Last weekend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Sci-Tech Awards were handed out during a ceremony at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel. Presenter and movie actress Charlize Theron handed out more than two dozen “Technical Oscars” for achievements in film technology. Among the recipients of this year’s awards is Lance Williams, a pioneer of computer graphics and animation who once worked for Apple.
The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards, known also as Sci-Tech Awards, are presented by the Academy “for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures.” The Sci-Tech Awards were given out three weeks before the annual “big” event — the 74th Annual Academy Awards, scheduled for March 24, 2002 — when motion picture stars, producers, directors and crews gather to honor each other at the annual Academy Awards celebration.
Williams’ work dates back to the early 1970s at the University of Utah, a then-hotbed of computer graphics work. In the mid-70s Williams left for the New York Institute of Technology, where he worked on now-standard computer graphics technology like mip mapping and anti-aliasing. In the mid-80s Williams joined Apple’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG), and in the 1990s he joined motion picture studio Dreamworks SKG. Williams is now employed by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The Academy awarded Williams a technical Oscar for “his pioneering influence in the field of computer-generated animation and effects for motion pictures.” The academy referred to Williams’ ongoing influence in the field by citing his academic publications, including “View Interpolation for Image Synthesis,” a paper Williams co-authored with Shenchang Eric Chen during his time at Apple.
In accepting his award, Williams likened his three decades of perspective on the field of computer animation to watching a “sweet, awkward and enthusiastic kid” become a movie star.
This is not Williams’ first significant award. Last year, he received the Steven A. Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics from ACM SIGGRAPH during the SIGGRAPH 2001 show in Los Angeles.