October 29, 2019
Awards News

A Beginning And A Farewell Bookend The 71st Engineering Emmy Awards

Libby Slate

Sony Electronics executive Hugo Gaggioni has enjoyed a long career of scientific and technical accomplishments and accolades.

But it's a pretty safe bet that, until the night of the Television Academy's 71st Engineering Emmy Awards – where he was to receive the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award – he had never been serenaded by a television star, to the melody of "Maria" from West Side Story, before an audience of friends and colleagues: "Oh, Hugo, oh, Hugo, oh, Hugo! oh, Hugo!"

The singer was Kirsten Vangsness, who plays technical analyst Penelope Garcia on the CBS procedural Criminal Minds and on this evening was back to host the awards for the fourth consecutive year. Vangsness's comic medley saluted all the winners at the ceremony, which was held October 23 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE to recognize individuals, companies and organizations for innovations and advancements in broadcast technology.

Watch the complete event video and see the photo gallery.

In his welcome, Academy Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma noted the Academy Board of Governors' approval of a new Science & Technology subgroup within the Lighting, Camera & Technical Arts peer group, for individuals who have developed or found unique uses for technology that improves television storytelling.

"This fledgling membership group is on track to create the Academy's 31st peer group designation," he said, adding that the award recipients would soon be contacted about joining.

As the holder of six patents, Gaggioni knows something about advancing technology. A 31-year veteran at Sony Electronics, he is currently Chief Technology Officer of the company's Broadcast and Production Services division, and has been at the forefront of key developments in digital compression and high-definition television, among others.

He is a worthy recipient of the Jenkins award, which honors a living individual whose ongoing contributions have significantly affected television technology and engineering.

"Thank you, thank you," said Gaggioni in acceptance. "I am very grateful to the members of the Television Academy for this extraordinary award." Born in Caracas, Venezuela, he attained his engineering degree in England. "There I discovered my passion for video compression, and all the ways to manipulate video signals."

In 1980 Gaggioni began working for RCA in New Jersey, where he met another future Jenkins Award recipient: Lawrence J. Thorpe, who became his mentor and eventually persuaded him to join Sony.

"And today I celebrate my 31st anniversary with this incredible company. I'd like to dedicate this award to all those engineers and research scientists at Sony and in [Japanese city] Atsugi. They have shared their knowledge with me through the years, I have shared my ideas, we've worked together as a family. Thank you to all of them. I am very privileged."

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) received the Philo T. Farnsworth Corporate Achievement Award, honoring an agency, company or institution whose contributions have significantly impacted television technology and engineering.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the honorary association promotes the moving image as an art form, counsels the industry on technological standards and advances and presents various educational and diversity initiatives.

Accepting was 100th Anniversary Chair Richard Crudo, ASC. "This is such a lovely honor," he said. "In 1919 our 15 founders could not have possibly imagined that we would still be thriving as we are today, and to them we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. We'd like to thank the Academy profoundly as well.

"On behalf of our founders, the 900 members we've invited into our ranks over the years and our associate members, thank you very, very much. This event was the final commemoration of our centennial. We definitely saved the best for last."In addition to the two awards, Emmy statuettes were given to six recipients:

  • The Pro-Q 3 from FabFilter, audio equalization software used by mixing professionals worldwide;
  • Sapphire, from Boris FX, a suite of visual effects plug-ins whose more than 250 modules enable graphic artists, compositors, VFX editors and picture editors to achieve almost limitless combinations of graphics and video looks and transitions;
  • Mocha Pro, also from Boris FX, a planar motion-tracking system whose capabilities include extending sets, replacing backgrounds and blurring faces for identity protection;
  • JPEG, the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which developed the image-compression standard that is now universally used for imagery in television and photography;
  • Silhouette, recently acquired by Boris FX, a portfolio of rotoscoping tools that offers more than 140 visual effects and an innovative hybrid of raster and vector paint systems;
  • and the RX 7 Advanced from iZotrope, the industry-standard audio repair tool, which can perform such functions as shaping dialogue intonations, preparing surround files instantly and removing unwanted reverb.

This last event of the Emmy season also marked a milestone finale for the Academy's Senior Vice President of Awards, Dr. John Leverence. After 39 years, Leverence is retiring at the end of the year, but will be on hand for one more year as a consultant.

Engineering Awards Committee chair Barry Zegel thanked Leverence as "our committee's liaison to the Academy, our Academy researcher and our ghostwriter. Every year I send him what I say is a pile of straw, and somehow he weaves our words into gold and puts them all together for us. Thank you. We will miss you." Leverence received a standing ovation from the audience.

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