Former Ripon Grammar School pupil, Mark Hills, wins Oscar

Mark Hills and and his colleague Jim Vanns, were presented with their award by Legend of the Ten Rings actor, Simu Liu, in Hollywood for their work with British visual effects company Framestore, on the design and engineering of FQ – a technology-based management tool utilised by movie makers.

The system has been used for the rendering of images that feature in films, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore and Guardians of the Galaxy.

In his acceptance speech, Mark recalled how his mum, Greta, a former maths teacher at Ripon Grammar School (RGS), where he himself went to school, driving out to help him salvage old computer parts from 50 old office PCs which had been thrown out by a local business.

York Press: On set filming for Doctor StrangeOn set filming for Doctor Strange

He said he put the parts to good use making them into a computer in a kitchen cupboard at home.

He said: “A few key components were missing, but after a great deal of work, a lot of effort and a lot of learning I had my own super computer in a kitchen cupboard in the house. 

“I think without my mum doing that, things would be very different. I would like to dedicate this award to my mum and dad because they always saw the opportunities in the crazy things I was doing back then.”

As The Press reported last year, Mark picked up an Emmy with his business partner Marc Bakos – who together created a ground-breaking audio production system credited with revolutionising the industry – were screaming at each other down the phone.

York Press: Former Ripon Grammar School pupil Mark Hills was presented with his Emmy award by actress Kirsten VangsnessFormer Ripon Grammar School pupil Mark Hills was presented with his Emmy award by actress Kirsten Vangsness (Image: Ripon Grammar School)

Mark, who left RGS in 1999 to study computer science at university, was also part of a large team at British visual effects company Framestore which won both the Oscar and Bafta for best visual effects for Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Their Cleanfeed system, which works for radio, TV and film, connects studios together so that the quality sounds as if it’s all being recorded in the same room: “We made this kind of technology accessible in a way it wasn’t before,” said Mark.

Mark, who used to be DJ for RGS school discos and went on to work in radio, first got hooked on the idea of digital audio inside computers back in the Eighties when along with his dad, Peter, he coded a sound sampler on an old 8-bit computer.

His parents, Greta and Peter, who live in Sharow, outside Ripon, say they are very proud of Mark’s achievement.

“We bought our first home computer, a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, when Mark was three years old and his teacher at Holy Trinity School couldn’t understand why he used capital letters when learning to write, but we knew he was using those which he recognised from the keyboard,” said Greta.

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