A computer programmer from Smiths Falls, Ont., has won an Academy Award for his part in making a comic book villain’s facial movements appear menacingly real on the big screen.
Derek Bradley, who studied computer science at Carleton University and is now a senior research scientist at Disney Research in Switzerland, won a Technical Achievement Award for his work on motion capture technology recently used in the film Avengers: Infinity War.
The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards were handed out in Los Angeles on the weekend.
Bradley, along with Thabo Beeler, Bernd Bickel and Markus Gross conceived, designed and engineered a program that “captures exceptionally dense animated meshes without markers or makeup, pushing the boundaries of visual fidelity and productivity for character facial performances in motion pictures,” according to the Academy’s website.
In Infinity War, a group of Marvel superheroes band together to try to defeat the megavillain Thanos, a hulking, purple menace bent on destruction.
Thanos is played by actor Josh Brolin, with the help of lots of high-tech special effects partly achieved by Bradley and the rest of his group.
‘Every little pore and wrinkle’
Their technology, called the Medusa Performance Capture System, has been used in more than a dozen films.
“It’s a form of performance capture. An actor can come and sit in a chair, and we have a number of different cameras which are focusing in on the face — typically around eight cameras,” Bradley explained in an interview from Los Angeles Monday with CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
“Our technology will take the videos and turn [them] into a 3D, digital version of the actor’s face, tracking every little pore and wrinkle as it deforms over time.”
Bradley and his team didn’t get Oscar statuettes, but were still “very excited” by their certificates.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning, right before we went up on stage, but as soon as we stepped up there — and my family was there in the audience — it was really something I’ll never forget,” he said.
“I’m super thrilled about it, still.”