TCD lecturer nabs Oscar

8 Feb 2007

A lecturer from Trinity College Dublin is to receive an Academy Award for his role in developing visual effects software for the film industry.

Dr Anil Kokaram, who holds a post at the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the university, won’t be treading down the red carpet with Brad and Angelina, however. The ceremony honouring winners of the Scientific and Technical Awards is being held in Los Angeles this Saturday, two weeks ahead of the acting Oscars ceremony which takes place on 25 February.

Dr Kokaram worked as consultant with the Foundry, a software development house in the UK. He will receive the award with three members of the Foundry team – Dr Bill Collis, Simon Robinson and Ben Kent – for playing their parts in designing and developing an integrated suite of software visual effects to be used in movies.

Films to have used the visual effects and image-processing software developed by Dr Kokaram and the team include Casino Royale, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Da Vinci Code and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.The software lets film makers perform tasks which were previously very difficult to carry out during post-production unless manual editing was used.

Dr Kokaram’s expertise is in motion estimation, which is required for many special effects and enhancement operations in motion pictures or videos. Film is recorded at 25 pictures or frames per second. Through motion estimation, the Foundry team developed algorithms that can track the movement and properties of every pixel in a frame in relation to the corresponding pixels in subsequent and preceding frames in a sequence.

The software developed by Dr Kokaram uses motion estimation for different purposes, such as creating special effects or performing touch-up tasks that were previously done manually, like removing blotches or creating new frames in an image sequence.

Kokaram said he was delighted to have won the award, pointing out that the verdict was arrived at through six months of deliberation and assessment by two panels made up of academics and film industry insiders.

By Gordon Smith