ftrack Studio will be honored with a Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for contributions to filmmaking.
The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor those whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to filmmaking. This year’s ceremony recognizes 55 individuals and two companies for their contributions to a wide range of fields and disciplines. Each year there are types of scientific innovations that are acknowledged and this year a well-deserving group has been chosen, modern production management tools.
ftrack Studio is a project management and media review software. It has been recognized with a Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for contributions to filmmaking and post-production. “We will share this with all the companies doing product production management,” explained founder Fredrik Limsäter when fxguide spoke to him overnight in Sweden. “There are a lot of companies out there, many that are internal systems. I see this as a good thing for the whole industry. It shows that the industry has matured, it’s progressing. With this year’s Sci-tech awards, production management is being seen as an important piece of the puzzle.”
The Academy’s Board of Governors voted to bestow a Technical Achievement Award to Fredrik Limsäter (Founder and CEO), Björn Rydahl (Co-founder and Technical Product Manager), and Mattias Lagergren (Co-founder and Product Manager) for the design, architecture, and engineering of ftrack Studio. Fredrik, Björn, and Mattias were responsible for first conceiving ftrack Studio as a platform capable of organizing, managing, and tracking complex feature film visual effects. Since 2009, the trio has grown the ftrack team into a global company and evolved ftrack Studio into a trusted production tracking tool that’s accessible to projects of all shapes and sizes. They were the original three employees of the company, as Limsäter explains, “Björn and Mattias were my first hires. Björn, I hired in 2008 and Mathias in 2009… today we are almost 35 people globally, which I couldn’t have believed that when we started up.”
ftrack was designed for any size team and still is, but when the team first started the focus was on companies around 30 to 50 people in size. Today, that might be better characterised as more like a 100 person operation, but the main difference is location. When work started on ftrack it was assumed most people would be co-located, however that has dramatically changed nowadays. COVID saw a strong uptick in clients, especially ones managing distributed projects, but even before 2020 Limsäter said that, “In the last few years, this has really changed, today is much more about remote work with teams spread out over the world. Remote work is just the new norm, that’s something that has changed quite dramatically.” COVID has effectively accelerated a distributed project management trend ftrack has been supporting for several years
Limsäter commented, “This is an incredibly proud moment for all of us at ftrack. We’re humbled that the platform we’ve worked on for the past decade has won such a prestigious award, especially as the award comes with the recognition of our peers in an industry we are so proud to serve. Björn Rydahl, Mattias Lagergren, and I would like to thank the entire ftrack team for their endlessly hard work; all of our families who have supported us over the years; and our clients who have joined us on this journey. We look forward to playing our part as creative studios continue to create in a post-production landscape that needs teamwork now more than ever.”
ftrack Studio is a project management, production tracking, and media review platform designed to assist team collaboration and improve pipeline efficiency in the post-production industry. ftrack Studio’s creators built the platform’s first incarnation at a visual effects studio, with the explicit intention of mitigating the challenges of feature film post-production. ftrack Studio has since evolved into a platform capable of serving numerous creative industries and driven new ideas to make creative projects of all types and scale more manageable. ftrack Studio has been used on such productions as James Bond, Harry Potter, and The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
ftrack is not only used on film productions, but also late last year the company expanded to managing both Unreal and Unity based productions. Magnus Eklöv, ftrack CTO, commented, “The creative industry has never had such flexibility, so it’s more important than ever to stay organized, keep people on track, and record the history of work on every asset. Our Unreal Engine and Unity plugins for ftrack Studio ensure such organization is easy and that creativity always takes precedence over admin.” Today ftrack supports Unity, Unreal, and Perforce integration. In addition to this move to both managing and reviewing/monitoring real-time workflows of projects, Limsäter sees a much great role in both managing Machine Learning projects and introducing similar technology to ftrack itself.
The company is looking to use advanced machine learning to help with predictive scheduling and costing, as well as managing project teams. Limsäter believes, “For us, it will be how to incorporate machine learning into our platform. We are constantly asking how can machine learning help our customers be more efficient, and help with things like predicting and forward scheduling planning”.
The team itself uses a highly focused Agile project management structure with formal two week sprints. Finding innovative ways to incorporate agile methodologies into broader entertainment structures is an ongoing task for Limsäter. “We’re very agile using scrum, we have scrum masters and we also work with development teams that are spread out,” he comments. Of course, his own team uses ftrack for their own work, so they know from personal experience the vast improvement that can come from running projects with modern project management tools, compared to the ever-present Excel spreadsheets that some producers still use to this day. “We know that there are still producers that love to export everything to Excel, and do that stuff there,” he laughingly remarks. As ftrack is being honored alongside the Shotgun post-production tracking system, the attention that the Oscars are providing to the importance of modern project management tools will finally convince some producers there is a much better way.
“This award means a lot for me, ” Limsäter comments. “I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. I’m so happy to be able to give back to that industry and get recognition from peers in my industry. For me personally, that means a lot. I truly love this industry.”
Complete list of Award winners
The full list of Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements are:
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS (ACADEMY CERTIFICATES)
To Masato Nakashima, Koichi Ueno, Junji Sakuda and Junro Yonemitsu for the development of the EIZO auto-calibrating SDR monitors that incorporate a built-in sensor, digital uniformity equalizer and accompanying SDK. EIZO auto-calibrating SDR monitors increase artists’ confidence in facility-wide image reproduction accuracy and reduce disruptions to the creative process and production workflows. They have become indispensable for many major motion picture animation and effects facilities.
To Alejandro Arango, Gary Martinez, Robert Derry and Glenn Derry for the system design, ergonomics, engineering and workflow integration of the widely adopted Technoprops head-mounted camera system. The Technoprops head-mounted camera system, with its modular and production-proven construction, supports consistent face alignment with improved actor comfort, while at the same time permitting quick reconfiguration and minimizing downtime. This system enables repeatable, accurate and unobstructed capture of an actor’s facial movements.
To Babak Beheshti and Scott Robitille for the development of the compact, stand-alone, phase-accurate genlock synchronization and recording module, and to Ian Kelly and Dejan Momcilovic for the technical direction and workflow integration, of the Standard Deviation head-mounted camera system. The Standard Deviation head-mounted camera system provides a robust method of accurate camera synchronization to the house clock. Combined with practical innovations for usability, it enables multiple head-mounted camera systems to be used in large capture volumes, resulting in adoption by numerous motion picture productions.
To Sven Woop and Carsten Benthin for core development, Attila T. Áfra for motion picture feature development, and Manfred Ernst and Ingo Wald for early research and technical direction, of the Intel Embree Ray Tracing Library. For the past decade, the Intel Embree Ray Tracing Library has provided a high-performance, industry-leading, CPU-based ray-geometry intersection framework through well-engineered open source code, supported by a comprehensive set of research publications. It has become an indispensable resource for motion picture production rendering.
To Hayley Iben, Mark Meyer, John Anderson and Andrew Witkin for the Taz Hair Simulation System. Taz is a robust, predictable and efficient mass-spring hair simulation system with novel formulations of hair shape, bending springs and hair-to-hair collisions. It has enabled Pixar artists to bring to life animated digital characters with a wide variety of stylized hair, from straight to wavy to curly.
To Stephen Bowline for the ILM HairCraft Dynamics System. The ILM HairCraft Dynamics System has a physically robust hair-dynamics model that simulates hair by embedding curves in tetrahedral mesh volumes. Its unique spring-based control system has helped ILM artists create a wide range of photorealistic digital characters and digital stunt doubles.
To Kelly Ward Hammel, Aleka McAdams, Toby Jones, Maryann Simmons and Andy Milne for the Walt Disney Animation Studios Hair Simulation System. The WDAS Hair Simulation System is a robust, predictable, fast and highly art-directable system built on the mathematics of discrete elastic rods. This has provided Disney artists the flexibility to manipulate hair in hyper-realistic ways to create the strong silhouettes required for character animation and has enabled a wide range of complex hairstyles in animated feature films.
To Niall Ryan, Christoph Sprenger and Gilles Daviet for the Synapse Hair Simulation System. The Synapse Hair Simulation System is a robust, predictable and highly scalable position-based dynamics system with a novel inverse parameter solver. It has helped Weta Digital artists create a wide range of photorealistic digital characters and digital stunt doubles.
To Jens-Jørn Stokholm and Ole Moesmann for their innovative development of miniature high-performance DPA lavalier microphones. The DPA 4061 and 4071 lavalier microphones exemplify creative design, precise manufacture and meticulous quality control, resulting in consistent performance and exceptional on-set motion picture audio recording.
To Chris Countryman and Omer T. Inan for their engineering of the subminiature high-performance Countryman Associates lavalier microphones. Originated by company founder Carl Countryman (1946–2006), these meticulously crafted subminiature microphones are easily concealed. Their spectral response-shaping filters, cable mounting and capsule design contribute to their wide adoption by motion picture production sound mixers.
To Fredrik Limsäter, Björn Rydahl and Mattias Lagergren for the design, architecture and engineering of ftrack Studio. See above.
To Don Parker for the product vision and design, Matt Daw for the core architecture, and Isaac Reuben, Colin Withers, and Neil Brandt for the foundational engineering, of the Shotgun post-production tracking system. An extensible, web-based, flexible and scalable system, Shotgun has enabled the efficient management of highly complex visual effects and animation post-production workflows. By facilitating deep integration into a wide variety of facility pipelines, Shotgun has successfully productized the tracking of complex production data on large-scale motion pictures.
SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING AWARDS
To Dr. Zvi Reznic, Meir Feder, Guy Dorman, and Ron Yogev for the development of the Amimon wireless chipset, which enables untethered, high-quality on-set, encrypted digital video monitoring with sub-frame latency. By using novel extensions of digital data transmission and compression algorithms, and data prioritization based on error rate, the Amimon chipset supports the creation of systems with virtually unrestricted camera motion, expanding creative freedom during filming.
To Nicolaas Verheem, Greg Smokler, and Ilya Issenin for the development of the ruggedized Teradek Bolt wireless video transmission system for on-set remote monitoring. The Teradek Bolt system features a frame-synchronized backchannel for real-time camera control, an error-resilient timecode channel and integrated production metadata, which have led to its widespread adoption in motion picture production.
To Alexey Lukin and the Team of Mathematicians, Software Engineers, Sound Designers and Product Specialists of iZotope, Inc. for the development of the RX audio processing system. Featuring spectral processing algorithms enhanced with machine learning, the iZotope RX system is widely favored by motion picture sound professionals for audio repair and enhancement.
To Jeff Bloom, Guy McNally and Nick Rose for the original concept and engineering of the Wordfit System for automatic ADR synchronization, and to John Ellwood and Jonathan Newland for the engineering and development of VocALign and Revoice Pro. Wordfit revolutionized the process of post sync ADR by eliminating the need for manual editing to perfect lip sync. VocALign and Revoice Pro are software tools that together give sound editors unprecedented control over the final performance in replaced dialog. In use for many years, these technologies continue their predominance in the creation and seamless integration of replacement dialog tracks in motion pictures.
To Sanken Microphone Company Limited for the original innovation and continuous refinement of the Sanken COS-11 series of miniature lavalier microphones. Sanken’s early engineering work in microphone orientation and miniaturization has inspired the current generation of lavalier microphones. The exceptional sound quality and durability of the COS-11 series have made them the predominant lavalier microphones used in motion picture production sound recording.
The Academy will present ftrack Studio’s Technical Achievement Award during its virtual Scientific and Technical Awards presentation, on Saturday, 13 February 2021. The presentation also will feature a special segment hosted by Kathleen Kennedy, Oscar-nominated producer and recipient of the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The segment highlights the groundbreaking achievements of women working in the science and technology of filmmaking.
“In a year of upheaval, some things remain constant: around the world, extremely clever people are striving to push the technology of film to new heights, and the Academy is privileged to be able to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Doug Roble, chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “After a lengthy investigation period, the committee, made up of a diverse group of industry experts, identified 17 different technical achievements that absolutely deserve to be honored. We congratulate all the inventors for their contributions to our art form.”