Academy creates Academy Science and Technology Council

Sep 26, 2003 by Ian Evans

If you think Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is just about the glitz and glamour of the Oscars®, you’re selling the organization short. In fact the annual kudofest is used to help support the Academy’s year-round research, educational and historical activities.

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has created the Academy Science and Technology Council and voted funds to hire a director and staff, who eventually will be housed in the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood.

“The motion picture industry needs a body to monitor the current state of the technological arts, one that can work to facilitate understanding of new developments both within the industry and by the wider public audience,” Academy President Frank Pierson said. “That will be one of the mandates of the Academy Science and Technology Council.”

The Council also will be charged with completing a database of the history of film technology, beginning with the history of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards submissions, and with presenting educational programs on the technology of motion pictures.

The educational programs will include historical accounts of past technologies, and reviews of current and future technologies. One such program, “The Science and Art of the Color Motion Picture – Past and Present,” was presented in May.

A Science and Technology Council Executive Committee named by Pierson, presented a proposed mission statement and organization chart to the Academy’s board, which voted to establish the group and voted funding for the 2003-04 calendar year. The committee will serve as the council’s oversight committee.

Co-chairs of the committee are Academy Sound Governor Donald C. Rogers, Visual Effects Governor Bill Taylor and visual effects pioneer Ray Feeney. Other members of the committee were Donn Cambern, Pete Clark, Edmund DiGiulio, Richard Edland, Jonathan Erland, Phillip Feiner, Richard Glickman, Douglas Greenfield, David Inglish and Richard Stumpf.

“This is a very critical time for the technology of our industry,” said Rogers. “We faced just such a time 75 years ago, when the Academy was conceived, with the advent of sound. Today it’s the era of the ‘digital revolution,’ and , as was true 75 years ago, if new technology is to serve the art form, rather than dominate it, this Academy needs to resume its significant leadership position.”

For the first few years after its founding in 1927, the Academy’s role in technical research nearly overshadowed its other activities. The technicians branch set up technical committees, such as the Aperture Committee and the Screen Illumination Committee, which worked with organizations like the American Society of Cinematographers and the Association of Motion Picture Producers. The committees were consolidated in 1929 into the Academy Producers-Technicians Joint Committee and in January 1930, the Technical Bureau of the Association of Motion Picture Producers was transferred to Academy jurisdiction and absorbed into the Producers-Technicians Joint Committee.

The Academy reorganized its technical activities in 1932 into a Research Council. During World War II, the Research Council ran a training course for Signal Corps officers, schools for Signal Corps and Marine Corps motion picture cameramen and still photographers and assigned training film projects to the studios. The Research Council even determined officers’ commissions for motion picture people who joined the armed forces.

In 1948, the Research Council was transferred to the Association of Motion Picture Producers and renamed the Motion Picture Research Center, which continued to function until the late 1970s.