Oscars Uncovered

The best compliment you could pay 2019 Oscar winner Jos Stam is that you didn’t see his work. And you’ve seen a movie in the last 5 years, you’ve watched his films. The artist turned computer geek went from Holland to Hollywood and turned computer generated film into an art form. We’ll find out why the Carrie Fisher CG deep fake was so deeply fake, fall down the Amiga 1000 rabbit hole, and play Bohemian Rhapsody on 46 floppy disks and a flatbed scanner from the 1990s. And we’ll get a little metaphysical along the way. Plus, Alan has a robot in his Singapore hotel that spouts 2001: a Space Odyssey lines.

The History of the Sci-Tech Oscars

by Vanessa Azzoli

The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards (the Sci-Tech awards, as they’re nicknamed) were presented this year on February 9, 2019.

First, let’s watch where this week’s guest, Jos Stam, and his team win their award this year:


The Academy adopted scientific and technical achievements very early on – much earlier than I, personally, expected. The first Sci-Tech Oscars were awarded in 1930-1931, which was the fourth annual Academy Awards.

According to the official Oscars website, they were awarded to three different classes:

  • Class I: For basic achievements which influence the advancement of the industry as a whole.
  • Class II: For high level of engineering or technical merit.
  • Class III: For accomplishments which are valuable contributions to the progress of the industry.

The Sci-Tech Awards were presented as part of the main ceremony until 1959, where they were moved to the Governor’s Ball, which followed the main ceremony. In 1974, the Sci-Tech Awards were separated completely with their own ceremony celebrated at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. That year, it was hosted by Gregory Peck and Walter Mirisch (Academy President at the time).

There have been some notable hosts over the following decade, including Christopher Reeve, Lloyd Bridges, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Janet Leigh, Macdonald Carey, and much more.

In current day, the Sci-Tech Awards occur about two weeks before the main Oscars ceremony.

Awards in Current Day

There are three different awards that are handed out at the current day Sci-Tech Awards.

The Technical Achievement Awards, which were given to six groups this year. This award is given to recipients who are celebrating “accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the motion picture industry. A printed certificate detailing the achievement and listing the names of all of the individuals who contributed to its development is presented to the winners at an annual award ceremony.” (Oscars.org)

The Scientific & Engineering Award were awarded to three groups of people. This award celebrates “achievements that produce a definite influence on the advancement of the motion picture industry. Achievements need not have been developed and introduced during the award year.” (Oscars.org)

The John A. Bonner Award was awarded to one person this year. The award is given “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy.” It’s not awarded every year. (Oscars.org)

Our guest, Jos Stam

At this year’s Sci-Tech Awards, Toronto-based, Jos Stam won his third Sci-Tech Oscar. He accepted it alongside Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and Pixar’s senior scientist Tony DeRose.

According to the Oscars, “Their creation of essential geometric operations and sustained research on the fundamental mathematics of subdivision surfaces helped transform the way digital artists represent 3D geometry throughout the motion picture industry.”

Stam spoke to CTV News recently about this achievement, and he said “What I do is I create the brushes, sort of. I hide the math through the animator. What you see on the screen is essentially the work of the production house and we just gave them the tools with which they could create these effects.”

Congratulations to all recipients of the Sci-Tech Oscars at this year’s ceremony. Cheers to you!

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