little gold statues

Yes, it’s that time of year again – school’s out, burgers are on the grill and everyone gathers around at poolisde as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announces the finalists for the Prime Time Emmy Awards!  Naturally, everyone skips to the Special Visual Effects nominees, since that’s where all our favorite shows reside.  Duking it out this year for the little gold statue will be…

Battlestar Galactica  “He That Believeth In Me”
Heroes “Four Months Ago”
Human Body “Pushing the Limits”
Jericho “Patriots and Tyrants”
Stargate Atlantis “Adrift”
Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles “Pilot”


Let me start out by bigging it up for all the nominees (especially my pals over at Zoic Studios, who are nominated for both Jericho and Terminator!  I’ve seen both of the shows they’re up for and the work is outstanding).  It’s going to be quite a race this year!

Of course our very own team here at BSG In-House Visual Effects have also been nominated for the first episode of season four, which featured an epic space battle of biblical proportions (and that was just the show’s teaser)!  A big shout out to everyone here who will be enjoying their black ties and free drinks come September: 


Gary Hutzel, Visual Effects Supervisor
Michael Gibson, Visual Effects Producer
David Takemura, Visual Effects Coordinator
Doug Drexler, CGI Supervisor
Kyle Toucher, CG Artist
Sean Jackson, CG Artist
Pierre Drolet, CG Modeler
Aurore de Blois, Senior Compositor
Derek Ledbetter, Compositor


Although the ballots are limited to eight names, there were definitely more than eight people involved in the creation of this episode’s visual effects, so let’s take a moment to honor the soldiers who also slaved away in front of a hot computer to bring you that sexy, explosive mayhem: 

Robert Bonchune, CG Artist
Michael Vegas, CG Artist
Heather McAuliff, Compositor
Jeremy Lang, Systems/IT

(I contributed to the episode as well, but since I took home an Emmy last year for “Exodus, Part II” it was time to give some other, well-deserving folks a shot at the gold).  And while we’re on the subject of accolades, congratulations are in order for Galactica’s other Emmy Nominees:

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
Battlestar Galactica • Six Of One
Written By Michael Angeli

Outstanding Cinematography For A One-Hour Series
Battlestar Galactica • Razor
Stephen McNutt, Director of Photography

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series
Battlestar Galactica • He That Believeth In Me
Julius Ramsay, Editor

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One-Hour)
Battlestar Galactica • Razor
Rick Bal, Production Mixer
Michael Olman, C.A.S., Supervising Re-Recording Mixer
Kenneth Kobett, C.A.S., Supervising Re-Recording Mixer

Outstanding Special Class – Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs
Battlestar Galactica – Razor Featurette #4
Ronald D. Moore, Executive Producer
David Eick, Executive Producer
Harvey Frand, Supervising Producer

Go, team, go!



Perhaps you’re wondering exactly how a show gets nominated for an Emmy.  No, magic TV-watching elves don’t cast votes nor does the Academy sift through every episode of every show that is aired to pick and choose – the makers of the programs actually submit the episodes they feel are worthy of Emmy consideration.  In the case of Visual Effects, Gary Hutzel, our esteemed Visual Effects Supervisor, submitted both “Razor” and “He That Believeth In Me” as examples of our best work for the season.  The shows are submitted with both a “cutdown reel” (a DVD of the scenes from the episode which include FX) and a “breakdown sheet” which highlights the work done.  Want a behind-the-scenes peek at what the Academy saw?  Here are the pages from the breakdown sheet, as created by the erstwhile Doug Drexler, CGI Supervisor (feel free to click and save):




Ultimately, “He Hath Believeth In Me” was chosen as a finalist (“Razor” didn’t make the final cut, most likely because only the air version was eligible for entry – the expanded, DVD version (with a lot of extra visual effects sequences) was not).

What are our chances of winning?  Hunt down all the nominated episodes, watch ’em and decide for yourself!  Personally, I think everyone on the team would agree that getting paid to create visual effects for Battlestar Galactica  makes us all winners!



18 Responses to “little gold statues”

  1. 1 Greg
    July 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Great stuff, and best of luck to your friends, you definitely deserved your gold for Exodus II.

    Thank you so much for posting those presentation sheets, that kind of behind the scenes detail is what I love but would never make it onto the DVDs/Blurays.

  2. 2 Vince
    July 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Jericho certainly had some impressive visuals in the finale with the dogfight. Terminator had some great time-displacement effects as well. But nothing is as breathtaking as seeing fleets colliding in battle between a beautiful nebula.

  3. 3 Rich
    July 21, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Best of luck when the awards are announced, and congrats to the BSG team for the other categories it was nominated for. Is it possible in a future blog you can show the breakdown sheets for Razor, since it was submitted but not nominated?

  4. July 21, 2008 at 6:18 am

    I’m curious how the eight names on the ballot are chosen. Why did those two CG Artist get on, and the others didn’t? Is it the amount of work contributed? Names out of a hat?

  5. 5 Stefan
    July 21, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Good luck on the awards, you guys deserve it!

    These breakdown sheets are neat to see – would it be fair to say then that when aspiring artists put together demo reels, they should keep these sheets in mind (going into slightly more depth as video allows)?


  6. 6 ety3
    July 21, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Congrats for all the noms.

    I have to ask, though, after reading the breakdown:

    What’s a “voxel”?

  7. 7 Vaz Lube
    July 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Awesome indeed.

    Is there a possibility for high resolution desktop wallpapers of them?

  8. July 21, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Indeed, I can just join in on the chorus here and wish the best of luck to any running there :)
    How long did the massive fleet battle like in “He That Believeth In Me” take to set up (and render, for that matter?)


  9. 9 darthmojo
    July 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    CHURCH: How the eight names are chosen can be a difficult process. Generally speaking, people in a supervising capacity are automatically on the ballot, as they usually provide creative direction and may have a hand in every shot. Producers are often listed as well, as sometimes they can be the glue that holds the whole operation together. The rule of thumb when choosing artists is to nominate those who made the most significant contribution to the episode; as I’m sure you can imagine, this is not always an easy decision and I don’t envy the supervisors and producers who have to make it. Feathers traditionally get ruffled and egos bruised in the process, although one way this is allieviated is by submitting different names on multiple episodes – this way more folks have a shot.

    Also note that even though the ballot is limited to eight names, EVERYONE who worked on the winning episode receives a certificate from the Academy, acknowledging their contribution to the show. This is a very nice “consolation prize;” it’s suitable for framing, very official and it basically says “this person helped this show win an Emmy Award!” I got one for the pilot of Babylon 5 and it never fails to impress house guests :-)

    Everyone in this business wants to win an Emmy, of course, and it’s probably easier for me to take an objective look at this since I was lucky enough to go home with one. As glib as it may have sounded, I did mean what I said in the main article – if you’re doing this kind of work for a living, you’re already a big winner.

  10. July 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I have to say, I was very impressed with the effects shots in Jericho’s finale (after all, we’re not often treated to the main characters having a dogfight with fighter jets), but I’ll be rooting for BSG. You guys deserve it for the season opener, as well as the rest of the season.

    Those breakdown sheets are really fascinating. I didn’t notice the little toasted Pyxis passengers, though I did see a couple of people-shaped splats in Razor. Always a nice little easter eggish moment when you catch one of those. ;-)

  11. July 22, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Good luck with the awards! Interesting that the breakdown sheets refer to the Cylon ships at “Basestars” rather than “Baseships.”

  12. July 22, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Let’s put something in perspective. 13 hours of Battlestar Galactica got 6 nominations (counting one for a short-form featurette). The final Season of THE WIRE got exactly ONE NOMINATION–and THE WIRE has never been nominated for Best Drama. But, Andromeda Strain 2008 gets SEVEN NOMINATIONS.


  13. 13 Boris
    July 22, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    What are the actual specific criteria for choosing the winner? The breakdown sheets don’t say much about how the shots were conceived, pre-visualized and finally executed, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Or do you also include a short making-of video clip as part of the cutdown reel?

  14. 14 Grand Moff Melch
    July 22, 2008 at 10:00 pm


    I am a member of the TV Academy, and all I can tell you is… the process is a helluva lot more complicated than you think.

    The entire membership is sent a list of eligible programs for “best program” in all categories (drama series, comedy series, miniseries, nonfiction series, etc), along with a scantron ballot. We are asked to vote for up to a certain number of shows in each category (to a maximum of 10). We can also decline to vote for any shows in a category.

    The votes are tallied, and the top 10 vote-getters become the semi-finalists. Members then volunteer to go to the Academy HQ and actually watch an episode of all 10 shows (submitted by the studio), and the shows are rated via secret ballot. Those votes are tallied, and the top 5 become the nominees.

    The members can then vote in the final round on one or two categories. They are sent screener DVDs of the nominated shows to watch, along with their ballots. Members cannot vote in the Comedy and Drama series categories more than two years in a row, in an effort to prevent the same people from voting for the same shows over and over.

    All of the other categories (acting, writing, music, editing, vfx, etc) are judged by Academy members who belong to that specific discipline. So… actors vote for actors, writers for writers, etc. There’s a similar process for each of those groups to determine the nominees.

    It’s an imperfect system, but frankly I can’t think of a better one.

    The studios send screener DVDs (or web address for viewing over the internet) so the members can see the shows. And the final nominees (and the winners) are determined by people who *must* watch the actual shows. If some shows get snubbed, it’s because not enough of the membership is aware of them — I watch a lot of television, but I don’t have time to even sample more than a fraction of what’s out there. No one does. Everyone has the things they’re interested in, and subject matter they avoid. For example, I’m not interested in procedurals, so I don’t watch the CSIs and LAW & ORDERs. And I don’t vote for them. I *do* watch things like THE WIRE and BSG, and I vote for them if I think they’re worthy. (Yes, in both cases.)

  15. July 24, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Grand Moff Melch,

    I don’t think the process is uncomplicated, I think it is demonstrably BROKEN. You’re saying people were required to watch Andromeda Strain before voting it as best almost everything? If that’s the case I see 4 possibilities: the Red Cross heard about this ‘torture room’ at the Academy building and had it shut down, the production company filled the screening room with drugs and hookers, the members who volunteered for such duty were “developmentally disabled”–explaining their subsequent vote, or the room was not properly proctored/the poor bastards escaped.

    Seriously, you can’t think of a better system then the one that never once nominated The Wire for best drama, while continually fellating tired Sopranos, because *in theory* the system is already designed “to prevent the same people for voting for the same shows over and over”? You’ve seen the far better shows *you watch* go un-nominated or under-nominated, yet sit back as year after year the results make a mockery of the Emmys.

    That’s exactly why (as I say in the linked expanded comments) your Academy has lost all relevance: there’s clearly a problem, the results are less merit-based and more commercialized every year, and the answer I get from all the academy members I know is between ‘I dunno how they pulled that out of their arse, don’t have time to get involved’ and ‘it is complicated, I can not think of a better way’.

  16. July 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    crossing my fingers for team BSG!

  17. 17 Grand Moff Melch
    July 27, 2008 at 10:27 pm


    What can I say? I did not vote for THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, but plenty of other members did. And apparently a majority of my fellow members feel that THE SOPRANOS and BOSTON LEGAL are worthy of an Emmy, while THE WIRE is not. Personally, I thought the final season of THE SOPRANOS was fantastic, and enthusiastically voted for it, along with THE WIRE and BSG. It’s a matter of taste and professional opinion. Just because you or I might disagree with the decisions of the Academy voters as a whole doesn’t make them wrong.

    THE WIRE *was* a semi-finalist this year, which means a large panel of Academy volunteers spent a day at the HQ actually *watching* the show — and not enough of them were suitably impressed. That’s the shitty truth. I don’t get it, but what’s the alternative? Having a cabal of judges (or a single tastemaker) select the nominees, without consulting the members?

    There’s no “theory” about it; members CANNOT vote in the Best Comedy and Best Drama series more than two years in a row without sitting out a year.

  18. 18 adallahq
    August 8, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I was meant to respond to this when it was first posted, better late than never I guess.

    I wanted to say thanx again to Mojo for sharing insider content. I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say this is a one-of-a-kind blog as far as the effort put into each post and all the insider exclusive content available here.

    Again, this is just so great for aspiring VFX artists like myself. I really enjoyed the breakdown of how each shot was made as far as techniques. Of course, I have absolutely no clue what Surface Voxels, image-mapped sprites, hard dynamics, interactive lighting, clip map for hero pieces and animated endomorphs are. But I’m guessing that’s why BSG VFX is the best VFX to have ever graced Television (or any) screens in the history of film or television making.

    Again, thanx for sharing this Mojo.

    Looking forward to the S4 episode reverse VFX recap :)


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July 2008

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