The 11th Annual VES Awards, recognizing outstanding visual effects artistry in 24 categories of film, animation, television, commercials and video games were held tonight at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Nominees were selected Saturday, January 5 by VES members at SPY/ a FotoKem Company in the Bay Area and at FotoKem in Burbank in California; and at Blue Sky Studios in New York, Weta Digital in New Zealand, Fuel VFX in Sydney, Molinare in the UK and Image Engine in Vancouver. The host for the evening was Mark DeCarlo.
VES Executive Director Eric Roth started the evening with a bit of honest talk about the state of the industry. During cocktails the recent news of Rhythm & Hues financial issues was certainly a hot topic, it was important that Roth address the elephant in the room. "Many of you are worried about your jobs, or which country you need to live in to have a job, it's no secret that a number of companies recently have gone out of business, and there's news in the last 24 hours about a leading visual effects house that has an uncertain future." Roth went on to say that the company in question (R&H) has a reputation of taking care of their people and has a strong global presence to take advantage of tax incentives - basically that they are doing everything you would imagine would position them for success, yet they are in a precarious position.
Roth continued: "So I say to all of you out there, the leaders of this industry, the company owners, the studio chiefs, the artists... is there maybe some way that we can invent a new business model moving forward? I wish I could tell you I have an answer to that, I know eventually we are going to come to that answer, if you have any solutions feel free to share them with us."
Switching tone Roth said: "We need to remember that the rest of the industry, whether they want to publicly recognize it or not, to them we have become the absolute center of the entertainment universe. In difficult times or not - that deserves our moment of celebration, and tonight... that's our goal".
Richard Edlund ASC, VES was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Harrison Ford. Ford said he met Edund 37 years ago while working "on a little low budget movie called Star Wars". "Richard visualized and then built the Millennium Falcon... my ride." The video that introduced Edlund was exceptional, showing Edlund had a hand in so many franchises, literally as the hand we all know as Thing in the Addams Family opening, the Star Trek Transporter effect, and so many more. The film explored his childhood beginnings with cameras, military service provided his transition to motion picture cameras, and his time after the military led to such things as inventing the legendary "pignose amp", considered the first portable electric guitar amplifier. It was a great look back at a career best summed up by Harrison Ford "It is called a Lifetime Achievement Award but I think all of you who know Richard know he has at least another lifetime of innovation and contributions..."
Director Ang Lee was honored with the VES Visionary Award, presented by Dennis Muren. Lee related a story about his first day working with Muren: "I walk into their theatre and there are 250 people there, Dennis says 'all these people are working for you, 50 more could not make it' and in a voice everyone could hear 'In about three months time you'll burn all of them to the ground'." Lee said he was surprised how "dumb" computers were, and that he learned it is tedious work, how slow the process is... "all that anger you see in Hulk, that was me". Slowly he described beginning to see "the beauty of Visual Effects"... "I realized it's not visual effects, it's visual art." "I was used to working with actors, yes they have souls but they also have opinions... I was having a blast, this was too good not having to deal with actors", Lee joked. He said he felt that he could go places with these characters that he could not go with actors, the ability to show inner feelings... "you guys are not technicians, you guys are artists". "I was doing great stuff that I could not explain to anyone, the studio, my wife... and I was doing it with hundreds of people... my private world, I was having a great time." Lee joked that after that intense experience he took three smaller, character driven pieces before being brave enough to start another intensely visual effects project, Life if Pi.
Lee talked with great fondness about his experience on Life of Pi, taking time to recognize specific people and teams. "Visual art is really a stretch for me, but I am so glad I crossed over into that world." "To me there is no visual effects... it's all part of filmmaking, it all intertwines, they are the expression of our heart."
The evening was peppered with celebrity presenters including Cinematographer Wally Pfister who presented the Virtual Cinematography categories and shared some examples where he would have preferred shooting virtually rather than some of the more dangerous positions he found himself. Andy Serkis presented as well starting by diffusing any tension in the room with his opening comment "I would not be standing here today without you”. Naomi Watts presented categories right after The Impossible won for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture.
The winners for the 11th Annual VES Awards are as follows:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Pau Costa Moeller
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: Volar Morghulis
Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Boardwalk Empire: Episode 308
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi: Richard Parker
Erik De Boer
Betsy Asher Hall
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: Training the Dragons
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Avengers: Midtown Manhattan
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Brave: The Forest
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
R. Christopher White
Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
The Avengers: Helicarrier
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Michael K. O'Brien
Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: Pyke
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi: Storm of God
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi : Storm of God
Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program
Gae of Thrones: White Walker Army
Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial
Chevy 2012 Silverado
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Despicable Me : Minion Mayhem
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
Congratulations to all the winners and all the nominees as well, truly outstanding work!
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