Sunday, February 22, 2015

Scientific & Technical Oscars 2015: Complete list of winners

Times of India

…the winners for Scientific & Technical Awards for this year have been announced. Named after late veteran Hollywood sound director Gordon E. Sawyer, this award is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.


Devices give blind filmgoers Oscar-worthy experience

Boston Globe

Like a lot of movie buffs, Carl Richardson loves to take in the Oscar-nominated films during the run-up to the Academy Awards. But it can be frustrating because he’s blind. He’s able to follow the movie’s story line when there’s dialogue, but it’s confusing when there’s silence, or during action scenes.

This year, though, is different. Seven of the eight films nominated for best picture use so-called “descriptive” technology that makes them more accessible to the visually impaired, and Richardson is happily working his way through the Oscar contenders.

The technology involves transmitting an audio description of scenes to moviegoers who wear a programmed wireless headset, providing an additional track of narration during natural pauses in the film. It describes the action and provides context when there is no dialogue to guide the moviegoer.


For the Oscars, theater gets a tech upgrade

CBS News

During the show, technology will help stars and their fans connect through social media. This year, the Oscar green room, designed by Architectural Digest, will have Samsung tablets and a "GIF mirror" to let celebrities send out their emotional reactions over Twitter.

The Academy has also added a 4G LTE cell tower for connectivity

Apple shot its Oscars ad with the iPad Air 2

The Verge

The commercial features several groups of high school students as they shoot different projects using the iPad as their camera, overlaid by an inspirational voiceover from Martin Scorsese, who extolls the virtues of hard work and experimentation as the keys to creative success. And while the piece has the kind of delicate score and evocative images that one would expect from an Apple ad, the spot was actually shot on the iPad Air 2 itself.

For the commercial, Apple partnered with the LA County High School for the Arts, a performing and visual arts school located in Los Angeles. Student filmmakers were provided with iPads and shot their projects over a weekend, during which their efforts were documented — also using an iPad Air 2. That behind-the-scenes footage is what makes up the ad.


Next up at the 2016 Oscars: Virtual Reality


Imagine a cinematic world that goes beyond 2D or even 3D—one that’s so immersive that you’d swear you could reach out and touch the characters and surroundings. Not only that, but you decide how the movie ends by exploring different paths within the storylines. While previously just a fantasy for filmmakers eager to draw audience members in, this has quickly become feasible, thanks to advancements in virtual reality technology.


Suddenly, we’re on the brink of an entirely new movie medium. Looking down the road a bit, could future Oscars nominees actually be virtual reality movies?


The Oscar Goes to… Engineer Larry Hornbeck and His Digital Micromirrors

IEEE Spectrum

At some point during Sunday’s Oscars telecast, in between actresses in stunning ball gowns, actors trying to redefine the tux, movie clips, dance routines, and acceptance speeches cut off when they go on too long, there will be a nod to the technology that makes it all possible. An announcer will talk about the Academy’s Science and Technical Awards, presented earlier this month, then an Oscar-winning engineer will wave from the audience. Don’t blink, or you might miss it.

This year, that engineer will be Larry Hornbeck, who developed the digital micromirror device (DMD) used in Texas Instruments’ digital light processing (DLP) projectors. He gets the Academy of Motion Pictures Award of Merit (that’s the official name for what most of us call the Oscar) for the invention.

Micromirrors—some 8 million on the 4K resolution version—tilt to turn pixels on and off by steering light. Hornbeck began working on an analog version of the technology in 1978; he developed the digital device in 1987; TI sold the first chipset in 1996; and Hornbeck saw the first major motion picture screened using the technology in 1999. Today the vast majority of theaters that project movies digitally use DLP.

Oscars nominees see online piracy surge


American Sniper would win best picture and Birdman's Alejandro Inarritu best director if the Oscars were determined by online piracy rates, a study says. It suggests being nominated in one of the four major categories has a particularly profound effect on illegal downloads of indie and art house films.

The authors suggest that producers of such movies become more flexible about how and when their titles are released. But one industry expert said that was easier said than done.

The report was carried out by Irdeto, a Netherlands-based company that sells piracy controls to the pay-TV sector. It used "crawler" software to monitor downloads via Bittorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing services around the world and says its figures represent the minimum number of illegal downloads.


Chelmsford's Axis Communications to provide video security technology for the Oscars

Biz Journals

Axis Communications, a Swedish company with its North American headquarters in Chelmsford, has struck a deal with the Los Angeles Police Department to provide video security technology for the Oscars this Sunday.  Several of Axis's Internet-connected cameras will be strategically placed in and around Hollywood's Dolby Theater, and the images will be transferred to the police station's command center so that officers there can relay information to those stationed at the event, said James Marcella, director of technical services at Axis. "The Oscars (event) is temporary in nature, and these cameras aren't placed there year-round," Marcella said in an interview. "So, they need a technology that can be deployed quickly and can interface through wireless technology back to the command center."


Axis has been providing video-security for the Oscars for at least three years, Marcella said. The event is one of the most challenging from a security perspective, he said. That's because certain colors — like the bright hue of the red carpet — are hard for cameras to render, and flashes from light bulbs on cameras change the lighting in the video transmission feeds dramatically.


Comcast to Tout Technology for the Blind During Oscars


Comcast CMCSA +1.12% will make its debut as a national advertiser in the Oscars in Sunday’s telecast. The topic won’t be promotions or new services, but rather TV technology for the blind.


The cable giant is running a nationwide, 60-second ad promoting its new talking guide that reads aloud titles and selections to help visually impaired and blind people surf through their TV guides, set digital video recordings and browse video-on-demand options. Comcast says it’s the first such guide offered in the U.S.


Typical 60-second spots for the Academy Awards tend to go for $4 million apiece. While the cable giant tends to buy regional ad spots to hawk its promotions, Comcast says it’s going national with this ad because it wants to spark a broader conversation about improving the entertainment experience for disabled people. The company believes the talking guide could not only help those who are blind, but also seniors and people with reading disabilities.

The Oscars And Social Media: When Facebook Can Be Better Than Twitter


Yes, Ellen’s selfie was a decidedly better way to break the Internet. And as I mentioned last year, while I was on a train coming home during the Oscars, it was Twitter TWTR +0.84% that kept me updated. So I understand that when it comes to Hollywood’s big night, Twitter and television are the perfect pairing in many homes.

But let me make a case for why Facebook might be the better social media for your Oscar companion tonight, with one important caveat: If you are mainly interested in what’s making instant news (good, bad and ugly) then stick with Twitter. It’s like watching the Oscars at a public screening where it’s expected that people can snark at will. But if witticisms from the Twitterati are wearing thin for you, consider my partner’s plan for a Facebook Oscar party, which is much more like having your friends over.

We hosted an Oscar party for years when we lived in Kansas City and it was always the rowdiest party of the year. When we moved to NYC and then Colorado, we missed those parties, so the next best thing was to host a physical-virtual mash-up. It turns out the virtual party had its own virtues, because it brought friends together from many locations, and it worked better for those who didn’t need to hire babysitters.


Can You Solve Neil Patrick Harris' Oscars 2015 Anagrams?

Just Jared

If you follow Neil Patrick Harris on Twitter, you probably saw him tweeting some nonsensical phrases a few weeks ago after the Oscars nominations.

The 41-year-old actor came up with a bunch of Oscars-themed anagrams for his followers to solve and to celebrate the awards show happening this weekend, we gathered them all up for you here along with the answers.


Oscars 2015: Big Data number crunchers try their hand at calling the awards

LA Times

Given that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is an anonymous body of about 6,600 — and not, say, a market with decades of history or an election with dozens of finely honed polls — there's no reason to think Big Data will do better than the insider pundits (or dart-throwers) at predicting the Academy Awards. In fact, members of the data community have acknowledged this, notably in a FiveThirtyEight post last year titled "Why It's Hard to Predict Oscar Winners" that concluded that "for now, a market-beating Oscar prediction model is probably out of the picture."

Still, that hasn't stopped many outlets, including FiveThirtyEight itself, from trying.

Here are some of the more notable efforts, including their methodology and their sure-fire, numbers-tested winners for this year.

Facebook Creates Trending Experience for Oscars


The 87th Academy Awards will be presented Sunday night, and Facebook created a Trending Oscars experience for users looking to join the conversation.

Facebook is also teaming up with ABC Entertainment, allowing fans to ask nominees questions via the Facebook page for Good Morning America, as well as incorporating real-time Facebook data on the most-buzzed-about nominees into the television network’s red-carpet broadcast.

Engineering manager Yuval Kesten, strategic partnerships executive Kelly Michelena and product marketing manager Peter Yang said in a Newsroom post that last year’s Oscars generated 25.4 million combined posts, comments and likes from 11.3 million users.


Why There Should Be an Oscar Category for Dramatic Research

The Atlantic

The annual fact-checking cycle hasn’t yet persuaded Hollywood films to transfigure all their biopics and historical dramas into documentaries. Writers theorize that publicly disputing the period details may contribute to a film’s failure to pick up a win or even a nomination, but lack of screeners and late releases could easily also be a factor when we’re talking about surmising the motivations of the primarily old, male Academy members who vote. If anything, the sheer volume is drowning out when these fallacies matter and when they don’t. This isn’t to say that the idea of complicating one person’s version of history should stop—it's to say the practice should be challenged, made better, more helpful.

Some suggestions have already been offered. At The Washington Post Ann Hornaday posed new rules for watching biopics. According to her regulations, the audience should cultivate a “third eye” that would straddle the consideration of the facts with an appreciation for fiction. This is democratic—but also puts the onus entirely on the viewer. Fact-checking opinion pieces originate with viewers taking a film a tad too seriously, sure—but if universally poor movie-watching form was to blame, we might be besieged year-round, given the healthy number of stories based on real events that roll in, to less fanfare, year-round.

There have been some proposals for systematic reform, too. Last year a piece in USA Today suggested movie studios might benefit from “couching” their films in more fictional terms. That’s fair, but the quoted analyst’s solutions were limiting—he suggesting not using real names, only telling really old stories, and writing a happy ending.


Acad’s Sci-Tech Oscars Raise the Bar On ‘Wow’


From finding new ways to shoot the most adrenaline-infused car chases to taking exhibition audio into new frontiers, this year’s recipients of the Academy Scientific & Technical Awards are pushing the limits of cinema in every way they can.
These awards are sometimes called the Sci-Tech Oscars, but most honorees are given plaques or certificates, as opposed to the fabled statuettes. Only two of the awards come with actual Oscars and those nods aren’t given every year, though this year both will be presented.

Bing has your Oscars 2015 predictions cheat sheet all filled out


Microsoft has also put its Bing technology to work to pick World Cup winners, who was projected to win each NFL football game, the winner of the Super Bowl, Grammy winners, and more. It’s worth noting that Bing did fairly well in picking weekly NFL football winners—getting about two-thirds right, according to Business Insider—about what Las Vegas oddsmakers predicted. (Bing predicts winners “straight up,” while Las Vegas factors in a point spread.) Microsoft also correctly picked the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl, and the winner for Record of the Year and more at the Grammy awards.

Naturally, Microsoft also has a printable Oscar ballot for you to fill out. Who do you think will win? You can tell us below, or just shout it to the world on social media—chances are that Bing will see it.