Status: 02/13/2021 10:35 a.m.
Three Saarlanders received the “Technology Oscar” for their basic research in the field of light simulation in film. The ir method was used in the films “Spiderman” and “Lego Batman”.
And the “Oscar” goes to … Saarland: The computer scientists Carsten Benthin, Sven Woop and Ingo Wald are the ones who make superheroes appear on the big screen – in the truest sense of the word – in the best possible light. With their “ray tracing” technology they bring action figures to life in 3D animations.
The program they developed ensures that Spiderman, Lego Batman and the Grinch are perceived by the audience as realistic characters and that the films are successful. “I still can’t quite believe that we’re getting this ‘Oscar’,” Woop said SR. “We applied, but we didn’t really expect to win a prize.”
“Ray tracing” has long been known in the film metropolis Hollywood – from now on you will also know the names of the inventors there. Because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors the scientists and two other colleagues, Attila Áfra and Manfred Ernst, with a “Technology Oscar” in the field of light simulation in film.
How exactly does light fall through a glass? Sven Woop and his colleagues have developed software that recognizes this.
Light and shadow – just like in the real world
You have earned software that calculates and thus improves the representation of light, shadow and reflection. “ The technology can simulate lighting conditions in such a way that reflective surfaces or shadows appear extremely realistic,” explains Saarbrücken graphics professor Philipp Slusallek. He was involved in the development that began at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).
“Ray tracing” means “tracing rays”. The technology mimics human vision. Through a simulation, it recognizes what the incidence of light must be like in order to generate a photo-realistic image. During the application, each individual video sequence is calculated, as the incidence of light changes with every movement of a person or an object. Proper reflection is crucial for the viewer to perceive and accept 3D animation as realistic.
The computer calculates how the incidence of light can be simulated in three dimensions.
How does the technology from Saarland get to Hollywood?
After completing their doctorate at Saarland University, the three scientists continued to work at the chair for computer graphics. The ir calculation method was originally designed for the automotive industry and is still used in this area for research purposes, for example for calculations in connection with autonomous driving. “We are in the process of expanding all of this. We have now set up various automotive companies on our campus. The award may help us to attract more companies to Saarland,” says Slusallek from DFKI.
In this context, the American IT group Intel became aware of the Saarlanders, for whom Benthin and Woop are still working – now from their home office in their hometown of Völklingen. Wald still lives in the USA, he now works for the graphics card manufacturer Nvidia.
Trophy comes in the mail
Despite the recognition from Hollywood, his two colleagues cannot imagine going back to America again. Benthin: “For Saarlanders, family and friends are the greatest. That is why we have no intention of emigrating again.”
The computer scientists also make their ray tracing technology available to filmmakers and programmers on a free platform. The process was used for international cinema films and computer games such as Cyberpunk 2077.
All three will follow the award ceremony from home. Due to the corona, the “Technology Oscars” are awarded digitally via live stream. In order to be able to hold the prize in their hands, Benthin and Woop at least have to wait a few more days – as long as it takes for the trophy to find its way from Hollywood to Völklingen in the classic analogue mail.