The American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the Academy Award winners in the Scientific & Engineering category for 2021: Prof. Meir Feder of the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University, and his former student and co-founding partner of the startup company Amimon, Dr. Zvi Reznic. Amimon’s senior executives Guy Dorman and Ron Yogev also share the Award. Amimon was founded in 2004 by Prof. Meir Feder, Dr. Zvi Resnic and Noam Geri (also a TAU graduate).
Every year, in addition to the winners of the traditional Oscar Awards, the American Academy of Motion Pictures announces winners in various scientific and technical categories, honored for their substantial impact on the global film industry. Last night, the Academy announced that the wireless video technology developed by the Amimon team, and implemented through Amimon’s chip-set, is the winner of the prestigious Award for significant scientific and engineering contribution to the film industry.
Prof. Feder says that the prize-winning technology is now used throughout the global film industry. He explains that the technology is able to transmit very high quality video shots, reliable and without delays, from a large number of cameras, in real time, to monitors on the set. This provides the film’s director and the control crew full control of all shooting angles simultaneously.
Joseph Pitchhadze, a film creator from The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television explains that “The main importance of Prof. Meir Feder’s technological development is shortening the set building in Multi Camera productions. This novel technology saves production time and frees significantly more time for the creation itself.”
The Academy Award Committee stated: “By using novel extensions of digital data transmission and compression algorithms, and data prioritization based on error rate, the Amimon chipset supports the creation of systems with virtually unrestricted camera motion, expanding creative freedom during filming.”
Prof. Feder: “This is a very exciting day for me, and a proud moment for Tel Aviv University. We developed the basic technology in 2004-2005, when everyone thought that the task was very difficult or even impossible. We knew that it was a real technological achievement, but never imagined we would win the Oscar for it. About a year ago, the Prize Committee notified us that we had been nominated, but I thought it was just a gimmick.
“About a month ago, I suddenly got an official email from the Academy in Hollywood, informing us that we had won the Oscar. We were elated. I have won many academic awards, but the Oscar is certainly the most famous, an award that every person in the street knows. For me and the great team who took part in developing the technology, this is an enormous achievement and I feel very proud.”
Featured image: The Happy Team (from left to right): Guy Dorman, Dr Zvi Reznic, Prof. Meir Feder and Ron Yogev
Her various endeavors have given her insights into the human psyche. ”We live in a society preoccupied with perfection: We strive to look perfect, to make a good impression, to portray ourselves as more than what we are, more beautiful, younger, more confident, more successful in our careers, taller, skinnier.”
To her, perfect is boring. It is exactly in imperfection—“the defects and the cracks”—that she finds her most engaging and inclusive material.Drawing on academic training Analyses like these exemplify how psychology permeates Galili’s many professional roles. Her TAU studies left an imprint on her in other ways too. Studying at the University taught her discipline and the value of hard work. In academia, and particularly in psychology, a very competitive program, everything is systematic, she says. If you put in the effort, you see results. Her studies also armed her with critical thinking skills—how to differentiate between reliable and unreliable information—an important ability in the era of social media and fake news. Galili recalls her time at TAU as a very enjoyable and enriching experience. She was completely immersed in her studies, alongside “amazing” classmates and inspiring professors. She remembers Prof. Ina Weiner, a “fascinating” professor who taught her honors psychology, and art historian Dr. Henry Unger, who “taught me elementary terms about the arts world. It was precisely enough to know what to look for.” As an alumna, Galili is one of 85,000 members of the TAU Alumni Organization, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, under the direction of Sigalit Ben Hayoun. The Organization’s goal is to leverage the influence of TAU alumni as a positive force in Israeli society and serve alumni through shared knowledge, networking and opportunities. Upon receiving her BA, Galili completed the coursework for a master’s degree in psychology, but never submitted a thesis. Even though she is very happy with where her career has taken her, she has never stopped dreaming of returning to TAU to complete her MA. We hope she realizes that dream. Featured image: Einav Galili. Photo: Shay Bachar.
Due to the coronavirus, Tel Aviv University, like many universities across the globe, has moved its classes to an online format. But can you really copy-paste a class into Zoom and expert the same experience for students? How are professors coping with the challenges of students who are sitting at home, amid a million distractions? We talked to different professors from across campus to find out.
Dr. Jonathan Ostrometzky teaches at the “Sciences for High Tech” program. He’s currently teaching two courses over Zoom, both for advanced B.Sc students.
According to him, remote teaching has brought unexpected advantages. “In “Introduction to Hardware”, the larger class I teach, I’ve been recording myself giving the lecture, with the presentation and all the details, and then sending students the video, even as far as a week in advance,” says Dr. Ostrometzky.
Doesn’t that make the class over Zoom unnecessary? “Not at all,” he says. “Some of the students watch the lecture in advance, though not all of them. The material is packed with details and it really helps students to be able to review things before the live lecture. It also means the questions I get, the discussion we can have, goes much deeper.”
Dr. Asia Ben Cohen and Dr. Gideon Segev teach a large intro course at the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering together, to about 250 students. “The first week,” Dr. Segev says, “Dr. Ben Cohen taught classes while I was already in isolation because of COVID-19.”
Like Dr. Ostrometzky, they’ve also found that moving to Zoom has given their lectures room to breathe. “The course is one of the “heaviest” in terms of the material, of the entire Bachelor’s program. In class, we usually go pretty slowly, students need time to process and take everything in. It’s very difficult to convey the material purely through presentations, we write on the board a lot, and it helps students follow along.”
Can you learn “heavy” engineering material over Zoom?
Without a board the whole classroom was focused on at the same time, and with the difficulty of keeping students engaged when they were just muted, black boxes on the screen, the lecturers decided to flip the script.
“We divided the work between us,” says Dr. Segev. “Dr. Ben Cohen recorded herself giving the lectures the way we would do them in class, writing out equations and explaining everything as she went, and those were sent to students, so they could review them at home. Then, for my lecture time, I opened Zoom and invited everyone to come and ask questions, have a discussion with me, get help about anything they found unclear.”
Did it work? “About a month after we began online teaching, we sent our students a survey to see how they were doing, and got some really positive feedback. People were happy that they could review material, pause, repeat, and then ask me their questions live on Zoom.”
Prof. Hadas Mamane, who teaches the class “Water Purifying Technologies” to Master’s students, finds remote learning has its upsides. “I can see questions students have over chat,” Prof. Manage says. “Share different screens with them, do a poll in the middle of the class to check whether they’ve understood the material. It’s also easier to bring on guest lecturers and expose the students to broader perspectives, and it allows flexibility for students who study and work at the same time.”
Is Zoom better for the environment?
There’s also one major advantage to remote learning that Prof. Mamane sees as especially relevant for her work. “As someone who cares deeply about the environment, I see a huge benefit in the fact that my students and I don’t have to waste fuel or resources to attend a class. We, as a society and a university, have to keep our eyes on the environmental crisis, and remote learning allows us to cut back on harmful emissions.”
But of course, there are some challenges that come with remote teaching as well. “It’s harder to tell whether students are really engaged,” says Dr. Ostrometzky. “I sometimes pause the class and ask them a question, just to see who’s listening and get some kind of feedback.”
Is anyone out there? Telling whether students are engaged can be tough.
Dr. Gal Raz, who teaches two advanced film classes at the David and Yolanda Katz Faculty of the Arts, agrees. “I teach two 4-hour classes in one day, and it’s not easy sitting in front of a screen for eight hours and feeling a bit like I’m talking to myself. The lack of eye contact isn’t very pleasant. It’s also not easy for my three children to stay quiet for that long.”
Maya Dreifuss, a director who teaches film directing and screenwriting, finds the classroom atmosphere is also difficult to replicate. “Things happen when people are in the same space together, students barge into each other’s words, talk at the same time, even when these interactions are a little disruptive they still contribute to a vibrant energy and class atmosphere.”
The professors we spoke to were divided in how much of the online learning experience can be taken back into the classroom, once we eventually return to normal life.
“Everyone should be able to study in the way that works best for them,” says Dr. Ostrometzky. “I plan to keep the videos for every future iteration of the class, so students can review them whenever they want. It only enhances the classroom experience.”
What happens when we all go back to our regular classrooms?
Dr. Mamane agrees. “I feel like I’ve gone through a huge change and I don’t want to go back to how things were. I want to meet students face-to-face but also use Zoom for flexibility and things like guest lectures.”
Dr. Raz and Maya Dreifuss see things differently, both agreeing that not much of remote learning can be taken back into post-pandemic life. “Zoom can be good for one-on-one meetings with students,” Dr. Raz says. “But nothing can replace the classroom atmosphere.”
Maybe the difference of opinion can be attributed to the fact that in the arts, the classroom discussion generally carries a greater weight than in the exact sciences? Regardless, all the professors we spoke to felt remote learning has changed their perspective in some way, and has given them a new experience of teaching. Hopefully, when we all return to our classes, this new perspective will lead to even better teaching and greater academic insights.
“The Love Letter” is a 19-minute-long film that deals with a complex relationship between two female soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, a novice soldier and her direct superior. The relationship between the two ranges from romantic attraction to standard military bureaucracy. Noa (Gili Beit Hallahmi), a dedicated commander of new recruits in the IDF, receives a mysterious love letter from one of her female underlings. Suspecting that the letter is fake, she’s forced to choose between adhering to strict military protocol and giving in to her desire to feel loved, if only for a moment.
The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival’s Short Film Competition, where it received special notice in the “Student Vision” category. The film also won the top prize at the Jerusalem Festival’s Short Film Competition, and was screened at Palm Springs Festival in the U.S. and many other international film festivals around the world.
“The Love Letter” was produced as part of the “Heroine” project, where five female directors created a short film each, which was then combined into one full-length feature. The project was produced at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, under the artistic direction of Michal Winnick and Mia Dreyfus, and produced by Efrat Cohen (Gaudamus Productions), and screened around the world.
Atara Frish is currently working on a TV series based on “The Love Letter”, as well as writing a full-length script for a feature film.
The Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival — one of the largest and most influential student film festivals in the world, according to CILECT, the International Association of Film and Television Schools — celebrated its 21st edition on June 16-22 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
“This year we stressed the tension between traditional forms of filmmaking and the inventive storytelling of the digital age we are in,” says Mya Kaplan, co-director of this year’s festival with Talia Wigoder. “While most of the films screened were ‘traditional’ in the sense that an audience is watching artwork on a screen, many student filmmakers employed cutting-edge technology that afforded audience members the opportunity to truly experience the stories as they unfolded. This technology might be a 360-degree camera that twirls the spectator around or 3D animation, or virtual reality. We are a new generation of filmmakers who fall right in between traditional and future modes of storytelling.”
“We embarked on two new events at the festival this year that showcase how the digital age allows artists to tell their stories in new, bright and interesting ways,” Wigoder adds. “The International Digital Media Exhibition and Competition allows visitors to physically enter a film through virtual reality technology and artificial intelligence. Technology allows spectators to sit up from their seats and immerse themselves in the creative process. The Experimental Film Competition showcases films that question the position of contemporary art, of fundamental cultural concepts, without providing any answers.”
The festival was founded in 1986 by students from Tel Aviv University’s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television and is now an annual event supported by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, the Israel Film Council and TAU. The Tisch School is the only film school in the world where student filmmakers own the rights to their student films. The School’s admission policy is equally unique. All qualified applicants — high school graduates with appropriate college entrance exam scores, etc. — are admitted to the first-year BFA program. Sixty-five students are invited to continue to the second year, after faculty and lecturers have had the opportunity to gauge the quality and artistic merit of their work.
Still from Adi Mishnayot’s film “Image of Victory”
TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Head of the Tisch School Prof. Raz Yosef and others paid homage to festival participants and organizers in a video screened during the opening ceremony at Jaffa’s HaPisga Garden.
“The increasing global impact of the Tisch School is demonstrated not only by the wide pull of the Festival, but also by our outstanding showing on the international stage,” Prof. Porat says.
“Last year, Tisch students presented their films at 312 screenings in over 30 countries and received 68 awards from major venues such as Locarno and Jerusalem,” Prof. Porat adds. “This year the Tisch School launched an English-language International MFA Program in Documentary Cinema, a particular strength in Israel that we can now export and leverage for additional partnerships with top institutions abroad.”
Prize-winning films included Andreas Muggli’s Hamama and Caluna (The International Competition); Adi Mishnayot’s Image of Victory (The Israeli Competition); Lee Gilat’s Committed (The Short Independent Competition); Yair Bartal and Nofar Laor’s Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (The Digital Media Competition); and Or Arieli’s Billboard (The Experimental Film & Video Competition).
Still from Lee Gilat’s film “Committed”
This year’s festival showcased more than 100 short films from 28 countries and drew more than 100 film students, filmmakers and directors from around the world for special screenings, master classes and cultural pop-up events across the city. The festival’s unique Film Bus, a traveling theater that brings the short films to all parts of the country, made its eighth nationwide circuit.
In addition, the festival, in cooperation with Israeli fashion house Renuar, emphasized the special connection between cinema and fashion. A variety of fashion-centric lectures by designers and international stylists and screenings of fashion films were held across the city. Master classes held by members of the Israel Screenwriting Guild and the Makor Hebrew Foundation on how to make films outside the film school framework were among the best-attended festival events.
Featured image: A still from Andreas Muggli’s winning film “Hamama and Caluna”
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