Tuesday, 11 May 2010

FMX 2010

Last week I took some time out from the daily grind to go to the FMX conference in Stuttgart, Germany. It a great way to catch up on new developments in the Digital Industries, and meet up with old colleagues. It is also much cheaper than going to SIGGRAPH in the states (although I'd love to go!)

I made it onto the 'Impressions: Thursday May 06' video online!

With so much going on, there an element of compromise when choosing which presentations/workshops to go see. Here is a detailed round up of my trip, first post is Day 1.

Tuesday 4 May,

Being the animation nerd that I am, I chose to see the animation presentations rather than the pure VFX talks this morning. First up, some stop motion from Scopas, in Hamburg, “Making of Dreamland”. A TV film with a small 8 million Euro budget, it follows the story of the Sandman, a celebrated character in Germany. Even though this was essentially a low budget kids film, a lot of effort had been taken in building the characters and sets, to make this a beautiful looking film. Relying heavily on green screens, it is quite VFX heavy, but from what I have seen, very well integrated.

Next up, “Creating the Disney Villain through Hand Drawn Animation” a presentation by Bruce Smith, supervising animator on Disney's “Princess & the Frog”. You just had to love this guy, with his incredible anecdotes. The audience was shown some pencil tests from the film, and some final sequences, and some live drawing (a real crowd pleaser!). You could really see how he had put elements of himself as well as nuances from the voice actor into the character Dr. Faciller. Overall a very enjoyable talk, from a great personality.

After a break for lunch, I decided to stick with the animation theme, since it was going so well. “Anatomy for Character Design, Rigging and Animation” by Dr. Stuart Sumida, a paleontologist, animal and human anatomy specialist. Again a brilliant presentation, and an interesting subject. He sounds like he has worked with every animation company in the states, having worked as consultant on 45 features in the past 20 years. There were plenty of images on show as examples, and was a real eye opener for me personally (especially how evolution shapes animation). Probably my favourite of the day.

Next a behind the scenes look at “The Graffalo” a short made for the BBC last christmas by Studio Soi, in Berlin. They chose an unusual route of building physical sets and using CG characters and animation. They seemed to put a lot of love and effort into making individual leaves, and blades of grass. It felt a little wasted, since most of the shots were stills, and much of the set looked painted over and could have been CG, or was lost to depth of field. From the looks of things, making it all CG would have been a whole lot easier... the film is great, and well worth a watch!

“A Matter of Loaf and Death”: Stopframe Goes Digital. A nice presentation that very much reflected the Aardman style, and gave a good insight into their scary cross over to digital. There are obvious creative and practical benefits of an all in-house production, going digital aided that process. Some great behind the scenes footage, even with the use of digital cameras there is still an appreciation of trying to get that all in camera feel, so that you are never thinking 'Is that CG?'. By using a mix of shot elements, dust, smoke, rain, instead of purely CG elements composited with the stop frame animation (and animation tricks such as real animated rain drops) they keep their style consistent with past Wallace and Gromit films. Even after seeing clips multiple times, they still get the biggest laughs!

'Stereography in “Ice Age 3”' Although advertised as a 3D Stereo presentation, and held in the Cinema where we were given 3d glasses.... there was no Stereo in this talk! The biggest disappointment of the day! Other than that, this was your typical 'making of' presentation, with some Stereography info tagged on at the end with little explanation. It felt like someone else's presentation and could have been broken up a bit more with shorter clips making it easier to sit through. Still, it hasn't put me off wanting to see the film at some point.

Three Dimensional Storytelling by Bob Whitehill at Pixar, a complete contrast to the previous Stereo presentation. When pixar send out one of their men to represent the company, they do it in style. A well composed talk, split up with 3D clips to watch. A bit dumbed down for the non-technical viewer, making it accessible to anyone who has a slight interest in the subject. It worked especially well because the focus of the talk was on storytelling which as everyone knows is pixar's Holy Grail (and so it should be!) Beauty and the Beast in 3D? Toystory? Can't wait...Bring it on!

Toy Story 3D Trailer in 3D Anaglyph and Side-by-Side 3D from Al Caudullo on Vimeo.

Next post, Day 2.

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