Local computer programmer wins Academy Award

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A COMPUTER programmer from Whitchurch won an Academy Award for helping to create a special effects system that is now used in all great movies.

Jerry Huxtable, 56, is one of five people who will be honored for developing Nuke, software that is now the industry standard.

He will fly to Los Angeles with his wife Denise to pick it up with his colleagues next Saturday.

The team will attend a ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills where they will be presented with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plaque. It is a step below the statuette of Oscar, the highest honor of the Academy.

Then Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable will enjoy a week’s vacation in the city.

Nuke has been in the three most recent Star wars movies and many adaptations of Marvel Comics, including the Avengers series, the Iron Man trilogy and dead Pool.

It was also the force behind every Oscar winner for Best Visual Effects since 2010.

It was used to create the “inflected” cityscapes in Creation in 2010, the sequences of space travel in Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) and the alien world of Avatar (2009).

Other winners or nominees for using it include The Martian, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ex Machina, The Golden Compass, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Life of Pi, Hugo and adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and The jungle Book.

It is a “compositing” application, which means that it can mix real images with computer-generated landscapes, objects or creatures. It can also combine parts of two or more movie sequences that were shot at different times.

Unlike older programs, it can treat film, which is a series of two-dimensional flat images, as if it exists in real three-dimensional space, and calculate the distance between objects and people in each frame.

This means that it can overlay artificial elements, such as spaceships, monsters or armies with the right perspective so that the image looks more natural and realistic.

It can also synchronize the movement of a computer generated object with the movement of the camera to make everything in the finished image appear to have been shot at the same time in the real world.

Mr. Huxtable works for The Foundry, a London-based developer who bought the rights to Nuke about 13 years ago. He was informed of the price just before Christmas.

He said: “I was very excited. It didn’t feel real and I’m not sure it will feel real until we’re actually there.

“It should be nice to meet other professionals but I’m going to have to wear a tuxedo and a bow tie, which is a little different. Like most computer programmers, I usually work in jeans and sneakers!

Mr Huxtable grew up in Hertfordshire and studied physics at the University of York before embarking on computer science. His first job was to create project management software for a company based at Imperial College London, which he said was “very boring”.

He then worked for Curious, which designed computer-generated maps for TV news and weather programs. Although the quality has improved, the cards seen today are still based on the technology he developed.

He and his wife, who have three children, Lia, 15, Jennifer, 19, and Tom, 23, moved to Crays Pond in the 90s when he found work in Reading and they settled in Whitchurch in 2000.

Mr. Huxtable joined The Foundry in 2006 and was tasked with improving Nuke. It had been specially designed for Titanic, which won an Oscar for special effects in 1997 and the firm wanted to market it to other filmmakers.

He and his team spent about four years improving the user interface and adding features like “particle effects,” which meant he could simulate clouds of smoke and dust.

Mr Huxtable said: “It was our job to stretch it out, polish it up and make it a little ‘shinier’, if you will. It was a “homemade” product until then, so it was quite rough around the edges. It’s incredibly flexible because you can work in an entirely three-dimensional space and not just create layers of effects on a flat image. It also doesn’t write effects to images permanently, so you never destroy your originals.

“However, it’s an incredibly technical product and if you sat down to watch it without any prior knowledge you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“It’s everywhere now. Almost every movie uses it and because it’s a niche industry, there isn’t a lot of competition.

“I am always amazed at what people can do with it. I always try to understand when I’m at the movies but you have to avoid thinking too much like that or it will spoil the film.

“I hope most viewers aren’t aware of all of this and are just enjoying the movie, but nowadays a lot of what we see doesn’t exist in the real world, it’s all done in post. production.

“It’s not just for the obvious things like science fiction or fantasy. If you’re doing a historical drama it’s a lot easier to shoot everyone on a green screen and put a city in the background afterwards than it is to search for a location and transport all the cast, crew, and crew there. and the necessary equipment.

Mr. Huxtable is currently working on a new program capable of simulating three-dimensional objects for a range of uses from film, television and computer games to construction and design projects.

He said: “I just fell into this line of work, really – it was a combination of various circumstances and discussions with people I knew in the industry. I like movies but I don’t really have time to go to the movies as much as I would like.

“The children are more interested in my work since the award ceremony, but I don’t think they are very interested in it. I think they are fed up with me bending over during a movie and saying it was made with Nuke!

Ms Huxtable, who is Whitchurch Parish Councilor, said: “It is very exciting that Jerry has won this award and I am very happy that he got this recognition after working so hard on the project.

“Jerry is very focused and engaged in his job and is very committed to doing the best job he can, so I can’t wait to take a break and help him celebrate.”


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