Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Wins Oscar for Program That Makes Creatures in 'Hobbit' More Realistic

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Wins Oscar for Program That Makes Creatures in 'Hobbit' More Realistic

Article excerpt

Canadian wins Oscar for special effects work

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TORONTO - A Canadian is being lauded for his work in developing the digital program that made the fantastical creatures seen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Avatar" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" appear more realistic.

James Jacobs, along with Simon Clutterbuck and Dr. Richard Dorling, who are British, will be among 25 recipients of plaques and certificates from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizing technical movie-making achievements. The trio are getting an award for their development of the Tissue Physically-Based Character Simulation Framework.

A ceremony will be held Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

Jacobs, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., says the technology works from the inside out to simulate the anatomical structures underlying a character's skin. It's a departure from the traditional way of developing a character, going from the surface inward.

Jacobs, who works for Weta Digital in New Zealand, said in an interview from Wellington that they draw inspiration from humans and animals like dogs and bears to create realistic effects.

"We're building up the anatomy and we're using the same sort of approaches that are found in engineering or medical science where we're solving the actual elastic properties of the musculature and fat and skin ... and just sort of build it up to let you have a character that looks convincing, hopefully, and get the performance across a lot more effectively," explained Jacobs, who will be 41 on Monday.

Jacobs, who took courses in art and film at the Ontario College of Art and Design and Ryerson University in Toronto, went to Weta in 2004 to work on "King Kong," the remake of the 1933 film.

"The original was a movie I quite liked, so I wanted to come here to work on that and I just sort of stuck around because the other work was pretty great," he said.

"I've always enjoyed art and drawing and making things, I guess just the process of making things, and this is just another way you can express yourself creatively. I like computers, so the two just sort of go hand in hand."

Other staff at Weta are also vying for a visual effects Oscar for "The Hobbit," "The Avengers" and "Prometheus. …

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