Impressions from Imagina 2000
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Jury des Prix Pixel-Ina 2000: (clockwise from bottom left) Blandine Nicolas, David Arnold, Couture Charlélie, Juan Tomicic and Suzanne Jaschko. Courtesy of Imagina 2000.

There is a tangible excitement in the air at the screenings due to the fact that it is a competition and the audience will decide the winners, as opposed to the Electronic Theater at SIGGRAPH, where a jury selects works to be presented and there are no winners. As one might expect, there is a tendency for the largely French audience to favor projects of French origin but by and large the winners are the most well deserved. For Best Music Video, a striking piece called The Child by Alex Gopher beat out Bjork and the Chemical Brothers. Completed in just four weeks, this film follows an expectant mother in a taxi on her way to the hospital in a world where everything, including people, buildings and vehicles, is represented by 2D typography in a 3D cityscape. A humorous commercial for a new train called Alaris won the Prix Pixel for Advertising and sported trophy-hunting aliens. The Student Award went to a film about a fly called Bsss by German student Felix Gonnert. The Fiction Award went to a film about a mosquito called Les Aventures d'un Mostique by Jean-Francois Bourrel and Jerome Calvet. A third film depicting an insect won the Award for Science but in this case the camera zooms in toward the wing of a butterfly and magnification is increased over a million times as we seamlessly zoom into scanning electron microscopy. The Award for Art went to Steve Katz at Pitch, Inc. for Protest, a film in which elephants leap from rooftops to protest man's mistreatment of their species, and the Stereoscopic Award went to Voyage Inside The Cell by Digital Studio SA. In the category of Special Effects, The Matrix, with effects by Manex Entertainment won over Walking With Dinosaurs by Framestore in London, and The Phantom Menace by ILM placed a surprising third. The Grand Prix of Imagina 2000, bestowed by the jury, was awarded to Pixar's Toy Story 2.

The Prix Pixel-Ina 3D Relief went to Voyage Inside The Cell; with computer graphics by director Laurent Larsonneur; and produced by Digital Studio SA's Rhône-Poulenc Rorer. Courtesy of Imagina 2000.

Fascinating Discussions
It is not possible to see everything at Imagina because of the broad spectrum of overlapping events that feature computer graphics for animation, special effects, real-time graphics for games, simulation and virtual/augmented reality. Due to the nature of my business, I focused my attention on the sessions called "3D and Interactive Techniques" and "Radio/TV and the Internet," while steering clear of "Finance, the Internet and Innovation" and the "Round Tables." There was an interesting panel organized by Laurin Herr called "From Hollywood to Microcinema" which dealt with current trends in bringing dramatic content to the Web. Six different companies presented their approach to electronic distribution. These companies ran the gamut from the heavily funded to the grassroots short film distributor/curator,

Another session called "From Artificial Life to On-line Worlds" explored the recent trends in artificial intelligence as applied to on-line gaming. Thad Starner's work at Georgia Institute of Technology was of particular interest, and a conversation in the hotel bar with Thad, who has been wearing a computer for eight years, was punctuated by Thad staring off into space while he forwarded information to me via e-mail using a one-handed keyboard in his pocket and an HMD attached to his glasses.

The Matrix beat out effects giant Star Wars Episode 1 to win first prize for special effects at Imagina. Courtesy of Imagina 2000.

Also of interest was the session called "Immersive + Interactive = The New Dimension." SGI, De Pinxi, The American Museum of Natural History, F.A.B.R.I.C.ATOURS and ZA Productions presented various approaches to interactive and immersive imagery. Tom DeFanti delivered a keynote speech on the concept of a 3D telephone call, where participants interact via a high-speed connection using stereoscopic CAVEs as virtual telephone booths.

In 2D/3D animation, the highlight was a film screening of the final reel of The Iron Giant (Warner Bros.), a film that was tragically missed by the public. In the final session, Special Effects, John Gaeta's rambling diatribe on the prophetic nature of The Matrix was dramatically contrasted by John Dykstra's inside look at the creation of Stuart Little, a totally believable synthetic character.

With an attendance of 1800, Imagina is dwarfed by SIGGRAPH, and unlike the non-stop party atmosphere of SIGGRAPH, Imagina is fairly humorless, but the intimacy and creative energy, particularly apparent this year because of the separation of conference and exhibit, made for a much more thought-provoking experience.

Jeff Kleiser is co-founder of Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co., which specializes in 3D animation. The company's credits include Universal Studios Florida's The Adventures of Spider-Man ride, Judge Dredd and Stargate. Previously, Kleiser served as animation director for films such as Tron, The Blue Lagoon, Flight of the Navigator and the TV series Captain Power.

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