Physical Science Blog

Fluids are so hot this year

January 15, 2008

Blinded by the red carpet and dresses no one could hope to afford and even fewer could hope to fit into, most people forget that the Oscars are run by the Associate of Motion Picture Arts and SCIENCES. To fulfill that latter part of their mission, the AMPAS also gives out awards for advancing the science of filmmaking. And on January 4th, 2008, the Academy announced the 2007 winners of the Science and Technology Oscars.

The honorees run the gamut of achievement from work with classic celluloid to advancements in dolly technology. However, the big winners in 2007 were animators of fluid dynamics, and the majority of the awards (which comprise certificates and plaques, as well as Oscar statuettes themselves) were awarded to people who worked on the computer animation of fluids.

Fluids had long stymied animators, and often represented the worst animated section of a particular feature. For instance, after sitting through most of Air Force One, the thing I found most ridiculous about the movie wasn’t the idea of the President single handedly defeating a crack team of Russian terrorists (GET OFF MY PLANE!), but the silly looking computer generated ocean the titular plane crashes into at the end of the movie (oh, right, spoiler alert).

Unlike the regular Oscars, the SciTech awards don’t necessarily honor achievements from that last year. Instead, the awards serve to recognize technologies or advancements whose time has come. If anyone has seen Finding Nemo (which, if you haven’t seen you should rent), Poseidon (which, if you haven’t seen, you should avoid like the plague), or any number of other recent releases, you will know that fluid animation has come a long way.

The award ceremony for the SciTech Oscars will be held on February 9th, 2008, and will be hosted by some nubile starlet who will give her best performance of the year by pretending to understand what she is talking about and to be interested in talking to nerds. It will not be broadcast on TV, save the fast-forward speed recap aired during the regular Oscars (if there are indeed Oscars at all on television this year). To help rectify the unfair marginalizing of the people who actually make movies, I will continue to update you on the specifics of the achievements being honored this year. So make sure to RSS Scienceline, your new center for the 2008 SciTech Oscars.

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