By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 6, 2013 at 4:29PM
The big winner at the Visual Effects Society Awards with four wins was VES visonary award-winner Ang Lee and his "Life of Pi," which both earned standing ovations at the Beverly Hilton Tuesday night. "They said it was unfilmable," recalled accepting winner Bill Westenhofer of Rhythm & Hues.
Another big winner was "Brave," which swept the four top animated feature categories. As for star presence, although Harrison Ford presented the life achievement award to veteran VFX master Richard Edlund, who met him 37 years ago on the first "Star Wars," and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts presented the evening's last awards for best animated VFX to "Brave" and live action VFX to "Life of Pi," the star of the evening with this group was presenter Andy Serkis, of Gollum fame.
Lee graciously recalled the training that ILM VFX Master Dennis Muren gave him on "Hulk," and how he gradually came to understand the VFX process. He enjoyed not working with opinionated actors, he admitted, when he returned to the even more VFX-driven 3-D "Life of Pi." "This is not visual effects," he said. "It's visual art." The only downside: "It's too expensive," he said, underscoring the evening's dark side.
At the start of the night VES chief Eric Roth stated that visual effects companies face an uncertain future even though "we have become the center of the entertainment universe...Globalization is here and hard financial realities." He challenged studio leaders and the biggest most successful VFX houses to help the struggling smaller ones to survive by finding a new economic business model. "Life of Pi" visual effects house Rhythm & Hues is in financial trouble. It shouldn't be.
"Our industry is going to be OK," Roth wound up. Something's wrong when the sector of the industry that is most crucial to success in eye-popping visual entertainment is not able to stay afloat.
(Immersed in Movies looked at the VFX tipping point here.)
The full list of VES award-winners is below.
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi"
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Richard Parker
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Brave" - Merida
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"The Avengers" - Midtown Manhattan
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
"Brave" - The Forest
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
"The Avengers" - Helicarrier
Outstanding FX Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Outstanding FX Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Storm of God
Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
"Life of Pi" - Storm of God
Lifetime Achievement Award