Helicarrier
Rene Garcia
Bruce Holcomb
Polly Ing
Aaron Wilson

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture

Life of Pi, Storm of God
Harry Mukhopadhyay
David Stopford
Mark Williams
Derek Wolfe

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture

Brave
Chris Chapman
Dave Hale
Michael K. O’Brien
Bill Watral

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Commercial or Broadcast Program

Guinness, “Cloud”
Tom Bussell
Neil Davies

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture

Life of Pi, Storm of God
Ryan Clarke
Jose Fernandez
Sean Oharas
Hamish Schumacher

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program

Game of Thrones, Episode 210: “White Walker Army”
Falk Boje
Esther Engel
Alexey Kuchinsky
Klaus Wuchta

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

Chevy “2012 Silverado”
Dominik Bauch
Nicholas Kim
Benjamin Walsh

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

Natalis
Daniel Brkovic
David Kirchner
Jan-Marcel Kuehn
Tom Ferstl

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