Cinematographer with local ties wins visual effects award
by Maddy Houk | Patterson Irrigator
Mar 01, 2012 | 4022 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson native Nick Walker (center front) joins other members of the cinematography team for "Rango" as they accept an award Feb. 7 for Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in an Animated Feature Film from the Visual Effects Society.
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When the animated feature film “Rango” swept the Visual Effects Society’s 10th annual awards earlier this month, Patterson native Nick Walker was caught up in the accolades.

Walker and his team took home the award for Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in an Animated Feature Film at the banquet-style ceremony Feb.7 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, the same hotel that hosts the Golden Globe awards.

The team was thrilled to beat out the competition.

“The VES Award was really satisfying — easily the biggest award I’ve ever received,” Walker said this week.

Walker, now a Bay Area resident, joined co-supervisor Colin Benoit, lead lighter Philippe Rebours and lead compositor Nelson Sepulveda on the film’s cinematography team. “Rango” was up against “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Cars 2” and “Arthur Christmas” for the coveted award. A cinematographer is responsible for using film or digital media to create the look of the film with lighting.

“Lighting is such a key part of real-world cinematography, and our compers (compositors) do a big job of assembling the rendered pieces while applying finishing visual touches,” Walker wrote in an email. “A lot of what made ‘Rango’ look so good came from them.”

Though the team smiled for the cameras with awards in hand, they have yet to receive their trophies. After the acceptance speech, the group was marched backstage with the statues, which were promptly taken away. They signed paperwork and then proceeded through back hallways to a pressroom.

“On the way, we passed by Antonio Banderas having a cigarette out on the balcony overlooking the hotel pool — wonderfully appropriate,” Walker added. “Antonio Banderas seems like the sort of movie star you would find on the balcony having a cigarette, instead of being in a banquet with a bunch of tech nerds.”

In the pressroom, the winners were handed another set of trophies, posed for photos and then gave the statues back.

“Who knows when we’ll get our own copies,” Walker said.

He noted that the trophy has a man-in-the-moon face with a space capsule in it eye. Its back is sculpted to look like a set piece. The image is hoisted upon a wooden base, and a capsule sticks through the back with a small person hanging on the frame, while a little light illuminates the moon’s face from below.

Walker’s father, Russ Walker of Patterson, noted that “Rango” was the first fully animated feature Lucasfilm had attempted. The Patterson native was hired for the project after producers recognized his work on “Shrek III,” when he worked for DreamWorks, his father said.

“It’s really great to see that his peers recognize what he’s been able to accomplish,” the senior Walker said.

Nick Walker, 38, continues work on the long-awaited “George Biddle, CPA,” a film he shot in Patterson last year.

“‘George Biddle’ is so close to completion,” he said this week. “It will probably require another two weekends.

“Once I really have a finished product, we’ll be scheduling a Central Valley premiere.”

• Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187 or maddy@pattersonirrigator

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