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On Feb. 9, two weeks and a day before the Oscars, the Motion Picture Academy held its annual Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards — sometimes referred to as the nerd Academy Awards — honoring achievements in motion picture technology.
The ceremony included no surprise winners — Sci-Tech kudos are announced in advance, and the achievements need not have been introduced in 2018. Two of this year’s honorees were chosen because their accomplishments democratized the field of visual effects.
Mid-'90s - VFX - Tools - Anyone - Artists
Before the mid-’90s, most VFX tools were too expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming to be used by anyone other than artists working on big-budget films. But then two groups of engineers began to develop the kind of nimble software that nearly anyone could learn to use. With the introduction of After Effects and Photoshop, now both owned by Adobe, anyone willing to spend a few thousand dollars on a speedy desktop machine can work with image manipulation and motion graphics at home. Both programs have gone on to upend professional visual effects and alter filmmaking forever.
After Effects — currently used in VFX compositing around the world — was originally developed by a small start-up called the Company of Science and Art (Cosa) in Providence, R.I., where a group of Brown University grads got the idea to create a streaming image player. Their original vision was dashed when Apple announced QuickTime in June 1991. They knew they couldn’t compete with the tech giant, so they retooled with an idea for a motion graphics software package, which soon looked like it would work. The team considered the names Video Banana, Movie-Twist and Effectasy before settling on After Effects.
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