LOS ANGELES, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The engineers whose technological innovations bring TV shows to life got their turn in the spotlight at the Engineering Emmy Awards.
Creators of visual effects software and audio tools were among Wednesday's winners of the awards, launched in 1948 to honor excellence in broadcast innovation.
CBS's Criminal Minds star Kirsten Vangsness -- known for her portrayal of FBI Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia -- returned as host of the Emmy ceremony for her fourth consecutive year, having proven a favorite of recipients and audience members.
"In playing a technical analyst, I've done my very best to understand what was happening with the technical elements of the plot," Vangsness told UPI. "That experience has made it easier for complex things to trip off my tongue than it might be for other actors.
"I'm very fascinated by engineering and technology. It's not the modality that comes easiest to me," she said. "But I have such a reverence for people who can do it."
Much like her quick-witted character, Vangsness brought comic relief throughout the evening.
"I have to spend a lot of time studying the material in preparation," she said. "That they tolerate me turning all of that into jokes and weird parody songs is really wonderful. It's such an honor that they trust me to deliver extremely complicated information."
After opening with a tech-centric medley of parodies ranging from Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" to "Maria" from West Side Story, Vangsness settled in to present six Engineering Emmys, plus two career achievement honors.
The Emmy for technical advancement was awarded to Boris FX Sapphire, a visual effects plug-in suite that has gained popularity in media ranging from documentary and news, to reality and scripted television. ABC's long-running reality hit Dancing with the Stars is one of many series using the technology.
Sapphire co-creators Karl Sims and Gary Oberbrunner accepted the award.
"This project was started 23 years ago, and I think it's been through four different CEOs and four product name variations," Sims said. "Our goal was to build software tools for artists to create new kinds of looks never seen before."
Boris FX took home a second Engineering Emmy for its work on the widely used motion-tracking system Mocha Pro, which allows visual effects artists to overlay digital makeup for blood, wounds and aging, protect witness identities in news segments and blur or remove logos in reality programming.
On the audio front, two Emmys were awarded for technical excellence -- one to FabFilter Pro-Q3, a 24-band dynamic equalizer tool, and another to the audio noise reduction software iZotope RX 7.
"We spend a lot of our time working to remove technical barriers that get in the way of you trying to tell stories and really get art out into the world," said iZotope co-founder and CEO Mark Ethier. "And for us, this award is an indication that hopefully we're heading in the right direction.
"More than anything, I want to thank all the people who make the decision to record in terrible, noisy places," Ethier joked. "Without them, our company would not exist, and I wouldn't be standing up here. So keep doing it."
The night's two other Engineering Emmy awards went to Silhouette FX, a rotoscoping software tool, and one to the Joint Photographic Experts Group, or JPEG, whose name has become synonymous with digital imagery.
Vangsness concluded the evening by presenting the Television Academy's two most prestigious engineering honors -- the Philo T. Farnsworth Award for Corporate Achievement, presented to the American Society of Cinematographers, and the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award, given to Hugo Gaggioni, chief technology officer of broadcast and production systems for Sony Electronics.
In his 31-year career with the company, Gaggioni has achieved scientific accomplishments in digital video processing, audio/video compression and HDTV systems. He holds multiple university degrees and six patents for technical advancements.
Noted for his ability to present complex concepts in relatable terms, Gaggioni said his background as a non-native English speaker played a large role in his success.
"I used to be a researcher," the Venezuelan-born Gaggioni told UPI. "But when I moved to the U.S., I started teaching engineering on the side. In many of my classes, I noticed students looking at me in a confused way. And I began to wonder whether it was due to the complexity of the material, or to my limited English.
"This taught me to choose my words very carefully," he said. "It became very much about storytelling and communicating a narrative with passion. I'm very passionate about the work we do."
As lifetime achievement honoree, Gaggioni joins the ranks of Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown, audio engineer Ray Dolby and guitar great Les Paul.
"People ask me when I plan to retire, and I say, 'To retire is to resign from life.' I would never retire. This industry is my family."