Could ‘Gravity’ bring about a new Best Visual Imaging Oscar category?

GV-FP-0166rA potentially interesting bit of Oscar related news might have come out of the annual Visual Effects Society summit that’s going on. Essentially, after films like Avatar and Life of Pi were competitive (in some cases winning) in Oscar categories like Best Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects, and with Gravity expected to do the same this year, there might wind up being a push to create a new category that focuses in on the achievements of certain kinds of computer effects. The story here posits that one possible name for this potential new future category could be Best Visual Imagining. I’m all for something like this, personally, but we’ll see if anything winds up coming of it. You can see the whole news story below, but file this one in your memory banks in case things heat up in this regard…

Here’s what The Hollywood Reporter posted:

VES Summit: Will ‘Gravity’ Prompt Push for ‘Visual Imaging’ Oscar?

“Technology is changing the definitions of what we do,” said Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Cinematography, art direction and visual effects are so blended in new movies that it might be time for a new Oscar category to be introduced, admitted Hawk Koch, past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and current co-president of the PGA.

His suggestion? Something along the lines of “visual imaging.”

Koch, current Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and past president Sid Ganis discussed this blurring of the lines during an AMPAS presidents session at Visual Effects Society’s annual summit Saturday at the W in Hollywood.

A key question was raised: how much does the success of VFX-driven films stem from visual effects, and how much does it depend on cinematography? And what impact might the answer to that question have on Oscar frontrunner Gravity?

“The action of Sandra [Bullock’s] body is key frame animation [meaning that it was animated by hand], that qualifies Gravity as an animated film,” pointed out moderator Bill Kroyer, director of digital arts at Chapman University.

That led the group to raise other questions, for instance: “Did Gravity director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki photograph the film?”

Director Alfonso Cuaron has said that roughly 80 percent of Gravity was hand animated in the computer. In fact, when the actors are seen in space, only their faces come from live action photography. The environment, their bodies — even the visors in front of their faces, are CG. The helmer also said that Lubezki was involved in determining the lightning for the entire film, which included going to lead VFX house Framestore to work with the digital artists.

In discussing this topic during the panel, Kroyer provided some history, “The Academy gave Oscars to the cinematography on Avatar and Life of Pi, and there was a lot of discussion into the fact that a lot of that was VFX. … [Life of Pi director of photography] Claudio Miranda was really setting the tone of the movie; on the other hand, there was so much other work happening.”

“We are constantly reviewing,” Boone Isaacs reported. “Technology is changing the definitions of what we do. Many members were confused between the Oscars for cinematography and visual effects on Life of Pi. We will be discussing the differences that have been made with these advancements.”

Acknowledging this “blending” of craft disciplines, Koch got a laugh from the crowd when he joked: “The only thing we still haven’t been able to figure out is what producers do.”

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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