Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The VFX Predictinator, 83rd Academy Awards Edition

Last May, when the Academy finally expanded the number of nominees for the visual effects Oscar from three to five, I wrote this:
And what will this mean to The VFX Predictinator, our totally awesome formula that accurately predicted the visual effects Oscar winner across 21 years? It will require a serious overhaul, since many of the formulas are dependent on the assumption of three nominees. More likely than not, we'll have to come up with an all-new formula.

My lovely wife, who essentially initiated The VFX Predictinator project, re-examined the data and determined that it would be fairly easy to tweak the formula and treat the data in essentially the same way as did the original formula. Certain multipliers were adjusted for five nominees and other relative formulas were also updated so that the weighting of various criteria would match the original formula. Ultimately, the updated Predictinator behaves in essentially the same way as the old one.

As we learned in January, the nominees for the visual effects Oscar for the 83rd Academy Awards are "Alice In Wonderland," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," "Hereafter," "Inception" and "Iron Man 2." And here is the data for these nominees:

And if you're not interested in squinting at the final scores, here they are:
  • 7.54 Inception
  • 4.68 Harry Potter 7.1
  • 3.96 Alice in Wonderland
  • 3.58 Iron Man 2
  • 2.39 Hereafter
The formula that has accurately predicted the winner of the Oscar for 21 years straight is calling for an overwhelming victory for Christopher Nolan's "Inception." Its strengths were undoubtedly its critical acclaim, with the highest Tomatometer rating of all five films, and its eight staggering Academy Award nominations (scoring it two points), while the other four nominees earning zero points for Oscar nominations, since none of the films earned over three nominations.

"Potter," "Alice" and "Iron Man 2" all had similar numbers, with nearly identical box office earnings, but "Potter" and "Iron Man 2" lost points for being sequels. Both "Hereafter" and "Alice" suffered with poor critical acclaim, and "Hereafter's" box office, relative to the other blockbusters, gave the Clint Eastwood film no advantage. "Potter"'s second place score was earned with its late release date, coming to theaters in November (earning it a huge point).

Amazingly, this years' crop of nominees featured very little organic creature work. Only "Alice" qualified in the criteria of "Primary VFX Are Creatures," and also picked up more points with all of the facial animation featured in the film. With only 1/5 films heavily featuring character animation, the 2011 nominees are a bit of an anomaly, since regularly, most races include 2/3 or 3/3 films featuring character animation. Even with "Alice" earning these critical points for character animation, it still wasn't enough to topple "Inception"'s gargantuan point count. In fact, even if every other film earned those character animation points, it wouldn't have been enough to beat "Inception's" score.

So we shall see if The Predictinator can live again. If we're dead wrong, we'll have to determine how we screwed up, and perhaps, come up with a Predictinator 2.0 (for this new world order of five visual effects nominees), which will evolve over time. That would be unfortunate and, quite frankly, boring, since it feels quite gratifying to have a solid, mature algorithm to predict the winner of the visual effects Oscar. Starting over and patiently waiting year after year, nursing the formula back to health. Naah, we don't want to do that.

We'll know in just a few days, when the winners of the 83rd Academy Awards are announced February 27, 2011.


Akira said...

It worked!!

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