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Tech wizards behind movie magic honored by Oscars

The Scientific and Technical Awards honor innovators who have made a significant behind-the-scenes contribution to motion pictures, including the graphics used to created "Shrek."

Lawrence Kesteloot (left), Drew Olbrich, and Daniel Wexler during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards on Saturday.
Richard Harbaugh/AMPAS

Most movie fans won't be thinking of the Oscars for two more weeks, but the Academy has already honored some of the innovators who have made significant behind-the-scenes contributions over the years to movie making, including the computer graphics behind "Shrek."

Unlike the Academy Awards ceremony that will be held February 24, which honors only movie achievements of 2012, last night's Scientific and Technical Awards recognized those who demonstrated a "proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures" but is not limited to the previous year's achievements.

The ceremony, which was hosted by "Star Trek" co-stars Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, honored 25 people were nine awards. Portions of last night's event will be seen during the televised ceremony later this month.

Lawrence Kesteloot, Drew Olbrich, and Daniel Wexler at DreamWorks were honored with an Academy certificate for the creation of the Light system for computer graphics lighting. The system, which was used in such animated films as "Shrek" and "Madagascar," was touted for its interactive responsiveness and its user-configurable spreadsheet interface.

Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs, and Dr. Richard Dorling were honored with an Academy plaque for their "Tissue: A Physically-Based Character Simulation Framework," which helped bring to life computer-generated characters such as Gollum in "The Hobbit."

Some of the highest audience appreciation went to Richard Mall, the inventor of the Matthews Max Menace Arm, a compact and portable structure that allows for rapid and precise positioning of lighting fixtures and cameras.

"I am a little humbled to be up here with all this technology, because basically I built something in my garage," Mall said, according to a Reuters account of the ceremony.

A complete list of the winners and their contributions can be found on Oscars.org.