Computer graphics and virtual production innovator Paul E. Debevec — director of research, creative algorithms and technology at Netflix and an adjunct research professor at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies — received a standing ovation as he accepted the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award during the Television Academy’s upbeat 74th Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy Awards.
During the dinner and ceremony at the Maybourne in Beverly Hills on Wednesday evening, 105-year-old camera maker ARRI received the Philo T. Farnsworth Corporate Achievement Award and seven innovations were recognized with Engineering Emmys.
“We’re not only the oldest company here, [but] I think we’re the oldest guys,” quipped Matthias Erb, chairman of ARRI’s executive board, who accepted the award on behalf of the camera company. He added, “We want to support the filmmakers, we want to support the industry. This award is motivation for us to continue [to innovate].” Additional honorees, including Debevec and Sohonet CEO Chuck Parker, also emphasized their desire to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in technology.
Roughly 200 guests attended the celebration, which host Kirsten Vangsness (Criminal Minds) opened with a lot of laughs, singing a medley of familiar songs such as “Running Up That Hill” and “Video Killed the Radio Star” but with new lyrics about each of the honorees.
Debevec was recognized for his work in high dynamic range imaging, image-based lighting and photogrammetry, which are techniques used in computer graphics for VFX such as lighting actors in virtual production.
Accepting the award, Debevec thanked friends, family and collaborators, including director Alfonso Cuarón and VFX pros Chris Watts, Chris Lawrence and Tim Webber “for taking the chance on using LED image-based lighting for Gravity.” He also thanked John Knoll, an Oscar-winning VFX supervisor from Industrial Light & Magic, “who came to my LED Stage talk for lighting actors at SIGGRAPH 2002, admittedly a bit skeptical, and went on to help create the LED lighting stages for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Disney+ streaming shows.”
He also saluted his Netflix Production Innovation colleagues “for everything we’re working on to take everything so much further.”
Engineering Emmys were awarded to developments in areas including virtual production, remote collaboration and audio, including Industrial Light & Magic for its StageCraft virtual production tools, which have been used on series like The Mandalorian. Accepting on behalf of the team, Nick Rasmussen thanked the creator of the Star Wars series, Jon Favreau, ILM, other collaborators and the development team.
Sohonet was honored for its ClearView Pivot remote collaboration tool, Disguise Systems, the disguise platform that enables interaction between CG and practical elements and environments, including use with LED walls. Geoffrey Crawshaw and William Brinkley received recognition for the Leostream remote access software; Shure for the Axient Digital wireless audio system; Stype Cajic, Andrija Cajic, Daniel Kruselj and Ivica Antolkovic for the Stype camera tracking tools; and Mark Hills and Marc Bakos for the Cleanfeed remote audio review/recording system.
During the upbeat evening, participants also celebrated the recent creation of the Television Academy’s Science and Technology Peer Group.