The governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences have expanded the visual effects category from three to five nominees.

The move came as the group finalised rules at its most recent meeting for the 83rd Academy Awards scheduled to take place on February 27, 2011.

Since 1963, when the special effects award was discontinued and separate categories for achievements in visual effects and sound effects were established, the only period during which it was possible to have five visual effects nominees was 1977 through 1979.

Between 1980 and 1995, two or three productions could be nominated, Since 1996 the rules have dictated there be exactly three nominees.

In the animated feature film category, the rule governing qualifying time for a feature was changed from at least 70 minutes to greater than 40 minutes, which is consistent with the running time requirements for features in all other categories.

The running time for a feature to qualify as an animated, live-action or documentary short film continues to be a maximum of 40 minutes. The previous 70-minute threshold for an animated feature had left a gap for films that ran between 40 and 70 minutes, effectively preventing them from being able to qualify as either features or shorts.

The governors added a sentence regarding motion capture to clarify the definition of an animated film.

The language now reads: “An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

Individual branches and category committees review the rules annually. The awards rules committee then reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the governors.