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VIEW 2009: Day 1: The Excitement Overflows

The sparkling energy behind VIEW is Maria Elena Gutierrez who is driving a group of partner institutions, private and public sector, in investing in innovation and knowledge-sharing in the field of Technology and Creativity.

The public packs into VIEW 09.

The VIEW Conference 2009 [http://www.viewconference.it/] is the 10th International Computer Graphics Conference, which started on November 4th and will last until the 7th of November 2009. It's held in the beautiful city of Turin, in the north of Italy, where I had the pleasure of attending this event, now for the fourth time.

Previously I have had the opportunity to tell the wonderful series of events happening at the Torino Incontra Conference Center to a magazine, a blog, and a CG portal. This year I have the great honour to talk to Animation World Network's readers.

The sparkling energy behind VIEW is Maria Elena Gutierrez who is driving a group of partner institutions, private and public sector, in investing in innovation and knowledge-sharing in the field of Technology and Creativity.

How much do we need new opportunities for business and innovation with an international breadth in a difficult moment like this?

The most important Italian event on computer graphics, animation and visual effects is a gathering of the best professionals and researchers in the filmmaking, videogame, design, architecture and education industries.

I feel like a baby at the Luna Park. I have been involved in computer graphics for 15 years through teaching, advocating, mentoring, writing, producing and even programming. For me, being here is an absolute pleasure.

In this first day of the four I attended so many sessions that were so interesting and information packed that the quick notes I jotted down are taking more than 10 pages.

At 9:00 a.m sharp Maria Elena introduced the sponsors and the partners to a very crowded Sala Cavour. People were already standing without a seat. The non-profit goals of the organization have been explained very clearly. VIEW Conference is free, for all, because the local institutions believe in a return on investment based more on increased employment and business opportunities rather than direct profit.

At 10:00 people remained standing for Bob Whitehill, 3-D Stereoscopic Supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios, took the stage and gave a brilliant presentation. Well structured. Well communicated. Logical. Interesting. Clear. I liked it because it gave an overview of the movie production process and the visual elements of storytelling focusing on the 3-D stereoscopic technology. Bob explained beautifully where, in the production pipeline, the 3-D element is designed and how it is produced. Without any technical language he was able to explain even to non-technical people the mechanism behind the eye converging or diverging on stereoscopic images giving the illusion of depth. But the most precious aspect in the session was the detailed and thoughtful analysis of the visual storytelling elements and the explanation of how, why, where and how the 3-D contribution could be made. The Pixar presenter made practical examples by citing Up first. And then illustrating how Toy Story 2 and the original Toy Story have been added with the 3D.

With clear and useful content, great visual aids, timing and presentation skills I consider this one of the best sessions of the day. To remember the conclusions: “clarity is your master” and ”3-D is not the enemy, but it's also not the answer."

Glenn Entis.

Then I attended Glenn Entis' session. I always like his presentations. Fast paced, incredible amount of information, but most of all a great capacity to summarize trends and historical periods related to media and technology. Glenn Entis is a pioneer in the CG field. He co-founded PDI, which became DreamWorks. He sat in the directing chairs of Electronic Arts and now is continuing research business opportunities in the online entertainment markets. So his precise and exhaustive analysis of the evolution of media up to the current “gamification” was illuminating, to say the least. After the exposition of several trends, which clearly identify where the industry and the media are going I personally engaged Glenn in a series of questions, which I couldn't stop myself to make. The issue of privacy, greed, addiction, technology vs. nature, freedom of expression and others where raised and accepted by Glen as sensitive points to discuss with more dedicated time in another context. I will email the questions to him. Great lecture on the modern history of technology.

I promised a genuine Neapolitan Pizza to some good friends if they could follow for me some of the parallel sessions but you will have to wait to have the details of: Zbrush Workshop 1 “Zbrush 3.5: Sketching with Zsferes”, Daniele Angelozzi, 3D Artist, NVIDIA Cuda Workshop, An overview of NVIDIA's tools and technology that are defining the future of GPU's by Will Braithwaite, STEREOSCOPIC VISUALIZATION “Living in a 3D World” Carlye Archibeque Executive Producer SIGGRAPH 2009 Computer Animation Festival.

Next I attended, instead, ANIMATION WORKSHOP “Creating Effective, Spontaneous Performance” by Travis Hathaway an animator at Pixar. Travis explained the full animation pipeline for characters. Focusing most of all on how he personally follows it. Very useful were the many video examples selected among classic American films for specific acting performances. A great introduction to animation for beginners and a way to consolidate the profession for advanced animators. We were delighted by a breakdown of the animation process of Karl and Russell meeting Kevin from the movie Up. In the process Travis showed all the principles, techniques and guidelines to apply.

Travis Hathaway.

I missed a session which I really wanted to attend: PSDRevolution.it, a website of friends and colleagues promoting the interaction between digital visual artists and students. They launched “Condivisione Creativa” an online collaborating project where several artists have managed to create artwork together. Bravi ragazzi.

When I will remember his name I will say hi to the indestructible guy selling books in a wonderful booth just at the entrance of the main hall. People are passing by and browsing those book gems like bees on flowers.

No real time for a proper lunch but the bar outside served me with a delicious Polpettone Ripieno with Spinaci e Pomodorini. Time to get back to work! After a coffee, of course.

It was back in the hall that I finally met Paul Hellard of CG Society. We have exchanged quick chats through the years but never talked seriously. He is really a nice person and is now managing the most respectable online community of digital artists in addition to publishing wonderful art books.

It was also time to say ciao to my good old friends at Spark Digital Entertainment. They are working in Italy as an animation and post-production facilities, recently gaining Enrico Valenza, of the Blender Project Movie, among their artists.

Switching halls, this time, for a more intimate, and incredibly crowded space, I attended a nerdy-techy session on Renderman. I have been a CG programmer, so I couldn't help the nostalgia conquering me when I heard them talk about shading channels, procedural shaders and programming languages. RenderMan, the Pixar Animation Studios's rendering engine by definition, became more powerful with each new movie released. The latest and greatest new features are in the field of Point Cloud Color Bleeding, an optimized Global Illumination algorithm, allowing users to render realistic lighting in scenes with little increase of rendering time, and a fast and precise displacement function. The high planes of Tepui, in Up, have been created with one plane only and one displacement shader only, creating all the terrain features and details. The speaker, who I wanted to know better, showed in front of our eyes the rendering of a forest of plants, much similar to the one showed in Up, taking a bunch of seconds on Renderman for Maya. When I searched for Dylan Sisson, the Pixar Real Talking Man in the room, I discovered his artwork, which by coincidence, I was dearly following and loving several years ago. Can you imagine his face when I approached him and I asked, “Where is the gallery with the procedural textured paintings?" Nice session with nice updates on Renderman and its application in the movie-making field.

The long and dense session on foundation of Character Animation by Melanie Beisswenger, of the Art University in Singapore was a beautiful introduction to the world of animation, its principles and techniques. I really appreciated the many audio-visual citations to explain some concepts. I took note of at least two classic films I didn't know.

Rob Bredow.

The closing sessions by Rob Bredow and Danny Dimian of Sony Pictures Imageworks took the audience into a beautiful journey in the making of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. Two hours of movie previews, technical slides, VFX breakdown, and an illustration of pre-production process. The film looks gorgeous on the screen — the dimension and the action of some shots are really engaging and entertaining. From the accurate reporting of Rob we have been taken through a step-by-step analysis by Danny relating to some of the most complex and challenging scenes, such as: Flint's Lab (with big stage dimension, complex lighting), Meatball Asteroid (beautiful cloud rendering and animation), “Foodalanche” (with thousands of food pieces invading the city, realistic destruction simulation done with Houdini, ODE and Computational Fluid Simulation), explosions and much more. Interesting the training received by the CG staff, which studied real lighting as in the traditional filmmaking technique in one of the oldest lighting tool production facilities in Hollywood. By carefully analyzing how the real light behaves in nature they were able to use the proprietary rendering engine, Arnold, in a more effective way, to produce more realistic and believable images.

It was difficult to capture the essence of each session of the day, I am sure I missed some important ones, but this is a winning offer, you have so much available, in quality, that you don't know what to choose. As the first day at VIEW Conference 2009 I feel excited, exhausted and wanting for more.

Alla prossima.

Massimo Curatella has been involved in Computer Graphics in many ways during the last fifteen years. Some of them: writing, publishing, teaching, designining, visualizing, programming, producing, presenting.