Canuck tech has Oscar date

Behind the dazzling big-screen blockbusters Avatar, Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a little black box that has netted an eastern Ontario man an Academy Award.

TORONTO — Behind the dazzling big-screen blockbusters Avatar, Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a little black box that has netted an eastern Ontario man an Academy Award.

Mark Wolforth is one of the masterminds of Truelight, a device about the size of a DVD player that allows filmmakers to integrate footage from different sources and convert it to film while maintaining colour consistency.

It’s become an industry standard, and Wolforth and his co-designer, Tony Sedivy, will be honoured with a Scientific and Technical Award on Saturday.

“To win an Academy Award is something kind of special,” Wolforth said Tuesday from Los Angeles, where he was meeting with clients before the weekend event.

“I don’t think really any of us when we started out down the path that we took that led here really thought that one day we would all be in L.A. collecting Academy Awards.”

Wolforth, who works out of his home in Kingston, Ont., is among several people from the U.K. company FilmLight that will receive honours. The technical gala hands out 15 awards and FilmLight is up for four of them.

Unlike the glitzy awards bash that celebrates the work of film actors, writers and directors, Wolforth says the technical winners get a certificate instead of an Oscar statuette.

Their work takes time to be recognized, because the Academy wants to be sure the tech products have proved to make a difference in the industry and are widely adopted.

Truelight debuted roughly six years ago, and Wolforth says the device took off from the very beginning because it was the only one to accurately simulate what digitally shot or edited footage would look like if transferred to traditional film, which is what most theatres use to project movies.

“It was one of a kind, it really was the only thing that could solve this seemingly impossible problem,” said Wolforth, estimating the device costs roughly $20,000.

“It’s been widely adopted by all kinds of large post-production houses and movie studios.”

The 39-year-old said Truelight allows users to digitally manipulate images and then preview how the colours would look on film before the work is actually sent out to a lab for costly processing. It can also account for a myriad of factors, including different types of film, which lab will process the film and on what type of projector it will eventually screen on.

“A lot of people thought it was an impossible problem to solve because there are so many variables,” Wolforth says.

“The characteristics of projection film are very different from, say, the computer display you’re looking at it on, or even the digital projector you’re looking at it on.”

Wolforth said recent features that have used the technology include Avatar, Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the upcoming Alice in Wonderland.

The technical awards will be handed out Saturday. The Academy’s marquee Oscars will be presented March 7 at a televised bash.