The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canadian wins Oscar for program that makes creatures in 'Hobbit' more realistic

  • Print

TORONTO - A Canadian is being lauded for his work in developing the digital program that made the fantastical creatures seen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Avatar" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" appear more realistic.

James Jacobs, along with Simon Clutterbuck and Dr. Richard Dorling, who are British, will be among 25 recipients of plaques and certificates from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizing technical movie-making achievements. The trio are getting an award for their development of the Tissue Physically-Based Character Simulation Framework.

A ceremony will be held Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

Jacobs, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., says the technology works from the inside out to simulate the anatomical structures underlying a character's skin. It's a departure from the traditional way of developing a character, going from the surface inward.

Jacobs, who works for Weta Digital in New Zealand, said in an interview from Wellington that they draw inspiration from humans and animals like dogs and bears to create realistic effects.

"We're building up the anatomy and we're using the same sort of approaches that are found in engineering or medical science where we're solving the actual elastic properties of the musculature and fat and skin ... and just sort of build it up to let you have a character that looks convincing, hopefully, and get the performance across a lot more effectively," explained Jacobs, who will be 41 on Monday.

Jacobs, who took courses in art and film at the Ontario College of Art and Design and Ryerson University in Toronto, went to Weta in 2004 to work on "King Kong," the remake of the 1933 film.

"The original was a movie I quite liked, so I wanted to come here to work on that and I just sort of stuck around because the other work was pretty great," he said.

"I've always enjoyed art and drawing and making things, I guess just the process of making things, and this is just another way you can express yourself creatively. I like computers, so the two just sort of go hand in hand."

Other staff at Weta are also vying for a visual effects Oscar for "The Hobbit," "The Avengers" and "Prometheus." Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards presentations will be included in the Feb. 24 ceremony.

Tissue has been used in "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," as well as "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the second in the trilogy slated for release in December.

Jacobs said that a lot of studios reinvent everything for each new project, while Weta works on continuity.

"With each show we keep building on the knowledge that we know and just keep pushing it and pushing it," he said. "The stuff we're doing now, we wouldn't have just been able to jump right into that because it represents years and years of accumulated work."

Unlike other Oscars being handed out this year, achievements receiving Scientific and Technical Awards don't have to have been developed and introduced during 2012. Rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.

Two other software developers from Canada are also receiving technical achievement awards Feb. 9.

London, Ont., native Doug James and Vancouver-based Nils Thuerey along with international colleagues Theodore Kim and Markus Gross are being honoured for developing the Wavelet Turbulence software, a digital tool that makes it easier for visual effects artists to control the appearance of gas and smoke on film.

Jacobs moved his wife and children to Vancouver in 2009 and left Weta for 1 1/2 years before returning to the New Zealand company. He gets back to Canada to visit his family every three months or so. His wife will meet him in L.A. for the awards ceremony.

It's a long commute, he says with a laugh, noting there are a lot of other Canadians working at Weta.

"It's the global economy. You sort of get used to it. Obviously it's not ideal, but the kids are doing really well and work's really great and it's paying the mortgage, so I can't really complain. A lot of people have it a lot harder."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Your top TV picks for August 25-28

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A squirrel enjoys the morning sunshine next to the duck pond in Assiniboine Park Wednesday– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment that Tina Fontaine’s slaying was a crime, and not part of a larger sociological problem?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google