Valley Native Receives Technical Oscar Saturday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Seth Rosenthal won’t get to party with the likes of Oscar nominees Matt Damon or Jennifer Lawrence, but the Mahoning Valley native still is pretty excited to be receiving his own recognition Saturday from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Rosenthal, formerly of Youngstown and Vienna Township, will be among the 33 individual award recipients the academy will recognize tonight at its Scientific and Technical Awards.

“It’s very cool, definitely,” he remarked.

Rosenthal, who is the son of Pat Rosenthal and Richard Hill, is co-founder and president of Tweak Software, a San Francisco-based visual effects company. He and co-workers Jim Hourihan and Alan Trombla will be awarded an Oscar for the design and development of Tweak’s RV media player.

The technical Oscars will be presented at an awards ceremony tonight in Beverly Hills.  The main Oscar ceremony will be broadcast Feb. 28.

Tweak Software originated as the research and development division of Tweak Films, a visual effects company.

“This year’s honorees represent a wide range of new tech, including a modular inflatable airwall system for composited visual effects, a ubiquitous 3-D digital paint system and a 3-D printing technique for animation,” Richard Edlund, Academy Award-winning visual effects artist and chairman of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, said in the news release announcing the awards. “With their outstanding, innovative work, these technologists, engineers and inventors have further expanded filmmakers’ creative opportunities on the big screen.”

The 1984 Ursuline High School graduate has no formal technical training, he says. He studied history at Oberlin College and explored 3-D technology on his own before he started working in the feature film visual effects industry in 1998.

His first job in the industry was with Industrial Light & Magic, the pioneer visual effects house founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas as part of Lucasfilm. There he worked on digital visual effects for films including Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, The Mummy and Minority Report.

Rosenthal left Industrial Light & Magic in 2005 to form Tweak. “ILM is one of our big customers,” he said.

The RV media player and image viewer is designed specifically for use by film professionals. It supports media typically encountered by film and visual effects artists.

“It does a bunch of things that are very important for digital filmmaking,” he said.

The RV software is also used by clients in the high-end visual effects and animation industry including Pixar (like Lucasfilm now owned by Disney), Weta Digital, MPC and Framestore.

Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams’ production company, used RV to review visual effects shots in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, which Industrial Light & Magic also worked on and utilized RV for.

Rosenthal said. “Digital artists use it to look at their pictures they’re making but it has to handle some pretty esoteric stuff.” It also serves as a “tool kit” that can be incorporated into the film production process and configured to function as the filmmaker requires in that process.

Unlike the better-known Oscars for actors, actresses and films, the Technical Achievement Awards aren’t awarded to individuals for work in specific films.

“What happens is [the academy] does investigations and so [the Oscar] is not necessarily for stuff that happened this [past] year, he said. “It’s more if your technology gets to a point where it’s been useful for the industry, which can take many years.”

Even though RV isn’t being singled out for its work in particular films, the producers of several films nominated for special effects Oscars, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant and The Martian, utilized the software, Rosenthal said.

Pictured: Tweak Software’s RV media player is used to review shots in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

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