This year’s Oscars ceremony, which will take place on 22nd February, will honour those who’ve achieved greatness in film-making, performance, scoring, sound and production. You may not know that in addition to the main ceremony, the Academy also has an untelevised award ceremony taking place two weeks earlier, called the Academy Scientific and Technical Awards (nerd Oscars).
These awards recognise achievement in the field of scientific and technological advancements related to film-making, and have in the past been awarded to a variety of different advancements, including Dolby Surround Sound, the Xenon Arc lamp, IMAX and even Jim Henson’s animatronic muppet technology.
This year though, finally seeing sense, the Academy’s Technical Achievement award goes to a mathematician. Robert Bridson, who’s worked on CGI-heavy films including Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Adventures of Tin Tin, has been recognised for his work on “early conceptualization of sparse-tiled voxel data structures and their application to modelling and simulation.”
His work involves simulating complex natural structures, like shifting sand dunes, fire (and how it would behave in zero gravity) and dwarves/hobbits riding down a river in barrels. His software, which uses mathematical models based on physical equations, to realistically simulate the behaviour of objects in these situations, provides data the animators can use to create beautiful and convincing 3D images.
Unlike the actual Oscars, the Technical Awards don’t have a nomination process – you submit yourself for an interview, and the decision is made ahead of the ceremony – so he already knows he’s definitely won. Although, being a mathematician, he’s basically won at life anyway.