In a lavish November 2 ceremony and after-party at the Skirball Cultural Center in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Los Angeles-based Visual Effects Society (VES) offered top recognitions to a group of heralded craftspeople who have been responsible for unprecedented success in the overall cinematic field.
While the VES—established in 1997—offered honorary memberships to progenitors of the craft, including director and inventor James Cameron, and fellowships to others, among them digital artist Van Ling, due time was allocated to the VES Hall of Fame 2021 inductees, all of whom have passed on but were represented by their familial descendants.
Dating to the earliest cinematic inventions, the first award, chronologically, was given to Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière, founders of the cinematographé in France in 1895. It was the Lumière brothers’ combined camera, film, and projection system which allowed motion pictures to initially flourish. Along with additional inventions by Thomas Edison and William Dickson, the Lumières pioneered the very existence of cinema as it is still known today. In fact, though their earliest films were of their employees leaving the Lumière laboratory and a static shot of a train entering a station, the Lumières, more than anyone, furthered the movie industry from the invention to the creation stage, late in the 19th century.
Sequentially, the second Hall of Fame entrant was John P. Fulton, a longtime photographic effects supervisor who worked in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, first at Universal Pictures, and then as a freelancer. Starting in the early-1930s, Fulton was Universal’s leading effects photographer, where he delivered groundbreaking visuals on the studios classic horror films, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and The Wolf Man. By 1947, many department heads saw their tenure at the studio expire, but Fulton continued in many capacities at other studios, especially Paramount, where he won an Oscar for the landmark visual effects in the 1956 epic screen version of The Ten Commandments.
Next, the VES lauded John Whitney, Sr., a master of all trades in the effects realm, including considerable achievement in the area of computer graphics and animation. Of note, Whitney built mechanical computer equipment in the 1950s, some quarter of a century prior to the first personal computers, and he used his devices to create innovative works of art which he himself photographed. One might say that Whitney created “motion graphics” in a time long before it gained any type of nomenclature. Moreover, in 1958, Whitney, with Saul Bass, created the opening title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
Then, often working with renowned producer George Pal, effects artist, photographer, and designer Phil Kellison perfected the art of animating and shooting Pal’s Puppetoon short films, which ran in the 1940s, with regards to American-produced material. Later, Kellison developed a forced perspective system that he titled Magnascope, and a remarkable slate of television commercials, many of which were produced at Cascade Pictures, featured his techniques. As stated in the VES honors ceremony, the foremost denizens of practical visual effects across the past 50 years all cite Kellison as a key influence in the effects arena.
Lastly, the VES awarded Roy Field, both a visual effects supervisor and director of photography. Working in Great Britain, Field created optical effects for a slew of blockbuster projects, such as 1974’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, collaborating with Ray Harryhausen, Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976) and Superman (1978)—plus the three succeeding Superman sequels—and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986). For the original Superman feature, Field won both an Oscar and a BAFTA award.
For a complete list of honorees, please visit VisualEffectsSociety.com.
You can see a full gallery of pictures from the event below. All photos courtesy VES.