WHAT do Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and a dad of three from Lalor Park have in common?
They are all being recognised by the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in red-carpet-fashion at the Oscars this Sunday.
The difference is lesser-known Chris Cooper already knows he’s a winner.
‘‘It’s a really good surprise,’’ Mr Cooper said.
He won’t be getting a 13-inch gold statuette, but a certificate for a software program he helped develop for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.
‘‘They call it an ‘Academy’ award.’’
Mr Cooper’s dad, Rob Cooper, and wife, Solveig Cooper, were just as surprised by the award.
‘‘He actually thought it was a hoax, so he was in shock but we were in even more shock,’’ his Dad said.
‘‘I couldn’t stop laughing when I first heard,’’ said his wife.
‘‘It was quite surreal.’’
Mr Cooper receives the Academy Technical Achievement Award for the development, prototyping and promotion of technologies and workflows for deep compositing.
‘‘I started working on that technology in 2007,’’ Mr Cooper said with reference to deep compositing which uses an image pixel containing multiple samples of data, instead of the traditional single sample.
‘‘It was quite a tricky problem we were having to solve ... to combine the cattle and computer-generated dust with live cattle in Australia.
‘‘Subsequently it was used in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.’’
The former Castle Hill High student completed a computer systems engineering degree at the University of Technology Sydney before working on TV commercials and then in the film industry, developing visual effects software.
‘‘I started off doing actual visual effects work but then started to work more on the software engineering side of things which allowed me to work more stable hours, which was important to me as both a husband and a father,’’ Mr Cooper said.
His other credits include the Matrix movies, Moulin Rouge, Happy Feet 1 and 2, Stealth and the Farscape science fiction TV series.
It was while working at Animal Logic in Sydney that he and a colleague developed the award-winning technology.
‘‘It was Dad who suggested I do engineering [after finishing school], which exposed me to a range of things from computer systems engineering to robotics and gave me a really broad range of skills and experience,’’ Mr Cooper said.
‘‘I’d be in the minority entering the film industry with an engineering degree.
‘‘It is a glamorous industry but it can be tough as well, particularly when you’re starting out,’’ Mr Cooper said.
‘‘At the moment there’s big tax breaks in Canada and the UK that make it very hard to be competitive in Australia and some people are moving overseas.’’
He left the film industry in 2012 and now works at NICTA on 3-D online geospatial visualisation projects for tracking public transport, finding new sources of geothermal energy, modelling ground water reservoirs and monitoring air pollution.
A keen cyclist, he has also developed a sports tracking website — doarama.com — where GPS data can be uploaded and tracked in an interactive 3-D diorama.
Asked if he was disappointed to not get an Oscar statue, Mr Cooper said ‘‘yes, but only because I don’t want to keep explaining my Oscar is a certificate’’.
‘‘Really it’s a great honour to get the certificate,’’ he said.