The Hobbit picks up technical Oscar

Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorlin The team from The Hobbit picked up an Academy plaque for Scientific and Engineering

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has earned its first Academy Award after being recognised at an early pre-Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles.

The Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards recognize people who have made significant behind-the-scenes contributions to movie making.

The ceremony, hosted by Star Trek co-stars Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, gave nine awards to 25 people.

Those responsible for the computer graphics in Shrek were also honoured.

Unlike the main Oscars ceremony, which will be held on Sunday, 24 February and will only recognise movie achievements from 2012, the Scientific and Technical Awards gave awards to behind-the-scenes innovators whose breakthroughs in computer technology and other fields have helped make several feature films over a number of years.

Gollum in a scene from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The technique makes Gollum appear more lifelike

Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling won for inventing a technique which has made huge advances in bringing to life computer-generated characters such as Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.

Richard Mall received perhaps the greatest applause of the night, for his invention of the Matthews Max Menace Arm, a portable device which allows studio lights to be moved and positioned all over a set, often where normal lighting cannot be used because of on-site restrictions or other difficult conditions.

"I am a little humbled to be up here with all this technology, because basically I built something in my garage," Mall said to applause and cheers. He thanked his wife for enduring all the strange noises that had come out of that garage.

His invention has been sold to over 40 countries and used in more than 300 films.

Lawrence Kesteloot, Drew Olbrich, and Daniel Wexler at DreamWorks were honoured with an Academy certificate for the creating one of the most versatile lighting delivery systems in film production,

The system, which combines light, colour and rendering in one, was used in the likes of Shrek and Madagascar.

Portions of the event will be seen during the televised Oscars ceremony later this month.

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