Weta Digital's Dr Mark Sagar is part of a team that has won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for innovations in visual effects technology used on Avatar.
The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has taken place in Los Angeles, two weeks before the Oscar ceremony.
Sagar is part of a team honoured for innovations in visual effects technology used on the films Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The award recognises more than 10 years of research, development and application of technologies designed to help achieve the goal of photoreal digital actors.
The team was led by Paul Debevec, associate director of graphics research at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. It also included Tim Hawkins of LightStage LLC and John Monos of Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Sagar is a former medical researcher who started his career building computer simulations of the human eye for doctors at Auckland University.
That work took him to the US for post doctoral research. Then some American entrepreneurs figured if he could make a computer simulation of human organs, why not use that skill to create computer generated digital actors?
Sagar's idea was to use a light stage to make computer generated copies of actors.
"You capture a complete sampling of what a face would look like under any particular lighting direction," he explains.
The Academy says the Scientific and Technical Awards honour the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant, outstanding and lasting ways to motion pictures.
Each year's recipients are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony and the Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.
A four-member Weta Digital team is nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar for Avatar and Matt Aitken has been nominated for Weta's visual effects work on District 9.