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May 30


Summer 2019

New York VES Awards Celebration Salutes VFX Excellence


VES Executive Director Eric Roth celebrates with Innovator Award honorees Andy Jones and Jonah Friedman, and Empire Award honoree Bob Greenberg.

On March 1, the VES New York Section hosted its 5th Annual Awards Celebration. Held at The Green Building in Brooklyn, the VES Awards “after-after party” celebrated the finest achievements in visual effects artistry – from New York’s VES Award winners and nominees to local VFX heroes.

The Section established their Awards Celebration in 2015 to recognize local VFX accomplishments and bring together the vibrant New York community. Live music, an atmospheric venue, generous sponsors and local honorees contribute to a high-class evening of networking and celebration. The event was an instant success and has since become a must-attend annual affair.

The VES New York Empire Award was established in 2015 to recognize a New York-based visual effects professional who has made enormous contributions to the field of visual arts and filmed entertainment, and whose work embodies the spirit of New York. The Empire Innovator Award was created in 2019 to broaden the recognition to innovators who have advanced the field through cutting-edge technology.

Digital pioneer Bob Greenberg, Founder and Executive Chairman of R/GA, received the 2019 VES New York Empire Award for his pioneering work in visual effects and trailblazing work in the advertising and communications industry. Under his tutelage, R/GA has been on the forefront of VFX since the 1970s, evolving from a world-class movie title shop, to a digital studio, to a major digital advertising agency and service innovator. R/GA has focused on live-action film and video production and the development of leading-edge motion graphics. They have created groundbreaking effects for movies such as Alien, Predator and Se7en, with a body of work spanning 400 feature films and 4,000 television commercials. Greenberg has received an Academy Award, Clio, Cannes Lions, and induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

Upon receiving the award, Greenberg remarked, “It’s an interesting award for me because production and special effects have been such a big part of my career.” As Greenberg shared that the focus of his work is now on AR, VR, AI and robotics, he stated, “We’ll never stop innovating. We’ll never stop being a creatively-driven organization, exploring themes and emphasizing entrepreneurship.” In closing, he urged all the attendees to “keep suspending disbelief!”

VES members and guests enjoy the 5th Annual New York VES Awards Celebration.

The inaugural Empire Innovator Award was presented to Jonah Friedman and Andy Jones. The duo was honored for their technological innovations that have dramatically influenced and elevated the status of the visual effects industry in New York City, including their participation in the development of the open-source tool Cryptomatte, which has quickly become an industry standard since its introduction in 2015. Friedman is the Bifröst Product Owner at Autodesk and he has been a software engineer, photographer, and 3D artist in a wide range of sub-disciplines. Jones is CTO at Psyop, following his tenure as Head of VFX. He has worked in VFX and animation in a variety of disciplines, including 3D, compositing, VFX supervision, software and systems engineering.

Friedman gave kudos to his VFX peers in accepting the award with Jones: “Visual effects artists are the most innovative and knowledge-hungry people I have ever met, bar none. We are trying to recreate the world … literally everything under the sun. The visual effects industry is where art, science and technology all come together in this pressure cooker, and the results are really just magic.”

“Bob, Jonah and Andy are innovators who have elevated and advanced the visual effects industry through their inventive work,” said Sean Curran, New York VES Awards Celebration Chair. “Through their commitment to the art and science of VFX, they exemplify what is achievable through creative vision and technical expertise and have had an impact on visual effects here in New York and globally.”

“It was truly a memorable evening,” said Dan Schrecker, New York Section co-Treasurer and VES Board member. “Each year we feel as though the Awards Celebration gets better and better, and we look forward to many more in the years to come.”

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