When European industry and academia decide to join forces then a Scientific and Engineering Award® from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® can become a reality. Dr. Bill Collis, Simon Robinson and Bent Kent from The Foundry, a leading British visual effects company, together with Dr. Anil Kokaram from Trinity College Dublin, whose Sigmedia group is expert in video processing, were honoured by an Academy Award® for the development and design of the Furnace software tool for enhancing visual effects in motion picture sequences. The collaboration between the two teams was supported by the EU's Research Framework Programme through its programme of Marie Curie Fellowships, in order to exchange know how and develop new image and video tools that would ultimately improve the Furnace software. The digital revolution in film and cinema presents new challenges to research and technology for the analysis, organisation and manipulation of images.
Congratulating the team, European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "It's great to see European expertise being honoured at such a prestigious event. The Furnace software is just one of many examples of technological and scientific advances that are supported by the European research programmes, and have applications that give an extra edge to important European industries, such as film."
The Furnace software tool has pushed the boundaries of visual effects in film production by using a new set of algorithms which enable the tracking of every pixel in a frame. As a result, daily film production concerns such as the removal of wires used for flying actors or objects are now automated rather than done manually frame by frame; grain reduction and dust busting have been successfully tackled in order to preserve the quality of film over time; image stabilisation and super resolution have been enhanced. Complex image processing, for example to add and delete actors and objects, which has up to now been done manually, can also be carried out automatically.
The Furnace software has been used on a range of high profile feature films such as Casino Royale, The Da Vinci Code, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Batman Begins, King Kong, Superman Returns, X-Men 3 The Last Stand.
The Marie Curie Host Fellowships for Transfer of Knowledge between Industry and Academia improve cooperation across the two sectors by supporting mobility of researchers between them through staff secondments. The scheme has proven successful and under FP7 (2007-2013) it will be carried out through the Industry Academia Partnership and Pathways Fellowships in order to promote longer term cooperation across the two sectors.
It was also a positive night for EU research in other ways. The film An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore was honoured with the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature. This documentary drew on results from the EU-funded EPICA project, which examined samples of Arctic ice-cores to establish levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere over the last 650,000 years.