Cutting Edge: Dr. Anil Kokaram
Winning an Oscar used to be the reserve of the rich and famous, but a Trinity College researcher recently bagged a gong for his work developing video editing software. Dr. Anil Kokaram was honoured for the development of visual effects software for the film industry.
Dr Kokaram who worked as consultant with the UK-based The Foundry, a leading developer of image processing software for the post-production industry, picked up his award in LA on 10 February.
The visual effects and image-processing software developed by Dr Kokaram and the team has been used on a host of high-profile feature films including Casino Royale, X-Men, The Last Stand, The Da Vinci Code and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Commenting on the Award, he stated: “I am delighted to have won this Award, especially given the stringent examination process employed by the Academy in selecting the winners. It involved six months of deliberation and assessment by two panels made up of both academics and members of the film industry.”
The award-winning software package allows more flexibility at a post-production stage. Dr Kokaram’s particular expertise is in motion estimation. In a given film, 25 pictures or frames are taken every second. Using motion estimation, the group developed algorithms capable of tracking the movement and properties of every pixel in a frame in relation to the corresponding pixels in subsequent and preceding frames in a sequence. This allows for special effects and enhancement operations to be carried out without manual intervention.
The software can also be used to restore old film footage. Traditional and costly restoration methods involve converting film using a digital scanner into a digital format and then employing someone to trawl through the movie frame by frame.
Using Dr Kokaram’s software package means the computer program can ‘guess’ what should be in shot and make adjustments. He has used the program to restore one of the first films shot in Ireland and is currently working on footage of John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963.
The software can also be used for taking characters in and out of scenes. Instead of shooting against a green screen, the software can estimate where the person should be and add them.
The glamour of the Oscars may seem a long way from the world of academia but now an Oscar plaque (not the traditional statuette) is gracing at least one desk in the hallowed halls of Trinity.