Kirsten Vangsness, center, and Wendy Lynn Aylsworth, recipient of The Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award, poses with her family at the 2018 Engineering Emmy Awards.
October 24 was a memorable day for Wendy Aylsworth. She marked what would have been her late father's 100th birthday while celebrating the birthday of her third grandchild. And in the evening, Aylsworth received the highest honor bestowed on an individual at the Television Academy's 2018 Engineering Emmys: the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing a living person whose ongoing contributions have significantly affected television technology and engineering.
"This day is so filled with karma for me," Aylsworth said from the podium at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles, as she acknowledged a standing ovation. "I feel like it's a destiny I never saw coming."
Destiny, perhaps, but also a reward for the hard work and vision she has brought to the television industry as a technology executive, having spent more than twenty years at Warner Bros. Studios, ultimately as senior vice-president, technology, corporate technical operations. Earlier, at the Walt Disney Company, she directed technology support for feature animation and software development for theme park attractions. Currently the CEO of Walden Pond and president of UltraViolet, she is a former chair of the Academy's Engineering Awards committee, now headed by Barry Zegel.
The Engineering Emmys — which honor individuals and companies for significant technical achievements in television — was the fourth and final event of the landmark 70th Emmy season, as well as the final Emmy night for Academy chairman Hayma Washington; he is not seeking a second term in favor of returning to production.
"What an honor it has been to be of service to you," Washington said in his welcoming remarks, "and I thank you for that honor."
The awards were hosted for the third consecutive year by Kirsten Vangsness, who plays technical analyst Penelope Garcia on CBS's Criminal Minds. She performed an original song singling out each honoree with clever lyrics — "I can't do what you do, but I can rhyme!" — and encouraged an audience singalong for the closing chorus, a series of "meows" in recognition of Engineering Plaque recipient CATS Cam, whose animal-borne multi-sensor video system provides filmmakers an animal's point of view without disturbing its natural behavior.
This year's recipient of the Philo T. Farnsworth Corporate Achievement Award was Avid Technology; the award honors a company or institution whose contributions over time have significantly affected television technology and engineering. Founded in 1988 by Bill Warner, Avid overcame the deficiencies of linear editing and restructured the way television content was created with its Media Composer non-linear editor, the first to digitize video. Since then, the firm has introduced numerous tools to advance television and film editing and other postproduction tasks.
"To receive the Farnsworth Award is a high point in over thirty years of technology innovation for television, film, music and media," Avid CEO Jeff Rosica said. "On behalf of everyone at Avid Technology around the world, we're grateful to the Television Academy for this distinction." Noting Farnsworth's own excitement that his television creation worked, Rosica added that "the bottomless passion for media technology innovation continues with the Avid colleagues who are surrounding me and facing all of you right now."
Also present were members of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), in town for their annual technology conference. In her own acceptance speech, Aylsworth noted the benefits of serving both SMPTE (she is a past president) and the Television Academy, and urged audience members to join such organizations. "I've given many wonderful hours to the Television Academy, but I've received so much more in the relationships I've made and the knowledge I've gained from the colleagues I've worked with."
In addition to the two awards and the Engineering Plaque, Emmys were given to five recipients:
- The Artemis Digital Director's Viewfinder, from the Chemical Wedding company, a mobile-device application that allows filmmakers to accurately pre-visualize shots before they are physically available;
- Blue Mix-Fi Headphones, which deliver a true reference sound quality to audio mixers and editors and studio musicians who need accurate reference and isolation in loud working environments;
- cineSync, from parent company Cospective, a review and approval tool that allows users to watch high-resolution, high-frame-rate video at the same time, anywhere in the world;
- Codex Recording Platform and Capture Media, technology which, as recording standards have evolved, has enabled the recording of uncompressed digital negatives in a way that allows digital storytellers to capture all the detail required for a high-quality final product;
- PRG GroundControl Followspot, which enables an operator to work safely from the stage floor instead of perched high in soundstage rafters or other dangerous locations.
About the 2018 Engineering Emmy Awards
The 2018 Engineering Emmy Awards are overseen by Chair Barry Zegel and committee members Wendy Aylsworth, Stuart Bass, Bob Bronow, Jim DeFilippis, Greg Gewickey, Frank Morrone, Leon Silverman, David Stump, and Craig Weiss.