Industry Innovations Recognized

By Lee, Matthew C | American Cinematographer, April 1987 | Go to article overview

Industry Innovations Recognized


Lee, Matthew C, American Cinematographer


According to the rules set out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, awards may be given "for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures ..." The awards fall into three categories: Academy Award of Merit (Academy statuette), Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy Plaque), and Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate). This year 15 awards were made, all of them plaques or certificates.

Recipients were recognized at a dinner in Hollywood March 22. Joseph Westheimer, ASC, is chairman of the Academy Committee for these special awards.

Associates and Ferren Advanced Optical Printer received a Scientific and Engineering award for advancing the state of the art in optical printers. The engineering team started with a design philosophy of "ten times" - ten times smarter, ten times faster, ten times more accurate and ten times as cost effective. Not all of their goals were reached but the improvements are significant. The new system has a zoom range of 100:1 and can move up to six inches per second with longitudinal accuracy of better than .00015 inch. It automatically aligns itself every time it is turned on. It includes an instant video preview with interactive computer graphics programming. This printer takes full advantage of all computer capabilities by employing twenty-three separate microprocessors. The printer was used to help bring Audrey Il to life in Little Shop of Horrors, consequently Bran Ferren was also included in the list of nominees for Visual Effects. (see American Cinematographer, February, 1987.)

The company was also awarded a certificate for the Laser Synchro-Cue System. The system uses lasers or projected sources to create one- two-, or three-dimensional visual references anywhere within the film set that, although clearly visible to the cast and crew, are not photographed by the camera. For special photographic effects, such as split screens and matte shots, the system can be extremely useful in providing a better alignment of the actors and set elements. It, too, was used on Little Shop of Horrors.

Lee Electric Lighting Limited was awarded a certificate for the introduction of their Electronic Flicker Free Arc Discharge Lamp Control System. This device allows the camera to be used with any shutter angle at any speed with neither flicker nor strobe on the projected image from the arc light. There are no carbons to change, no operator need stand by and less power is consumed than in devices with similar output. This system was used successfully on such films as Young Sherlock Holmes, Half Moon Street, Manhattan Project and Jumpin' Jack Flash to name a few.

A certificate was awarded to Oxford Scientific Films for the Aerocomp Live Aero Compositor. Most recently the system enabled live real time compositing of foreground and background elements in flight with a system (Imax) not capable of post-production optical compositing. With this system men can be miniaturized, depth of field can be kept infinite; foregrounds can be floated, rotated and flown against backgrounds, all in realtime and all combined in the camera in one take.

Matt Sweeney-Lucinda Strubb Special Effects received an award for their automatic capsule gun bullet effect device. This device represents the first major improvement in bullet effects since the golden years of film. The gun itself weighs ten pounds and is powered by compressed nitrogen. It features an adjustable rate of fire (10 to 600 rounds per minute) and force of impact. It fires dust capsules, sparkling capsules and even ball bearings (for breaking windows and glass and water and dirt hits). The gun was used most recently in Outrageous Fortune, Running Scared, and Wanted Dead or Alive.

Carl E. Holmes Company was awarded a certificate for mobile DC power supply for arc lamps. This device provides DC power of 625 kilowatts at 125 VDC in a relatively small mobile trailer with simpler, more efficient, and reliable circuitry than previously available. …

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