Academy honours Nelsonian

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 13:00 11/02/2014

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A Nelsonian's eight years of long hours spent in a film studio are about to be recognised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Nick McKenzie is part of a team of three working for Weta Digital on complex computer lighting software, and will be flying to Los Angeles to receive a Scientific And Technical Achievements award from the Academy Awards on February 15, at the annual awards presentation in Hollywood.

They are awarded by the academy for "the creation of the spherical harmonics-based efficient lighting system at Weta Digital".

The work is to make digital lighting work more efficient to enable artists to quickly see the results of changing lights, materials and set layouts in scenes with complex digital elements.

With Martin Hill and Jon Allitt, Mr McKenzie developed the digital lighting software system at Weta Digital Mr McKenzie said explaining what he does at Weta Digital is hard to understand, even for people in the industry.

In a nutshell, Mr McKenzie had created software which would make rendering faster and better when dealing with digital lighting for film projects.

The project started in 2006 and was first used in James Cameron's award winning film Avatar, where they needed to do things "bigger, faster and more efficiently".

He said the work was "behind the scenes of behind the scenes".

The lighting software had since been used on every film Weta has worked on including The Adventures of Tintin, and The Hobbit trilogy.

Mr McKenzie went to Nayland College, and then studied interior design at Victoria University in Wellington in the mid 1990s.

He said he had "fond memories" of his time at Nayland and credits Nelson's dedication to the arts to his chosen career path.

"Nelson does have a core of craft people, they have the most insane incredible attention to detail, I think that's part and parcel, coming from that region that embraces creative industries."

After graduating from Victoria University Mr McKenzie began a role as a research assistant at Victoria University's Architecture School working on computer lighting simulation, which began his interest in computer software on lighting issues.

He eventually started working with Weta, on the first day of 2000 he found himself working on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Battle of Helm's Deep scene.

The trio had been submitting their work to the academy for this award over the past five years, and Mr McKenzie said they are "thrilled" to be recognised.

He said it was a great relief to go to the awards ceremony and know they had already won. There would be no gut-wrenching anticipation that audiences see at the glitzy Academy Awards that will be two weeks after the ceremony Mr McKenzie will attend.

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