Last year the Motion Picture Academy’s Science and Technology branch effectively closed the book on film as a distribution medium for motion pictures by awarding the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar Statuette) to every single film processing lab in the world. So it is perhaps fitting and symmetrical that this year’s recognition would go to the technology that replaced it, i.e., digital cinema, or more specifically Texas Instruments’s team of engineers (and one from Dolby, more on which later).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or AMPAS (to give the Oscar Academy, or just ‘the Academy’ its full name) is staying true to the latter part of its name (‘Science’) by each year recognising those people behind the scenes that have contributed to the advancement of motion picture technology, and thus storytelling, by handing out the Scientific and Technical Awards at a ceremony prior to the red carpet Oscars. As AMPAS puts it:
The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.
It is important to remember that these are not awarded to companies but to people, though individuals given the awards have often made their achievements working for companies that have often also given the name to the technology being recognised. While it honors the technologies, it is the people behind them that are being feted.
There are furthermore three levels of recognition: the Technical Achievement Awards (which entails an Academy Certificate), the Scientific and Engineering Awards (gets you an Academy Plaque), the Academy Award of Commendation (Special Plaque), and finally the Award of Merit (an actual Oscar statuette). What is remarkable is that this year Texas Instruments was selected in not one but all three of the main categories, putting a big AMPAS seal of approval on the digital cinema technology that has defined the cinema business.