Having spun a dungeon-ful armful of gold for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" this year, effects powerhouse Weta Digital is up for more this Sunday at the Academy Awards.
It's already been quite the awards season for New Zealand-based Weta, with the company earning Visual Effects Society (VES) honors for best animation in a live-action motion picture (that would be, among other effects, Smaug himself, the Middle-earth dragon voiced with silky menace by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Director Peter Jackson and senior visual effects director Joe Letteri -- who grew up in Aliquippa -- also received the Vanguard award from the Producers Guild of America last month. Letteri, who has eight Oscar nomination and has won four times, said Part 3 of "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" will be finished by the end of 2014.
"It has been an honor helping to bring Middle-earth to life again. It will be strange to be without it."
Heaven knows Weta won't be left standing around with nothing to do: "We are well into 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' and it's a great film. The story is sharp, and we've had a few years to advance our technique for bringing our CG Apes to the screen."
Then there's this little project with James Cameron....
"As for 'Avatar,' [sequels] we've been working with Jim on some of the technology and excited for where he might take the story in these next films."
As it happens, Letteri is not the only Pittsburgh-area native up for the visual effects Oscar. Gary Brozenich, who grew up in Natrona Heights, lives in London and works for MPC, which was nominated for its work on "The Lone Ranger."
MPC also did the stunning recent television "dominoes" promotion for the return of NBC's "The Blacklist."
Letteri said that in a season where movie fans have been wowed by FX in any number of films -- including Best Picture nominee "Gravity," -- he's still able to be wowed along with the casual observer.
"It's harder on the films that you work on but for other films, if the story is good, you get swept up in it. If you love what you do, you never give up being a fan. You appreciate the artistry and the craftsmanship, much like a painter viewing someone else's work."